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Special exhibition "Germany" November 9th 2019 until March 1st 2020

The new exhibition at the National Museum will show the best that Germany has to offer. Goethe, Bauhaus, Gutenberg, Volkswagen, Richter and much more. The presentation of the Germany exhibition is a collaboration between the British Museum and the National Museum of Denmark. 

For centuries it was our neighbor to the south who gave us the language, poetry, freedom of beliefs and inroads into science and industrial endeavours.  However, wars separated us from our neighbor and the cultural community became alienated and was erased from memory.  

“Germany has played a prominent part in our history and cultural heritage. This is what we strive to focus on in an impressive exhibition presented in collaboration with the British Museum” says Head of Museum Anni Mogensen. 

Germany comes into being the day the Berlin Wall falls
Germany as we know it today was born 30 years ago, the night when the wall dividing East and West Berlin came down on November 9th 1989.  Following this, Germany had to find itself in the shadows of the horror and chaos that had been a reality since 1933. 

The fragments of East and West and not least all the different versions of Germany that preexisted the fall of the Berlin Wall became the building blocks for a new country that draws on hundreds of years of accumulated history and national memory.  

We will mark the 30 year anniversary showing the exhibition titled Germany that was originally curated by the British Museum’s Barrie Cook, and ran alongside a successful BBC Radio series and book written by the former director of the British Museum, Neil MacGregor. 

The new presentation devised for the exhibition in Denmark takes visitors through the many political and cultural changes that have taken place in Germany.  From the Holy Roman Empire to the reunification of Germany and the dark 20th century up until today’s European economic centre of power. The exhibition will show a multifaceted collection about a multifaceted country where the borders are constantly moving. Both the physical borders and the people.  

Unique objects exhibited for the first time in Denmark
The exhibition includes objects that have changed the course of history or that bear witness to triumphs and tragedies in the history of Germany. Here is a selection.

The Volkswagen
The Volkswagen (the Beetle) is one of the world’s most famous cars.  It is a global icon and a symbol of the ‘so-called’ economic miracle of West Germany during the postwar era.  It symbolizes quality, reliability, affordability and inventive design.  The concept of the Beetle came into being during the Third Reich.  The idea for a vehicle for the people and not just the upper classes was to become a symbol of Hitler’s new Germany.  Despite these visions, the car was not put into production until after World War II.  Once production began, things moved quickly and more than 21 million Beetles were produced before production was stopped in 2003.  One of the very first examples from the 1950s is parked in the exhibition.  

Goethe the Genius
The poetic genius Johann Wolfgang Goethe (1749-1832), whose work enabled the German language to resonate throughout the world, was depicted by Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Tischbein; the original painting by Tischbein is the most famous portrait ever created of a German person and shows a reclining Goethe amongst the ruins of Rome. This work has inspired many imitations and versions, one of which you can see in the Germany exhibition.  During his time Goethe was celebrated as the German literary response to Dante, Shakespeare and Cervantes.  Goethe became a major influence in defining what it means to be German and his writings helped to shape the vocabulary used surrounding a life of emotions and the conflict between reason and irrationality.  

In the exhibition one can see first editions of Goethe’s writings, objects that reflect his wide-ranging interests and examples of plants and minerals named after him.  Goethe, the man of letters, was not only concerned with people’s emotional life but with everything that has lived - plants and fossils, creatures from a distant past, contemporary scientific theories and industrial inventions.  

The floating Angel
Following World War I the sculptor Ernst Barlach created a memorial, der Schwebende (the floating one) for the Cathedral of Güstrow commemorating the victims of World War I.  The figure is floating above the earth with folded arms and closed sorrow filled eyes.  The face of the figure resembles the face of fellow artist Käthe Kollwitz who lost her son during the war: this was not done consciously by Barlach, but he noted it afterwards.  In the 1930s most of Barlach’s works were confiscated by the Nazis and termed ‘entartete kunst’ and as a result of this the memorial was removed from the cathedral and melted down.  But one cast was kept aside.  In 1953 the memorial was recast and reinstalled in Güstrow Cathedral as a symbol of reconciliation.  Many years later, in 1981, Chancellor Helmut Schmidt met the East German president Erich Honecker in the church underneath the floating figure.  This meeting took place even though there was not much hope of reconciliation at that time.  

The Imperial Crown of the Holy Roman Emperor
From 962 the German Emperor presided over an empire that stretched from the Baltic kingdoms in the north to the Kingdom of Italy in the south, consisting also of a collection of smaller political entities, including the Kingdoms of Bohemia, Burgundy and others.  The Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation (962-1806), as it came to be known, did not fall until Napoleon’s victories in 1806.  One of the empire’s most important symbols is the crown that is named after the first ruler, Charlemagne; a priceless crown inlaid with pearls and precious stones and decorated with engraved biblical scenes.  The original crown was probably made in the 900s, a long time after Charlemagne’s death.  Once the empire was dissolved in 1806 the last German-Roman emperor brought the crown to the treasury of the Habsburgs in Vienna, where it still resides.  A handful of copies of the crown were made in the years following the dissolution of the empire, for places associated with its history.  The crown in the exhibition is from 2000 and is an exact copy of the original.  

Other iconic objects to be found in the exhibition include the first Gutenberg bibles, first editions of the Brothers Grimm's works, the print titled Eagle by Georg Baselitz, a piece of the Berlin Wall, a copy of the iron entrance gate to Buchenwald, Luther’s bible and an offset print by Gerhard Richter. You can read more at

The presentation of this exhibition is a collaboration between the British Museum and the National Museum of Denmark. The Sportgoods Foundation has supported the exhibition.  

Photo credits:

The Bauhaus cradle: Stiftung Bauhaus Dessau (I 10935 M) / © (Keler, Peter) Keler, Jan / Seilkopf, Henning (Rekonstruktion) / Foto: Hoyer, Esther, 2018

Baselitz Eagle: © Georg Baselitz 2019 Photo copyright © The Trustees of the British Museum

The Volkswagen: Folkevogn Deutsches Technikmuseum Berlin: © SDTB/Foto: C.Kirchner

Betty: © Gerhard Richter 2019 Deutsche Bank Collectionat at the Städel Museum, Städel Museum, Frankfurt on the Main Photo: © Städel Museum - ARTOTHEK

Debates, Music, Beers and Sausages

Debates, Music, Beers and Sausages

We will taste German sausages, sing Danish songs that in actuality are German, expand our knowledge of everything from German cars to philosophers, listen to German music, drink beer from Bavaria, listen to eyewitness accounts about fleeing from East Germany, meet prominent authors, discuss cultural formation, watch films and experience how Germans today attempt to reconcile with their past and much more. 
Read more about Debates, Music, Beers and sausages 

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