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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
Chancellor Helmut Kohl signed the museum’s founding document in 1987 – a fitting event to mark the city’s 750th anniversary. The West German government was enthusiastic about the ambitious plan and laid the foundation stone at the Spreebogen, the bend in the river Spree in West Berlin. When the Wall fell, things changed: the German Historical Museum foundation, which was still in its infancy, received all the relevant collections and moved into the historic Zeughaus: an important baroque building and former armoury, and the oldest building on Unter den Linden. This is where the permanent exhibition of the German Historical Museum is now on display, presenting German history in a European context and in chronological order. The variety of artefacts is impressive – in addition to medieval knight’s armour, filigree embroidered uniform jackets from the 18th century and pictures and election posters from the Weimar Republic, there is also an original piece of the Berlin Wall.
Although all the exhibits address historical processes, revolutionary events and especially draw attention to the people behind them, they are all very different. Thus the focus is not only on important historical events and their important actors, but also on small everyday activities. Time and again, the German Historical Museum lets you immerse yourself in the everyday lives of ordinary people. It displays church collection plates, ladies’ high fashion from the 19th century and even admission tickets for the Nuremberg war crimes trials.
In 2003, the modern exhibition area designed by the American-Chinese architect Ieoh Ming Pei was opened. It is a successful addition to the historic main building and features temporary exhibitions on current historical and political issues.
Highlights at the Deutsches Historisches Museum
- 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.