Germany: Memories of a Nation

Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museum, explores 600 years of Germany's complex and often challenging history using objects, art, landmarks and literature.

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Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museum, explores 600 years of Germany's complex and often challenging history using objects, art, landmarks and literature.
🇬🇧 English
last modified
2019-04-07 12:55
last episode published
2014-11-07 00:00
publication frequency
1.34 days
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Date Thumb Title & Description Contributors


Neil MacGregor began his journey through 600 years of German history at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, and ends it at the Reichstag, seat of the German Parliament. These two extraordinary buildings, only a few hundred yards apart, carry in their very ...
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Barlach's Angel

Neil MacGregor focuses on Ernst Barlach's sculpture Hovering Angel, a unique war memorial, commissioned in 1926 to hang in the cathedral in Güstrow. Producer Paul Kobrak.
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The New German Jews

After concentration camps like Buchenwald and extermination camps like Auschwitz, it seemed that the story of Jews in Germany must come to a full stop at the end of the war. Why would any Jew in 1945, or in 1965 for that matter, see any part of their f...
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Out of the Rubble

Neil MacGregor talks to a Trümmerfrau, a woman who cleared rubble from the streets of Berlin in 1945, and focuses on a sculpture by Max Lachnit, a portrait of a Trümmerfrau made from hundreds of pieces of rubble. Neil also examines the role the launch...
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The Germans Expelled

Neil MacGregor focuses on a small hand-cart to tell the story of the forced movement of more than 12 million Germans, who fled or were forced out of Central and Eastern Europe after 1945. For many, the only way of transporting their possessions was a ...
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At the Buchenwald Gate

Neil MacGregor visits Buchenwald, one of the earliest and largest concentration camps. Producer Paul Kobrak.
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Purging the Degenerate

Neil MacGregor examines how the Nazis attacked art they viewed as 'entartet' - degenerate. He charts how Goebbels, Hitler's propaganda minister, led a process designed to purify all German culture, including books, music, paintings and pottery. The...
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Money in Crisis

Neil MacGregor examines the emergency money - Notgeld - created during World War One and its aftermath. Small denomination coins began to disappear because their metal was worth more than their face value. People hoarded them or melted them down. Paper...
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Kathe Kollwitz: Suffering Witness

Neil MacGregor focuses on the art of Käthe Kollwitz (1867-1945), who expresses the loss and suffering of war, especially after the death of her younger son Peter at the front in 1914. Neil MacGregor argues that she is one of the greatest German artist...
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Bismarck the Blacksmith

Neil MacGregor charts the career of Otto von Bismarck (1815-98), known as the Iron Chancellor: he argued that the great questions of the day should be decided by 'iron and blood'. Bismarck was disliked and feared by foreigners, and reviled by liberals...
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Bauhaus: Cradle of the Modern

Neil MacGregor focuses on the Bauhaus school of art and design, founded in Weimar in 1919. Our cities and houses today, our furniture and typography, are unthinkable without the functional elegance pioneered by the Bauhaus. Producer Paul Kobrak.
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From Clock to Car: Masters of Metal

Neil MacGregor focuses on the long tradition of German metalwork, from finely-engineered clocks to the Volkswagen Beetle. German gold and silversmiths were established as the best in the world, but it was for the making of scientific instruments that G...
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Porcelain: The White Gold of Saxony

Neil MacGregor focuses on how 18th century German chemists discovered the secrets of Chinese porcelain, known then as 'white gold' - translucent, fine-glazed, and much-coveted. Porcelain became a lucrative source of income, and was used for prestigious...
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Gutenberg: In the Beginning Was the Printer

Neil MacGregor examines the life and legacy of Johannes Gutenberg, who invented moveable type and pioneered the printing press. For many, it is the moment at which the modern world began, as the book as we know it was born. It is without doubt the poin...
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Dürer: An Artist for All Germans

Neil MacGregor focuses on the work of Dürer (1471-1528), arguing that he is the defining artist of Germany, his image - and his self-image - known to all Germans. He was a new kind of artist, clearly fascinated by himself, and the first great artist in...
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1848: The People's Flag and Karl Marx

Neil MacGregor reflects on the events of 1848, when black, red and gold became the colours of the flag for a united Germany, and Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels published The Communist Manifesto. Producer Paul Kobrak.
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Iron Nation

Neil MacGregor charts the role of iron in 19th century Prussia, an everyday metal whose uses included patriotic jewellery and the Iron Cross, a military decoration to honour all ranks. Producer Paul Kobrak.
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Holbein and the Hansa

Neil MacGregor charts the rise and fall of the Hansa, or Hanseatic League, a great trading alliance of 90 cities, including Lübeck, Hamburg, Danzig, Riga and London. He also focuses on the role of the artist Hans Holbein the Younger, who painted portr...
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Riemenschneider: Sculpting the Spirit

Neil MacGregor focuses on the religious sculptures of Riemenschneider (c1460- 1531), whose reputation as an artist has steadily risen. He is seen as a supreme sculptor, working in a peculiarly German medium, limewood, but articulating the sensibilities...
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The Battle for Charlemagne

Neil MacGregor visits Aachen cathedral to examine the legacy of Charlemagne (c. 747-c. 814) - was he a great French ruler, or was he Charles the Great, a German? And what is the significance of a very fine replica of the Imperial Crown? Producer Paul...
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One People, Many Sausages

Neil MacGregor focuses on two great emblems of Germany's national diet: beer and sausages. He visits Munich to find out how regional specialities represent centuries of regional history and diversity. Producer Paul Kobrak.
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The Walhalla: Hall of Heroes

Neil MacGregor visits the Walhalla, one of the most idiosyncratic expressions of national identity in 19th century Europe - a temple to German-ness, modelled on the Parthenon, built high above the Danube in Bavaria. It honours almost 200 people, from e...
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One Nation Under Goethe

Continuing his focus on the things which bind Germans together, Neil MacGregor examines the life and work of Goethe, the greatest of all German poets: "There is a case for arguing that if Americans are one nation under God, the Germans are one nation u...
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Fairy Tales and Forests: The Grimms and Caspar David Friedrich

Continuing a week of programmes with a focus on the things which bind Germans together, Neil MacGregor reveals how the fairy tales collected by the Grimms and the landscape art of Caspar David Friedrich played a vital role in re-establishing an identit...
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Luther and a Language for All Germans

Neil MacGregor continues his series with a week of programmes with a focus on the things which bind Germans together - ranging from the importance of the great German writer Goethe, and the significance of the Grimm brothers' fairy tales, to the long-s...
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Fragments of Power

Neil MacGregor discovers how coins reveal the range and diversity of the Holy Roman Empire, with around 200 different currencies struck in the different territories of Germany. It's an extraordinarily immediate and physical way of grasping the complex...
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Strasbourg - Floating City

Neil MacGregor visits Strasbourg, now in France, but also a city with a key place in German history, culture and precision engineering, as revealed by a model of the cathedral clock, now in the British Museum. When the writer Goethe stood in front of ...
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Kafka, Kant and Lost Capitals

Continuing the week's theme of Germany's floating frontiers, Neil MacGregor visits two cities now beyond Germany's present borders, but which played important roles in Germany's intellectual and literary history. Kaliningrad, on the Baltic, became pa...
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Divided Heaven

Neil MacGregor examines the story of the two Germanys, East and West, created in 1949, through objects including a wet suit used in an escape attempt from the East in 1987, which was later used as a training device by the Stasi, the East German secret ...
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The View from the Gate

Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum, begins his series examining 600 years of German history through objects, with a reflection on Germany's floating frontiers. Twenty-five years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, which led to the reunified...
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