Three armed American soldiers carrying a place-name sign with a bullet hole in it. The sign reads “Munich, Capital of the Movement.”

American soldiers enter Munich, 1945 | © Scherl/Süddeutsche Zeitung Photo

Munich and National Socialism
Exhibition

As the place where the Nazi Party—the NSDAP—was founded, Munich is more closely connected with the rise of National Socialism than any other city. Our exhibition Munich and National Socialism documents the city’s Nazi history.

Where did National Socialism and its ideology come from?

ow did Adolf Hitler, the leader of an antidemocratic and racist party, come to power? Why did democracy fail? What led to racial and social exclusion, war, and mass murder? Can we learn from the catastrophe of National Socialism? These are questions that historians have been considering for decades, and they remain just as relevant and just as important today. They are questions that concern all of us.

To find answers, Munich is a good place to start—after all, this is the city where National Socialism originated. Located on a historic site, the Munich Documentation Center addresses the city’s past and seeks to explain the phenomenon of National Socialism.


Why Munich?

In a space occupying around 1000 square meters the exhibition Munich and National Socialism elucidates the established historical facts about the founding and the rise of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (NSDAP) in Munich. It explains the special role the city played in the Nazi dictatorship’s reign of terror and the difficulty the city has had in dealing with this history since 1945. It also raises the question: “What does this have to do with me?”


History meets the present

Against this historic background, temporary artistic interventions and exhibitions open new perspectives on history and take up current socio-political issues.

Information

Opening hours
Tuesday to Sunday from 10am to 7pm

Entrance is free of charge

Language
The exhibition texts are in German and English.

More information about your visit

Topics in the exhibition

Using photographs, documents, and texts, as well as film projections and media stations, the exhibition shows how the Nazi state’s policies of exclusion and persecution functioned, as well as the opportunity structure and incentives it introduced to ensure the broad support of the population. Selected biographies of perpetrators, victims, and fellow travelers as well as those of people who resisted the regime reveal their respective motives and scope for action. In view of the Europe-wide impact of World War II, the exhibition also focuses on wartime Munich and the participation of Munich citizens in Nazi crimes in the occupied territories. Finally, it looks beyond the collapse of the Nazi regime in 1945 and considers the repercussions of the Nazi era for the present day.


The origins and rise of the Nazi movement in Munich | 1918–1933

What were the causes and special social and political circumstances that not only made the rise of the NSDAP in Munich possible but actually fostered it? How did the apparently marginal Nazi movement become a leading party of the masses?

The first part of the exhibition sets out to answer these questions. It begins with World War I, the short-lived Bavarian soviet republic, and the counter-revolution in Munich and Bavaria that followed it. As well as tracing the early political career of Adolf Hitler and the founding of the NSDAP, the exhibition also portrays the nationalistic and antisemitic circles in Munich that provided a breeding ground for right-wing extremist ideology and the movement it fostered. During the 1920s, this reactionary milieu contrasted with a “different” Munich of liberal and democratically-minded citizens. Other key developments covered by this section of the exhibition are Adolf Hitler’s failed putsch of November 9, 1923, the regrouping of the NSDAP after 1925, its rise to become the strongest party during the world economic crisis, its seizure of power in 1933, and Munich’s subsequent enhanced status as “capital of the movement.”


Nazi rule and society | 1933–1939

How were the Nazis able to secure their power? The second section of the exhibition traces the systematic destruction of the rule of law and of democratic structures. This went in hand in hand with the establishment of a dictatorship of violence, tyranny, and terror.  

The Nazi idea of a “people’s community” had two sides to it that conditioned one another: on the one hand, the exclusion and persecution of political opponents and people who did not fit in with the Nazis’ racial ideology; on the other, the citizens of Munich who chose to look away, to look on, or to join in. While it is certainly true that there was some opposition in various social groups—in the labor movement or in the Church, for example—very few of those who rejected Nazism translated their thoughts into action. Anyone who showed resistance was severely punished.

Over time, Nazi ideology spread to all realms of life, including art, culture, and science. Munich became “the capital of German art,” and the cultural diversity of modernism was outlawed as “degenerate.” Public life was increasingly shaped by a Nazi cult that was staged above all in the Party quarter around Königsplatz.

As the regime’s foreign policy ambitions grew, the Munich Agreement regulated the annexation of the Sudetenland. In Germany the level of violence continually escalated and culminated in the deportation and murder of Jews and Sinti and Roma as well as of disabled and mentally ill patients in the Nazi “euthanasia” program.


Wartime Munich | 1939–1945

The next section of the exhibition concentrates on the events of World War II—from the outbreak of war to the collapse of the regime. The exhibition outlines the crimes in which soldiers and police from Munich were involved during the war and describes everyday life in the city during wartime, both for the “German” population and for those who were persecuted and discriminated. The population cannot fail to have noticed the 100,000 people deported from the occupied territories to perform forced labor, who were highly visible in Munich. They were ruthlessly exploited in almost all sectors of the economy, especially in the arms industry.  

