German colonialism

14 Oct 2016 — 14 May 2017 at the Deutsches Historisches Museum in Berlin, Germany

20 APRIL 2017
German colonialism, Exhibition view. Courtesy of Deutsches Historisches Museum
German colonialism, Exhibition view. Courtesy of Deutsches Historisches Museum

The Deutsches Historisches Museum is dealing for the first time with various aspects of German colonialism in an exhibition with more than 500 objects. Although the German Empire was one of the major European colonial powers, only in recent years has Germany‘s colonial past found its way into public consciousness to a significant degree. The exhibition of the Deutsches Historisches Museum examines the colonial ideology, which was founded in the belief of a European superiority.

The multifarious interconnections of power ranged from local alliances and the routine exercise of violence on up to the colonial war in Namibia, which developed into genocide. No less varied were the colonial encounters. African, Oceanian and German players pursued their own aims and worked out their own scope of action. The exhibition sheds light on the motives of the missionaries, officials, military personnel, settlers and merchants on the German side as well as the interests of the colonialized peoples. At the same time it questions the degree to which the perspectives of the colonialized peoples were taken into account in the historical tradition and whether this stands in contradiction to the enormous extent of the collections and archives that were gathered during the colonial period and which tended to support the conditions of power.

Such an explicit colonial consciousness continued on after 1919. The exhibition devotes no little room to this controversial memory of the colonial past, while artistic as well as civil societal perspectives give us insight into the present situation as to the attitude towards German colonialism in the countries that were affected as well as in Germany.