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29 May to 30 November 2014

The First World War has been characterised as the "seminal catastrophe" of the 20th century. Nine million soldiers and almost six million civilians died in this first industrialised, total war in history. It changed not only subsequent armed conflicts, but also influenced political thought and action for many years to come. In remembrance of the outbreak of the war a hundred years ago, the exhibition offers a multifaceted overview of the First World War as well as its prerequisites and consequences.

"1914–1918. The First World War" approaches this previously unknown escalation of violence from a broad European and global perspective. Taking 14 salient places as points of departure, the exhibition offers a survey of the events and their different contexts. These places represent specific battlefields – such as Verdun, Tannenberg or Gallipoli – but also political-cultural centres like Petrograd and Berlin as well as occupied cities and regions, including Brussels and Galicia. All of the places stand for important stations and situations in the war. They point to overriding developments: the modernisation of war technology with its disastrous consequences for the people, the worldwide wartime economy, the global escalation of the fighting as well as the totalisation of the war, which not only affected the soldiers on the fronts, but also mobilised the entire population.

Taking the example of individual biographies, the exhibition reveals the very different ways in which the events were experienced and helps visitors to understand how dramatically the violence of this “Great War” affected the people. Here we encounter the fate and viewpoints of well-known persons such as the war volunteer and author Ernst Jünger or the artist and sculptress Käthe Kollwitz. But the wartime experiences of little known soldiers and civilians are equally represented in the exhibition by means of objects, letters and photographs.