The German-British relationship is often marked by rivalry and competition, with the British tabloids fueling the fire by WW2 symbols of tanks, and soldier uniforms. Unlike the other allies, France and the USA, British culture tends to associate Germany first and foremost with the two world wars. One only need look as far as the famous “Don’t mention the war” sketch in Fawlty Towers, for evidence!
However, things are changing: Germany’s world cup win and subsequent uber-cool party at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin was admired by the British (even by the tabloids)! Angela Merkel, Germany’s “Mutti”, is seen by the English, as a respected leader of Europe, whilst Germany’s decentralised economy serves as a role model to the Continent and the UK.
In this changing spirit, The British Museum has dedicated a whole exhibition (Germany – memories of a nation) to 600 years of German history to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Director of the British Museum, Neil McGregor, says that he is on a mission to change the British perception of Germany. He wants to educate the British that there is more to Germany’s long and eventful history than 12 years of Nazi Era.
The exhibition uses objects to tell the story of 600 years of German history. Its rolling out the red carpet to German-speaking artists, craftspeople, designers, musicians, writers and philosophers who have made great contributions to the world’s culture. German political history is one of diversity, coming from the Holy Roman Empire which continues to blossom with federalism to this day. With no dominant central court, this culture of political rivalries created intense and fruitful competition for artists.
The exhibition also touches on the exodus from East Pommerania after WW2, and on the division and re-unification of Germany. The display of the Gutenberg bible, one of the first printed books in the world, was one of my highlights.
The exhibits ran the gamut through from the beautiful to the horrific: A Bauhaus artist who was a prisoner at Buchenwald made the cynical inscription at the gate of the concentration camp “each to their own”. Avantgarde meets Nazi terror – both part of German history.
The exhibition closes this Sunday, if you’re interested, hurry to the exhibition this weekend! The museum offers extended opening hours in this final week.