Traveling Exhibitions

June 1941. The Deepest Cut

24 Biographies from the war against the Soviet Union
On June 22, 1941 –70 years ago – the German Wehrmacht and its Allies started their attack on the Soviet Union, codenamed “Operation Barbarossa“. This war revealed a character fundamentally different from previous wars. From the outset the Wehrmacht had planned and was implementing it as a war of annihilation with complete disregard for international law. 27 million Soviet citizens perished as a result of German warfare and occupation, 14 million of these were civilians. No other European country has lost more soldiers and civilians during WWII. This is the reason why the date of June 22, 1941 has imprinted itself deeply in the memory of Russians, Belarusians and Ukrainians. In Germany, on the other hand, there is little awareness of this date, in spite of highly charged debates around the crimes of the Wehrmacht, which have intensified in the recent past.

The exhibit “June 1941. The Deepest Cut” was curated by the German-Russian Museum Berlin-Karlshorst ten years ago and presented here first in 2001. Still, it has not lost any of its topicality. It shows 24 individuals for whom June 22, 1941 represented a rupture, a cut in their biographies in many different ways. People turned into perpetrators, victims and onlookers. Thus unfolds the whole spectrum of different fates on the German and the Soviet side. Those generations who can still tell us first-hand of their experiences during the war are gradually leaving us. The war has deeply affected their entire lives, often compelling them to write down their memories time and again.  

Even 70 years on, it is important to keep this memory alive. For this reason the Museum Karlshorst decided to tour the exhibition “The Deepest Cut” in Germany, Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and other European countries, from June 2011 to June 2013. This project also aims to open up opportunities for related educational projects, including international cooperation between young people.

Mascha, Nina and Katyusha
Women in the Red Army

Opening: November 22, 2010, 5.30 pm
22 Nov. 2010 | 5.30 pm
Bielefeld University
University Building (UHG), University Library, C 1
Duration: November 23, 2010 to January 14, 2011

Frightening images and myths have grown up around the military service of over 800,000 women in the Red Army. For the Germans these were “gun women,” perfect examples of intimidating degeneration. During the war years, they were almost exclusively regarded as supporting men in combat. After the war, the contributions and experiences of female soldiers in the Red Army were to a large extent a taboo subject for the Soviet Union’s culture of remembrance, both officially and for society at large. Accordingly, only little is known about their military involvement in the war and their day-to-day experiences. The exhibition explores both the myths and the frightening images, comparing them with the complex reality. But the topic of women serving on a war front not only relates to a foreign society in a distant past. Today, women serve in many of the world’s armies, including the German armed forces, and the wartime military service of women in the Red Army was the clearest logical forerunner of this development.

This exhibition was prepared in cooperation with the Faculties of Philosophy, Theology and History, the Department of History, and the Library of Bielefeld University.