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  • Writer's pictureDr Julien Drouart

Allied Museum: Approach to the American colony

Updated: Jan 12, 2022

The Allied Museum is dedicated to West Berlin.
A US Army Jeep

The Allied Museum is a reminder of the strategic importance of the Allied presence in West Berlin during the Cold War. It is a bit old-fashioned, but nevertheless a beautiful discovery.

The Allied Museum deserves your attention.

While, since German reunification, museums and memorial spaces devoted to the former East Germany have multiplied in Berlin according to a well-oiled agenda, the existence of West Berlin has not enjoyed the same interest and has surprisingly faded from the national narrative.

Yet the western sectors of the city had chosen abnormal normality during the Cold War, namely the choice to live enclosed within a foreign and hostile territory. In embracing the Western model, West Berliners took a different view of the presence of the American, British and French occupying forces, which were gradually perceived as protective; the seminal episode being the 1948/49 Blockade. Despite the difficult 1970s, the friendship was to persist.

The departure of the allied troops in 1994 opened the door to official recognition and the Allied Museum was inaugurated in the heart of the former American colony.

A diverse and complementary museography

The Museum is housed in the original buildings of the American community. The Outpost cinema hosts an exhibition devoted to the immediate post-war years, addressing the issues of denazification and the democratisation of German society, based on quality objects and iconography.

These themes quickly fade away before the grandiloquent presentation of the Berlin Blockade. Unfortunately, the museography proves to be rather chaotic and ultimately difficult to access, as the information follows one another without a clearly defined guiding thread. In the other building, a second exhibition evokes the Allied presence from 1949 until the departure of the troops. Once again, and despite certain curiosities, the whole lacks an intuitive grip.

The main interest and the real added value of the Museum are actually to be found outside, where the big objects are displayed. The visitor will see a watchtower from the 4th phase of the construction of the Berlin Wall, a French military train carriage, the real Checkpoint Charlie and, above all, a British air force aircraft that took part in the supply of West Berlin during the Blockade. The interior of these outdoor exhibits is only accessible on guided tours.

A museum for understanding West Berlin yesterday and today

Far from the tourist trail, the Allied Museum reminds the visitor of the importance of the Allied presence for the very existence of West Berlin and, by extension, of the whole of West Germany. It is easy to understand the centrality of an event such as the Blockade, which is perhaps the fundamental building block of the West German state. In this respect, the title of the permanent exhibition 'How Enemies Became Friends' is very significant of the issues at stake at the time and today.

Although the museography suffers from complicated accessibility, this can be quickly remedied by choosing a guided tour, bearing in mind that admission to the museum is free.

Above all, the absence of a one-sided approach is to be applauded. The perspective of West Berlin is not built on a depreciation of the Soviet model; on the contrary, it enhances the West Berlin identity by relying on the Allied presence. In the end, the Museum is indispensable for visitors wishing to understand West Berlin.

Reasons to go

  • The history of West Berlin finally in the spotlight

  • The impressive collection of big objects

  • Trilingual information

Reasons to avoid

  • An outdated and inaccessible exhibition

  • Big objects only accessible with a guided tour

  • Quite out of the way and difficult to reach from Mitte

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