German History Museum

The Armoury Building from the Lustgarten

German History Museum


The German Historical Museum’s permanent exhibition is located in the early 18th cent Armoury building on Unter den Linden, with a modern extension housing temporary exhibitions in the Exhibition Hall at the rear.

The collection of Germany’s important historical artefacts has taken a few twists and turns along the way, but with reunification came the opportunity to present them all under one roof, and in 2006 after five years of renovation, the doors opened to the Armoury giving Germany a historical museum that it could be proud of.

As its name suggests, this baroque building was originally built to house the Prussian arsenal before being turned into an army museum. During the Nazi period, this museum was the location for an attempted assassination of Adolf Hitler.

Rudolph Christoph Freiherr von Gersdorff, an officer in the German army, intended a suicide bombing when he was giving a tour of the Armoury to Hitler, Goering, Himmler, and other top officials. He set the device to blow up ten minutes into the tour, but the plan failed because Hitler rushed through the museum in less than ten minutes! Apparently, Gersdorff only had seconds to spare before being able to diffuse the bomb and save his own skin. His attempt was kept secret and he carried on living until the age of 74 and died in 1980.

Portrait of Martin Luther by Lucas Cranach the Elder
Kaiser Wilhelm I

Thankfully, my visit was less dramatic. The permanent exhibition covers two floors of the old Armoury building and runs in chronological order starting on the upper floor. Before you start, it might be a good idea to hand in your coats and bags. You don’t have to, but you’ll be glad you did. The upper floor covers German history from 500 AD to 1918, and the lower floor from 1918 to 1994.

I started on the upper floor but it meant that by the time I reached the ground floor I was getting a bit ‘museum’d out,” which was a shame because this floor was the most interesting to me. It covers the Weimar years, the Nazi period, post war division, and reunification.

There’s no point in trying to describe everything there is to see here, but what I will say is that a lot of the information is in German and it’s worth getting the podcast on offer if you don’t speak the language.

There’s a charge to visit the museum, which was €8 for a full fare paying adult the last time I looked (March 2018), but it’s best to get all the latest information directly from the website.

To be honest this excellent museum deserves more than one visit and should be on anyone’s list who wants to know more about German history. One thing that still puzzles me though is how Hitler managed to cover it in less than ten minutes.

Prussian helmet with bullet hole
Prussian helmet with bullet hole

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