On October 10, 1996 representatives of the German federal government, the city-state of Berlin and the governments of the western powers U.S.A., Britain and France came together to sign the Museum’s founding document. “It is impressive,” wrote Chancellor Angela Merkel in her words of welcome, “what has grown out of its modest beginnings.” The representatives of the western powers took a similar view. U.S. President George W. Bush thanked the Museum for its great commitment to telling “the story of freedom.” This work, he continued, would be “a source of hope for all those who yearn to live in liberty.” French President Jacques Chirac stressed in his words of greeting that the Allied Museum, with its portrayal of the role of the western powers in Berlin, has “opened the way for a feeling of shared destiny between our two peoples in a pacified Europe.” Finally, the British defense minister Des Browne recalled that the values for which the Allied Museum stands are “just as important today as they were 50 years ago.”
The 10th anniversary celebrations included a daytime program for the broader public and an evening program for invited guests. The Open House offered visitors an opportunity to look inside the large objects whose gates must still remain shut for everyday Museum visits.
The day proved an enormous success. The lively and informative program attracted more than 1,000 visitors. The children’s tent ended up being the biggest attraction. Here kids fashioned airplanes and parachutes out of paper napkins, which, as in the days of the airlift, were filled with candies. Another huge hit were the red, white, and blue balloons ascending into the sky with greeting cards attached. The children’s tours were the absolute highpoint, however. The look inside a suitcase with documents and objects showed children how splintered families often were right after the war. The children also had the chance to lift a sack of coal to get an idea of just how heavy freight was during the airlift. Finally, they were confronted with the meager daily rations available to people in the immediate postwar years.
For older visitors, the French duty train was naturally one of the most popular exhibits. Over a glass of champagne, M. E. Bréard, who worked for many years as a conductor on the train, talked about his experiences on the journey from Berlin through the Soviet occupation zone and later GDR to Strasbourg. Everyone found the tours of historic sites in the Dahlem district in vehicles belonging to the Allied military missions fascinating. Of course, one of the stops on the tour was the former Kommandatura building on Kaiserswerther Straße. Starting in 1948, the western city commanders met there weekly. One focus of the special guided tours was the salvage and conservation of the 1956 Berlin spy tunnel. Another was the recently opened exhibition on the history of the Berlin American High School. In between, in the British “Hastings”, the Allied Museum’s director, Dr. Helmut Trotnow, had a conversation with a real live Berlin Air Lift pilot. Even the younger visitors listened intently to the remarks by Lester Stilwell, who as a U.S. Air Force pilot flew nearly three hundred missions between Frankfurt and Berlin.
The Open House unfortunately came to an end after five hours. Before that, however, the U.S. Air Force band in Europe and the French Navy musical ensemble played, recalling the era when Allied military bands were a regular feature of events in West Berlin. They were met with grateful applause from all sides.
Professor Hans Ottomeyer opened the evening program in his capacity as chairman of the organization that administers the Museum. The director-general of the German Historical Museum, under whose aegis the Allied Museum was first established, praised the work accomplished thus far. The Open House was impressive evidence that history can also be conveyed in a popular festival atmosphere. The defense attachés from the British and French embassies, Brigadier Tom Paine and General Alain Daniel, delivered messages of greeting from their embassies and emphasized the importance of keeping alive memories of the history of the western powers and Berlin in the period between 1945 and 1994. The U.S. representative, cultural attaché Peter R. Claussen, who had arrived at the Berlin embassy only two weeks before, read aloud the words of greeting sent by President George Bush, which had just arrived from Washington a few hours earlier.
Following the welcome addresses, the Museum’s director moderated a panel discussion on the topic of “Four Nations and one Museum: 10 Years of the Allied Museum.” The discussants had all been involved from the beginning. Former British ambassador Antony Ford had even signed the founding document in his capacity as head of the embassy’s Berlin Office. The other signatory, Peter Radunski, Berlin’s then senator of cultural affairs, had to cancel at the last minute because of illness. Other members of the panel included John Kornblum, who had attended the Museum’s opening in 1998 as U.S. ambassador, and Gérard Pruvost, head of the French embassy’s Berlin Office. Karsten D. Voigt, coordinator of German-American cooperation at the Foreign Office, represented the German side. As chairman of the Museum’s international advisory board, Voigt had had the opportunity to follow the Museum’s work directly over the past five years. The panel members agreed that the Museum would play an important role in future. The farther we move away from the postwar era in Berlin and Germany more generally, the more important it will be to underscore the actual significance of this period in history, which is now referred to by the slogan “Cold War”. All agreed that the status of the Museum, particularly its exhibition possibilities, is in need of improvement. The current site is clearly no longer adequate. Voigt argued strongly in favor of moving the Museum to Tempelhof when the airport is closed.
The director of the Museum had announced a “surprise program” to round off the evening. The occasion was his 60th birthday, which fell during the summer vacation. Trotnow had spent 10 of these 60 years building up the Museum, so it was quite appropriate to connect the two events. Together with a few fellow travelers from his past life, he spoke about the experiences he had had over the course of his career. The culmination was 1966, when four young men parted company and wished each other a happy and successful life. Trotnow was one of those young men, who performed together as a rock band called The Jaguars between 1964 and 1966. Unlike his former colleagues, he had abandoned his life as a musician from one day to the next. Now, 40 years on, the band celebrated a reunion and played their old numbers again. The drummer could not attend for health reasons, and was replaced by a young man who hadn’t even been born in 1966. The surprise worked, and the audience was thrilled.
Greetings from the Chancellor of Germany
Greetings from the British Minister of Defence
Message from the President of the French Republic
Greetings from the President of the United States of America