As the war progressed, the Nazi state stepped up its persecution of anyone who opposed it. A few isolated acts of resistance and of “civil disobedience” show that it was possible to take a humanitarian stand in the face of injustice. Nevertheless, anyone who resisted took a great personal risk. Especially during the final phase of the regime, which was marked by extreme brutality, not a few members of the resistance paid for their courage with their lives. A prime example is the members of the resistance group White Rose, who were condemned to death for their actions and executed. Only when the US Army entered Munich on April 30, 1945, did the regime finally collapse.


Confronting the Nazi past | 1945 until today

The final section of the exhibition is devoted to the period after 1945. De-Nazification and democratization marked Germany’s new beginning and reconstruction following its defeat. Confronting Nazi crimes was a hesitant and slow process, and in many respects inadequate, as the exhibition illustrates with a number of examples. Most Germans were unwilling to acknowledge any feeling of guilt for what had happened and they tended to repudiate and deny personal responsibility.

Even when the perpetrators were brought to trial, in most cases they could expect a mild sentence. Nevertheless, Munich succeeded in making a new start based on democracy. This was reflected in the city council, in the state constitution, and in the media, albeit overshadowed in many areas by continuities in personnel. The exhibition looks at both the successes and the gaps in the process of reconciliation and the continuing discrimination against many victims of Nazi terror. For a long time after 1945, attitudes to the Nazi past vacillated between reappraisal, continuity, and denial.  

The exhibition illustrates these attitudes in terms of what happened to the city’s architecture, where traces of the Nazi era were largely removed or, in the case of the “Temples of Honor,” grass was allowed to grow over them. Only in the 1980s did the widespread tendency to try to forget or deny the past prompt an increasing number of Munich’s citizens to campaign for a lively culture of remembrance. Yet although right-wing extremism and antisemitism have been shunned by society since 1945, the mindsets that foster these tendencies have lived on and in some cases resulted in politically motivated acts of terrorism and violence, such as the attack at Munich’s Oktoberfest beer festival in 1980 or the murders committed by the right-wing extremist organization National-Socialist Underground (NSU) in the early 2000s.

The large windows afford a view of Max-Mannheimer-Platz, the plinth of one of the “Temples of Honor,” and Königsplatz.

View from the exhibition rooms toward Königsplatz with a video projection of historical photos | © NS-Dokumentationszentrum München, photo: Connolly Weber Photography

A view of the historic site

Through the large windows you can see some of the Nazi-era buildings and remains thereof that surround the Documentation Center. These include the former “Führer Building” and the plinth of the Nazi “Temples of Honor.” These authentic historic places thus form part of the exhibition.

Five young people standing in front of one of the exhibition’s illuminated tables.

Visitors to the exhibition | © NS-Dokumentationszentrum München, photo: Connolly Weber Photography

A short or longer visit to the exhibition

You will need to plan about one and a half hours for a visit that takes in the thirty-three large-format main panels. The panels offer a chronologically structured overview of the most important aspects of Munich’s Nazi history. If you have more time, the illuminated tables offer additional information on various topics.

Views of the exhibition

People looking at a table with exhibition texts, photos, and documents.

Visitors to the exhibition | © NS-Dokumentationszentrum München, photo: Connolly Weber Photography

Several people looking at a table with exhibition texts, photos, and documents.
Three young people sitting or standing in front of a large exhibition panel.
Several people looking at exhibition panels arranged on the left and right.
View from above of two people standing in front of an exhibition table with texts and images.
Two people standing in front of an exhibition panel dealing with the subject of de-Nazification.
An exhibition room with illuminated tables and panels with text and images. In the center a video is projected onto the wall.

View of the exhibition | © NS-Dokumentationszentrum München, photo: Connolly Weber Photography

A long corridor. Illuminated exhibition panels with texts and images hang on the left and right.

Media guides to the exhibition

We offer our visitors free media guides in a number of languages and on a variety of topics. There are also special media guides for young people and families with children as well as media guides in simple language and sign language. You can borrow them from the information desk in the foyer.

Learn more about our media guides

 

Upcoming events

For groups

We welcome visits by school classes and groups and ask them to register in advance. We offer a large number of different tours, seminars, and workshops designed for various target groups which can be booked individually. For schools these are all free of charge.

Register a group
Go to our group offers

 

 

Individual research in the Learning Center

Would you like to do your own research on the history of National Socialism and expand your knowledge about selected topics? Then why not take a look at what’s on offer in our Learning Center. Here individual visitors and groups can look in more detail at all the content of the exhibition Munich and National Socialism as well as other topics at four media tables, at research stations, and in the reference library.

Find out more about the Learning Center

The exhibition catalogue and brief guide

Our catalogue contains the texts and images from the exhibition together with twenty-three essays by renowned historians. It thus provides an illustrated history of the Third Reich.

We also offer a brief guide in eleven languages which gives a summary of the exhibition.

Both publications are on sale at our Infothek.

Purchase the catalogue online
Purchase the brief guide online