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There are few cities in German history that experienced Dresden’s level of destruction during the Second World War. At the end of the war, the city was practically reduced to rubble. So it is hardly surprising that the city is home to the Bundeswehr Military History Museum. Featuring 1,950 square metres of modern exhibit space, this is the largest military museum in the world.
The building that currently houses the museum has been previously occupied by numerous arsenals and museums. It not only used to house a Saxonian armoury, but has also served as the Nazi Museum and Army Museum of the former DDR. Inaugurated in 1897, the museum acquired a modern look after an expansion in 2011. The revamped look was been designed by top architect Daniel Libeskind, who added a huge steel triangle to the neoclassic facade. Libeskind also designed the Jewish Museum in Berlin.
The current Bundeswehr Military History Museum puts war in a very unusual perspective. The Imperial War Museum in London and the Musée de l’Armée in Paris are as much a tribute to war as a careful reflection on the consequences of military action. But instead of displaying tanks, canons and shiny medals as relics of honourable battles, this museum discusses the purpose and origins of violence. Considering that this museum is administered by the German army, it is quite remarkable that it provides a visual representation of the inhumane consequences of military interventions. Exhibits include the wreck of a German army vehicle damaged by an explosion during the recent war in Afghanistan. Next to it you will find the voting cards of German leaders Gerhard Schröder and Angela Merkel, who approved Germany’s participation in the war. The museum certainly sheds a whole new light on any future military interventions.
The museum was reinaugurated in 2011, after a major renovation and expansion by American architect Daniel Libeskind. His wedge-shaped design breaks up the imposing formal symmetry of the building. This is a symbolic reference to the far-reaching consequences of war. The metal wedge – an enormous bow of a ship in steel and glass – is 5-storeys high and points in the direction of where the first bombs fell. From the observation platform, visitors can see how Dresden has risen from the ashes.