When American troops reached Cologne on the left (western) banks of the Rhine on 6 March 1945, the Second World War came to an end for the city’s populace.
After twelve years of National Socialism – and almost six years of war – Cologne resembled a ghost town: the old town was destroyed and hardly any of the buildings were still habitable above ground. The sanitary conditions were catastrophic and the electricity, water and gas supplies were no longer functioning.
The end of the war that was started by the Nazi regime was characterised by hunger, privation, physical and emotional exhaustion and disorientation. It also generated hope and relief, however, about the end of the bombing raids. Under Allied supervision, the city’s reconstruction and the re-organisation of the government and administration began – structures in which many members of the old Nazi elite found a new home. Most families did not engage in a confrontation with Nazism and their own involvement in the Nazi crimes.
This exhibition brings the immediate post-war period in Cologne from 1945 to 1948 to life, taking a multifaceted approach. It tells the story of the daily fight for survival, of the hunger demonstrations and of care packages, of the efforts to clean up the rubble and of the housing shortage, of war orphans and refugees, of a cultural new beginning – and of concealment and suppression.
At the heart of the exhibition is a model of the city measuring five by five metres, which depicts Cologne in the immediate aftermath of the war and which impressively illustrates the extent of the bombing damage. Historical photographs and films, original objects and installations all add to the presentation. By documenting the architectural ‘scars of the war’ that are still present today and by featuring the warning memorials erected in the city, the exhibition also carries the subject into the present day.
Tuesday: 10am – 8pm
Wednesday to Sunday: 10am – 5pm
Public holidays: 10am – 5pm
KölnTag: 10am – 10pm