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Wehrmachtsausstellung (German language: German 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.

Original exhibition 1995 - 1999Edit

The view of the "unblemished" Wehrmacht was shaken by an exhibition produced by the Hamburger Institut für Sozialforschung (Hamburg Institute for Social Research)[1] titled Vernichtungskrieg. Verbrechen der Wehrmacht 1941 bis 1944 ("War of Annihilation. Crimes of the Wehrmacht 1941 to 1944"). The popular and controversial traveling exhibition seen by an estimated 1.2 million visitors over the last decade asserted, with the support of written documents and photographs, 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.

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.[1]


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 [2] 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. Yet, the committee reaffirmed the reliability of the exhibition in general:

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]

The committee recommended that the exhibition be reopened in revised form, presenting the material and, as far as possible, leaving the formation of conclusions to the exhibition's viewers.

Revised exhibition 2001 - 2004Edit

The revised exhibition was now named Verbrechen der Wehrmacht. Dimensionen des Vernichtungskrieges 1941–1944. ("Crimes of the German Wehrmacht: Dimensions of a War of Annihilation 1941-1944").[3] 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 is available on DVD since February 2007. It compares the two versions of the exhibitions, and the background of its maker Jan Philipp Reemtsma.

See alsoEdit


  1. Karl-Otto Sattler (1999-03-10). "Sprengstoffanschlag auf Wehrmachtsausstellung" (in German). Berliner Zeitung.,10810590,9607502.html. Retrieved 2012-07-20. 
  2. "Crimes of the German Wehrmacht: Dimensions of a War of Annihilation 1941-1944: An outline of the exhibition" (PDF). Hamburg Institute for Social Research. Retrieved 2006-03-12. 
  3. "Verbrechen der Wehrmacht. Dimensionen des Vernichtungskrieges 1941—1944". Retrieved 2006-03-12. 
  • Heer, Hannes (ed.) (1995). Vernichtungskrieg: Verbrechen der Wehrmacht 1941-1944 (War of Annihilation: Crimes of the Wehrmacht). Hamburg: Hamburger Edition HIS Verlag. ISBN 3-930908-04-2. 

External linksEdit

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