A swastika flag, an American jeep, the sky full of parachutes, below the museum walls as a landscape of ruins: This is how one of the two central German history museums welcomes its audience. It was created between 1986 and 1994 in Bonn, which may seem strange considering that the Wall was torn down in 1989 and Berlin was chosen as the capital in 1991. But the museum plans were not shaken by these events, on the contrary: telling the history of Germany from a Bonn perspective, so shortly after reunification, seemed to calm (a little) those who were worried about the flaring nationalism of the rising “Berlin Republic,” that was accompanied by burning refugee homes and racist assassinations.
But what surrounds you in Bonn does not symbolize the sooty ruins of Mölln, Solingen or Rostock-Lichtenhagen, which became the symbolic places of the new, right-wing terror. The rubble landscape stands for the supposed “zero hour” of German history. A black cube stands out, symbolizing the Shoah. Back when it opened, in 1994, no one—at least in the leading feuilleton media—was bothered by what today may easily appear to us as a haunted house of history, edutainment kitsch and problematic exoneration narrative. Exactly therein, in the untimely nature of the scenography, lies its charm. Especially since the ruins are acutely threatened. Everything is to be redesigned by 2025.
The theatrical backdrop-like scenography would be a case for preservation. It was realized by Klaus Würth and Petra Winderoll, while Ingeborg Rüdiger and Hartmut Rüdiger were responsible for the architecture of the museum. The scenographers then worked at other places of historical and political importance. Among other things, they designed the first permanent exhibition in Daniel Libeskind’s Jewish Museum in Berlin. Their work stands for the ever-recurring question of whether exhibitions can create atmospheres through scenography or whether this privilege should be reserved for the objects on display.
OUR HISTORY. Germany since 1945, Haus der Geschichte, Bonn
permanent exhibition, since 1994