Study Project "Heritage and War 1914-1945"

Although many decades have passed since World War I and II, both wars have left their mark on what we consider heritage. How was heritage treated in war? And on the other hand, what heritage have these wars produced?

The study project for Master students from World Heritage Studies and from Bauen und Erhalten addressed the material legacy of these wars, their memoralisation and the reconstruction of buildings that were damaged and destroyed.

Not only the period of both world wars, but also the years in between will be considered for this study project, due to the fact that many ideas and projects which commenced during WWI were taken up again in WWII, or even continued throughout the period in between the wars. In addition, during this supposed interwar period there were, however, armed conflicts (Iraq, Spain) which could thus contribute significant aspects to the relevant topics.

The variety of topics in this study project ranged from the impact of war on heritage to the heritage of war such as the sites of preparation (for instance training grounds), of war itself (battlefields, military hospitals, PoW camps), and the sites of the aftermath of war and destruction, particularly the wide field of reconstruction. What do we associate with these sites and in as how far have wars and their heritage contributed to the building of national identity?

What is the cultural significance of these sites, and has their significance changed in the course of the years? What is the role the media and the arts have played in the pre- and post war period, and - perhaps most importantly - in our perception of these matters today?

A field trip led the students to Jüterbog, a small Brandenburg town struggling to maintain an immensly vast and diverse military heritage. The group also visited the Dresden Military History Museum as an example for an exceptional way of portraying military history. In the Zentrum für Militärgeschichte und Sozialwissenschaften der Bundeswehr (ZMSBw) in Potsdam which hosts a specialised library on military history Oberst Dr. Heinemann gave an insight to the possibilities of research in military topics.

While some students dug deeper into topics like the representation of World War II in film, a group of five students created the exhibition "Welt. Krieg. Erbe. - World. War. Heritage." that was shown in the university's library in May and in the Peenemünde Historical Technical Museum in June and July 2013.


Prof. Dr. Leo Schmidt
Dipl.-Ing (FH) Uta Mense M.A.
Alexandra Skedzuhn-Safir M.A.