A History Of Germany At British Museum

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 38 months ago
A History Of Germany At British Museum ★★★★☆ 4
Porcelain rhinoceros based on Dürer’s print. Made by Johann Gottlieb Kirchner. Photo: Herbert
Jäger.
Porcelain rhinoceros based on Dürer’s print. Made by Johann Gottlieb Kirchner. Photo: Herbert Jäger.
Adler (Eagle) linocut. The eagle is shown bedraggled to symbolise the impact of Nazism on Germany. Copyright George Baselitz.
Adler (Eagle) linocut. The eagle is shown bedraggled to symbolise the impact of Nazism on Germany. Copyright George Baselitz.
Reichskrone: Replica of Holy Roman Emperor's Crown. 1913 ©
Städtische Museen Aachen
Reichskrone: Replica of Holy Roman Emperor's Crown. 1913 © Städtische Museen Aachen
The four evangelists by Riemenschneider (St John), St. Mark, St. Matthew and St Lucas, 1490-1492 © Staatliche Museen/ Museum fuerByzantinische Kunst
The four evangelists by Riemenschneider (St John), St. Mark, St. Matthew and St Lucas, 1490-1492 © Staatliche Museen/ Museum fuerByzantinische Kunst
Gutenberg Bible - the first book to be mass produced using a printing press. © British Library Board
Gutenberg Bible - the first book to be mass produced using a printing press. © British Library Board
1953 Volkswagen Beetle - one of history's most iconic cars. National Motor Museum
1953 Volkswagen Beetle - one of history's most iconic cars. National Motor Museum

Londonist Rating: ★★★★☆

Ask most Brits about German history and there will be references to two world wars and football, but this exhibition goes back much further to chart a 600 year history of Germany from the Holy Roman Empire to today. Covering the break down of the Holy Roman empire, the convergence of city states into Prussia, the Napoleonic invasion, the world wars and the post-war manufacturing boom in one exhibition is a big task.

It starts downstairs and outside the exhibition with the iconic Volkswagen Beetle, plus there's a section of the Berlin wall by the entrance to lead visitors in. Inside it's jam packed with more fascinating artefacts, including an exquisitely ornate clock in the shape of a galleon, designed to fire its cannons and roll across the table on the hour.

Literature, religion and art are represented by Martin Luther's translation of the bible, detailed limewood carvings of the four evangelists and woodcuts by Durer — including a porcelain rhinoceros inspired by one of his works.

There are powerful items relating to the wars including Otto Dix's horrific prints depicting the brutality of war and cut out figures of Hitler and his army — designed as playthings for children. However, the most powerful is the gate from Buchenwald concentration camp. It's impossible not to stop and pause for reflection upon seeing it.

This exhibition is a sprint through German history and the wealth of excellent artefacts on display makes it a highly engaging exhibition. This is a massive departure from the British Museum's usual style of choosing a very specific area and focusing on it, but we enjoyed it and would like to see more exhibitions in this style.

Germany: Memories of a Nation is on at British Museum until 25 January. Tickets for adults are £10, concessions available.

Also on at British Museum are Ming: 50 Years that changed China, the macabre Witches and Wicked Bodies and the excellent Eight mummies.

Last Updated 19 October 2014

James Guppy

Is not the Roman Empire futher back than 600 years ago?

David Davies

I went to the BM to see the Ming exhib and also took in the German one as well - very small, some interesting objects but it's not unmissable by any means. As an attempt to get past the two world wars and show more of German history than we might have learnt in schools is laudable but the space given over to look at the history of a European "superpower" is too small.

I'm not sure I'm into these "history by 100 object" themes as it has by its nature to skim across the surface of a given subject.

HHGeek

Really looking forward to this, especially as I'm listening to the R4 podcasts of the accompanying series.