Flying has always been one of mankind's greatest desires. With the invention of aircraft, this dream became a reality.
The exhibition, "From Ballooning to the Berlin Airlift" displays important developments and events from around 200 years of German aviation history on more than 6,000 square metres, starting with the first balloon ascents at the end of the 18th century up until the early years of the post-war period.
The Deutsches Technikmuseum Berlin has been assembling objects from around the world for this purpose since its foundation in 1982. The more than 40 aircraft and large-scale objects on display document far more than just how the technology developed, and include details about the many different ways the planes were used and of the fates of the people who worked with or came into contact with them.
Visitors are forced to come to terms with the cultural and socio-historical significance of the exhibits as well as the practical uses and the way they worked. Aviation pioneers and engineers, pilots both male and female, anti-aircraft auxiliaries, victims of bombs and enforced labour and concentration camp prisoners all tell their stories in their own different ways. Their experiences and memories bring the story of German aviation to life in a way which goes far beyond the merely technical aspects.
To realise the concept of the exhibition, the exhibition design presents large-scale objects within their context. Islands of up to 250 square metres, which combine the aircraft with smaller objects, texts and audiovisual media to form a thematic whole are a distinctive feature of the exhibition. Historic sound and film material, and the recollections of contemporary witnesses create a vivid impression of what it was like to live and work with the planes on a daily basis.
A tour of the exhibition's nine sections is as diverse as the story which it relates. Recollections of daredevil pilots document the enthusiasm of the early years of aviation. The only surviving Jeanin-Stahltaube still in existence, built in 1914, illustrates the beginnings of military aviation, after which the dream of flying lost its innocence. The commercial and sports flying of the 1920s and 1930s took place against the background of the Treaty of Versailles and its restrictive conditions, which placed huge limitations on the development of German aviation after the World War I. The commercial Junkers Ju 52 airliner, better known in Germany as "Tante Ju" (Aunt Ju), is the central item of this section of the exhibition. Rare recordings of the memories of a Deutsche Lufthansa captain and a well-known sports pilot illustrate what everyday life as a pilot was like.
The section dealing with World War II portrays the rise and fall of the German Luftwaffe and shows how the National Socialists misused the fascination with flying for their own purposes. The wreckage of a Junkers Ju 87 dive bomber conveys some idea of the destructive power of military aviation. The "Man and War" multimedia terminal provides an insight into the lives of former Luftwaffe pilots by relating six of their life stories.
The section on space flight focuses on the German contribution to the development of rocket technology. The display begins with the fantasies and experiments of early enthusiasts and ends with the National Socialists' incorporation of this technology into the armament process. Descriptions by eye witnesses document the inhumane work conditions suffered by concentration camp inmates used for missile production in the Mittelbau/Dora concentration camp.
The chronological tour is supplemented by a section on aircraft engineering. This illustrates how individual components such as engines, landing gear and propellers work. A "transparent aircraft" a partially-exposed Arado Ar 96, built in 1943, provides some insight into the complex inner workings of the aircraft.