‘We had to do this’: Berlin museum to drop ‘Russian’ from name

A Berlin museum dedicated to German-Russian relations on the site where the Nazis agreed to unconditionally surrender in 1945 is to drop the word “Russian” from its name before anniversary events to mark the end of the second world war in Europe.

With tensions already high in the lead-up to the 77th anniversary on 8 and 9 May of Nazi Germany signing the surrender agreement, the German-Russian museum’s director, Jörg Morré, said he would be renaming it Museum Berlin-Karlshorst.

“Already on the first day of the invasion we said this is such a profound turning point that we had to do this,” Morré told the broadcaster rbb24. He said it no longer seemed appropriate to be giving the Russian federation the status it had enjoyed in the title.

The museum is housed in the former officers’ mess of the Wehrmacht, Germany’s wartime armed forces in the district of Karlshorst in east Berlin. It was there, on 8 May 1945, that German officers agreed to give up their fight in a meeting with Red Army generals, and representatives from the US, Britain and France.

The museum was established 30 years ago by German and Russian historians, after the withdrawal of Soviet armed forces from Germany after German reunification. Funding for it has come from the governments of both countries, and it was opened to the public in 1995 as the German-Russian Museum, dedicated to the history of German-Soviet relations.

In particular it focuses on the second world war, including the Red Army’s role in liberating Berlin, but reaches back to 1917. Historians from cultural organisations from Germany, Russia, Belarus and Ukraine have collaborated on its exhibits.

As a sign of solidarity towards Ukraine, on the day Russia invaded Morré removed all the flags of these four countries usually on display in front of his museum, leaving just the Ukrainian flag.

But he said he was resisting calls for the removal of the many Soviet war memorials around Berlin, including at his museum, some of which have Red Army tanks incorporated into them. A Soviet T34 tank is on display in the grounds of his museum, along with a collection of heavy Soviet military equipment used during and after the war.

He stressed that the museum was still intent on commemorating the efforts and achievements of the Red Army in their fight against Adolf Hitler and in liberating Berlin, which he stressed had involved soldiers from Russia and Ukraine, as well as other former Soviet states. The bodies of thousands of the troops are buried in military graveyards in and around Berlin.

An increasing number of the memorials, including one in Treptower Park adorned with a Stalin quotation, have been vandalised and covered in graffiti in recent weeks out of protest at the invasion of Ukraine.

“I am completely against dismantling them or razing them to the ground … however out of place they seem. But we do obviously have to contextualise them,” Morré said.

Events to mark the anniversary are to take place this coming Sunday and Monday, but will be low-key and will emphasise the victims of war, including remembering Ukrainian victims of the current conflict, officials have said.

The Russian embassy in Berlin has said it will hold its own commemorations to mark the end of the second world war, including at the three main memorial sites in Berlin as well as at the site of former concentration camps, but will keep the precise times and locations secret “for security reasons”.

Berlin’s senate said about 50 demonstrations and events – including pro- and anti-Russian demonstrations – were planned across the city and that police were bracing themselves for clashes, saying the situation “poses a very sensitive threat”.

Last month there was outrage after a motorcade of pro-Russia protesters was allowed to drive through the city.

On Sunday a demonstration by Mothers for Peace is to take place outside the Berlin-Karlshorst museum, while an anti-war protest is due to march through the government quarter. Police have said they will restrict the number of Russian flags on display and clamp down on any attempts to glorify the invasion. Demonstrators will be forbidden from using car horns or displaying the pro-war Z symbol, which stands for za podebu (for victory).

Category:

prem

Tags:

, ,

Comments are closed.