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Exile. Experience and Testimony // Permanent Exhibition of the German Exile Archive 1933-1945 // German National Library in Frankfurt am Main

What does it mean to have to go into exile? What awaits one there? Does exile ever finish? And what remains of exile?

Between 1933 and 1945 some 500,000 people were forced into exile from the areas governed by the Nazi dictatorship. What they all had in common was the fact that they had been marginalised and persecuted. Yet there were differences in the specific reasons for, and times of their escape – and in their journeys, destinations and experiences in exile. The experience of exile from 1933 to 1945 was diverse and individual. It meant rupture and loss, but also a fresh start and new opportunities.

The German Exile Archive 1933–1945 has been specifically conceived to provide a multiperspective view of exile. The exhibition consists exclusively of exhibits from the German Exile Archive.

The German Exile Archive 1933–1945 collects testimony of this exile in the form of publications and institutional and personal estates. The choice of the items it collects is not dependent on the occupation or the renown of the individual concerned. A number of exiles themselves played a role in initiating the archive. They regarded it as an instrument of political enlightenment.

Finding your way around

Geöffneter Koffer des Schriftstellers Walter Meckauer, gefüllt mit Manuskripten von KurzgeschichtenKoffer von Walter Meckauer um 1933 (Foto: DNB, Stephan Jockel)

The exhibition is divided into three main themes. Eight explanatory biographies reappear at various points through-out the exhibition in the form of specially marked object labels. A timeline, a map of the world, as well as tablet PCs in the reading areas provide historical, political, geographical and biographical background information on the exhibits. The Epilogue puts the stories of the objects themselves centre stage: What is their provenance and how did they end up in the archive?

The route into exile, and life once there, was not always linear – which is also reflected in the arrangement of the display cabinets. One object – the suitcase – assumed particular significance on the in some cases tortuous routes into exile, and has now come to be regarded as a symbol of flight and exile. Special examples are featured at the beginning, in the middle and at the end of the exhibition. The suitcase was there during the escape, provided storage for whatever items could be taken along – and eventually became a collection object itself.

Flyer "Exile. Experience and Testimony" - Permanent Exhibition of the German Exile Archive 1933–1945 (PDF, 322KB, Not barrier-free file.)

Information and contact

Opening hours: Monday to Friday 9:00–21:30, Saturday 10:00–17:30, closed on Sundays and national holidays
Free admission
Guided tours

Visitor information

From 4 April to 7 September 2019, barrier-free access to the permanent exhibition “Exile. Experience and Testimony” on the first floor will unfortunately only be available from 11:00 to 18:00 and on Wednesdays from 11:00 to 20:00. We apologise for the inconvenience.

Last update: 09.04.2019


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