From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
German Wehrmacht Army Exhibition
Neonaziaufmarsch in Muenchen.jpg
Protesters against the Wehrmacht exhibition (Bürgerbewegung gegen die Wehrmachtsausstellung, BWG) in Munich on 12 October 2002, holding up glorified Wehrmacht propaganda.

Wehrmachtsausstellung (German: German Wehrmacht Army Exhibition) is a common name for two exhibitions focusing on War crimes of the Wehrmacht committed on the East Front from 1941 to 1944 during World War II. Both exhibitions were produced by the Hamburg Institute for Social Research (Hamburger Institut für Sozialforschung); the first under the title "War of Annihilation. Crimes of the Wehrmacht 1941 to 1944" (Vernichtungskrieg. Verbrechen der Wehrmacht 1941 bis 1944),[1] which opened in Hamburg on 5 March 1995 and travelled to 33 German and Austrian cities. It was attended by 800,000 visitors claimed the organizers.[2] The second exhibition – which was first shown in Berlin in November 2001 – attempted to dissipate considerable controversy generated by the first exhibition according to the Institute.[3]


The popular and controversial travelling exhibition was seen by an estimated 1.2 million visitors over the last decade. Using written documents from the era and archival photographs, the organizers had shown that the Wehrmacht was "involved in planning and implementing a war of annihilation against Jews, prisoners of war, and the civilian population". Historian Hannes Heer and Gerd Hankel had prepared it.[4]

The view of the "unblemished" Wehrmacht was shaken by the material evidence put on public display in different cities including Hamburg, Munich, Berlin, Bielefeld, Vienna, and Leipzig.[3] On March the 9th, 1999 at 4:40am, a bomb attack on the exhibition occurred in Saarbrücken, damaging the adult high school building housing the exhibition and the adjoining Schlosskirche church.[5]

Criticism and review[edit]

After criticisms about incorrect attribution and captioning of some of the images in the exhibition, e.g. by Polish-born historian Bogdan Musial and Hungarian historian Krisztián Ungváry, the head and founder of the Hamburg Institute for Social Research, Jan Philipp Reemtsma suspended the display, pending review of its content by a committee of historians.

The committee's report in 2000 stated that accusations of forged materials were not justified, but that some of the exhibit's documentation had inaccuracies and that the arguments presented were too sweeping. In a written statement, Reemtsma said:[6]

We greatly regret that we did not respond to a number of critics, whose objections have been shown to be correct, with due earnestness and that we did not decide to impose a moratorium at an earlier date. Nonetheless, we reiterate that the key statement of the exhibition – that the Wehrmacht lead a war of aggression and annihilation – is correct and is upheld.

In its Report from November 2000, the committee reaffirmed the reliability of the exhibition in general, explaining that the errors have already been corrected. The committee recommended that the exhibition be expanded to include perspective of the victims as well, presenting the material but leaving the conclusions to the viewers.[2]

The fundamental statements made in the exhibition about the Wehrmacht and the war of annihilation in 'the east' are correct. It is indisputable that, in the Soviet Union, the Wehrmacht not only 'entangled' itself in genocide perpetrated against the Jewish population, in crimes perpetrated against Soviet POWs, and in the fight against the civilian population, but in fact participated in these crimes, playing at times a supporting, at times a leading role. These were not isolated cases of 'abuse' or 'excesses'; they were activities based on decisions reached by top level military leaders or troop leaders on or behind the front lines.[2]

Notably, the exhibition doesn't inform about Wehrmacht's crimes in occupied Poland on either side of the Curzon Line. They were presented later as an entirely different exposition called Größte Härte: Verbrechen der Wehrmacht in Polen September/Oktober 1939 (Crimes of the Wehrmacht in Poland, September/October 1939) by the Deutsches Historisches Institut Warschau.[7]

Revised exhibition 2001 - 2004[edit]

The revised exhibition was renamed Verbrechen der Wehrmacht. Dimensionen des Vernichtungskrieges 1941–1944. ("Crimes of the German Wehrmacht: Dimensions of a War of Annihilation 1941-1944").[8] It focused on public international law and travelled from 2001 to 2004. Since then, it has been moved permanently to the Deutsches Historisches Museum in Berlin.


The documentary Der unbekannte Soldat (The unknown soldier) by Michael Verhoeven was in cinemas from August 2006, and has been available on DVD since February 2007. It compares the two versions of the exhibitions, and the background of its maker Jan Philipp Reemtsma.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hamburger Institut für Sozialforschung (6 December 2002). "The exhibition "Verbrechen der Wehrmacht. Dimensionen des Vernichtungskrieges 1941-1944" in Luxemburg". Hamburg. Retrieved 29 February 2016. 
  2. ^ a b c "Crimes of the German Wehrmacht: Dimensions of a War of Annihilation 1941-1944" (PDF). An outline of the exhibition. Hamburg Institute for Social Research. Retrieved 2006-03-12. 
  3. ^ a b Hamburger Institut für Sozialforschung (8 October 2002). "Exhibition "Crimes of the German Wehrmacht: Dimensions of a War of Annihilation, 1941-1944" opens in Munich". Hamburg. Retrieved 29 February 2016. 
  4. ^ Hannes Heer (former staff member) (December 2000). "The Wehrmacht and the Holocaust". Hamburg: Hamburger Institut für Sozialforschung. Retrieved 29 February 2016. 
  5. ^ Karl-Otto Sattler (1999-03-10). "Sprengstoffanschlag auf Wehrmachtsausstellung". Berliner Zeitung (in German). Retrieved 2012-07-20. 
  6. ^ "Crimes of the German Wehrmacht: Dimensions of a War of Annihilation 1941-1944: Press releases, January to November 2000" (PDF). Hamburg Institute for Social Research. Archived from the original (PDF) on November 24, 2015. Retrieved 2015-11-25. 
  7. ^ Größte Härte … Verbrechen der Wehrmacht in Polen September/Oktober 1939
  8. ^ "Verbrechen der Wehrmacht. Dimensionen des Vernichtungskrieges 1941—1944". Retrieved 2006-03-12. 
  • Heer, Hannes (ed.) (1995). Klaus Naumann, ed. Vernichtungskrieg: Verbrechen der Wehrmacht 1941-1944 (War of Annihilation: Crimes of the Wehrmacht). Hamburg: Hamburger Edition HIS Verlag. ISBN 3-930908-04-2. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]