Housed in the baroque Zeughaus on Unter den Linden, the Deutsches Historisches Museum (German Historical Museum) tells the story of 2,000 years of German history. Across 8,000 square metres and 7,000 exhibits you can chart the conquests of Charlemagne, uncover Luther's Theses, learn about the origins of the Second World War and get acquainted with German reunification. A chronologically-arranged layout takes you from the early-Middle Ages to the present day. The exhibits shift engagingly between art and everyday objects: paintings of historical scenes sit alongside armour, a vacuum cleaner alongside GDR sheet music.
A tour from the Middle Ages to the present day
In 1987, Chancellor Helmut Kohl signs the founding document for the museum on the 750th anniversary of the city. A historical boom creates the right context for such a large project. The Federal Government is confident about the ambitious plan and lays the foundation stone on Berlin's Spreebogen. Then the wall falls and everything changes. The still youthful Deutsches Historisches Museum Foundation receives all relevant collections and moves into the Zeughaus. In 2003, the architectural icon Ieoh Ming Pei designs an additional exhibition hall for temporary exhibitions. The large permanent exhibition through which you pass today opens in 2006. "German History in Images and Artefacts" encompasses nine eras across two floors, filled to capacity with art and history. Move chronologically through the upper floor, which begins with the Middle Ages. Here you can see a collection of armour, presented in great detail. Then view filigree-embroidered tunics belonging to princes and knights from c.1750. Across the imperial age you can see two-wheeled penny farthings and the very first automobiles.
The tour then takes you to the first floor where you'll find photographs and old election posters from the Weimar Republic. The rooms on the years following 1945 are concerned with the difficult period of reparation. See original CARE packages from the United States and maps of German occupied zones. The tour eventually leads you to an original piece of the Berlin Wall and on through the 1990s. All exhibits in the museum look at historical processes, revolutionary events, and fundamentally, the people behind them. The exhibition offers insight not only into the big stories and epoch-making figures, but also small everyday experiences. Again and again at the Deutsches Historisches Museum you are immersed in the lives of everyday people. You will find alms bowls, women's fashion from the 19th century and even tickets to the Nuremberg war crimes trials.
Highlights at the Deutsches Historisches Museum
- the 3.5-metre-tall Cape Cross coat of arms column, made from stone (1486)
- painting of Martin Luther by Lucas Cranach the elder (1529)
- 22 reliefs of masks for dying Giants, under the glass roof of the inner courtyard (Andreas Schlüter, circa 1690)
- relic from the battle of Waterloo: Napoleon's bicorne hat (1815)
- personal computer "PC 1715" from the GDR (1989)
More museums and memorial sites in the vicinity
From the Deutsches Historisches Museum, you can visit the Neue Wache right next door. It is the central memorial site for victims of war and tyranny. The bronze sculpture "Mother with her Dead Son" by Käthe Kollwitz sits inside, inviting you in for a moment of reflection. Located just a few minutes away you'll find the Forum Willy Brandt Berlin. Here you will learn about the fourth Chancellor, from his days as a young worker in Lübeck to his metamorphosis into a globally-respected statesman. The German Bundestag's art collection holds regularly changing exhibitions, presenting works from the contemporary art scene. About 15 minutes away from the Zeughaus lies the Tränenpalast. "Border experiences - life during the division of Germany" is the title of its permanent exhibition. The nearby DDR Museum presents the daily life of GDR citizens. Take a simulated "Trabi" ride and browse cabinets, hear music played on a carat turntable and enter a prefabricated apartment. Berlin City Palace and the new Humboldt Forum are also situated a mere 800 metres away.
Tips for your visit from visitBerlin
The Deutsches Historisches Museum is best reached by public transport. Hackescher Markt and Friedrichstraße S-Bahn stops are under 15-minutes walk away. The nearest underground station is Alexanderplatz. The buses 100, 200 and TXL stop almost right in front of the entrance. Motorists can find paid parking in the City-Quartier DOM-Aquarée garage, or in the underground car park at Bebelplatz. With the Berlin WelcomeCard, you get 25% discount on the entrance fee. Children and young people under 18 may visit the museum for free. The museum is also open on Mondays. Guided tours run regularly (for a fee). Advance booking is not necessary. Groups and schools can book special tours in advance. Note that films at the Zeughaus cinema often supplement special exhibitions in the museum.