The German Tank Museum (Deutsches Panzermuseum) has around 150 tanks and related vehicles on display from the earliest examples to modern NATO equipment.
The German Tank Museum (Deutsches Panzermuseum Munster) explains the history and development of tanks from the First World War to the present. The museum has around 150 tanks and similar armored vehicles on display with the highlight for many the 40 Second World War tanks. Most of the major items are described in both German and English with a free multimedia guide adding considerable detail and background information. Although public transportation is possible to the tank museum, getting there by car is considerably simpler.
German Tank Museum in Munster
The main attractions of the German Tank Museum (Deutsches Panzermuseum Munster) are the around 150 tanks and related military hardware that explain the development of tanks over a period of just more than a century.
The museum is physically big even though only a fraction of its collection of around 6,000 items is on display. The exhibition includes tanks and further large military vehicles, cannons, and motorcycles, as well as a small selection of uniforms, military orders / awards, toys, and hand weapons.
The German Tank Museum is in no sense a glorification of war. An in-depth reworking of the museum descriptions in recent years ensure that it is much more a technology museum rather than a war museum. The emphasis is on the technological development of the tank over the last century or so but without ignoring the negative consequences of applying the awesome capabilities of these war machines.
Military museums in Germany are rare and hardware from the Second World War era is seldom on display in regular regional museums. Seeing such a large collection of military vehicles in one venue is a rare opportunity not even matched by the much-lauded German Military History Museum in Dresden.
Permanent Collection of the Tank Museum Munster
The displays of the Panzermuseum are mostly arranged in chronological order with tanks and models from other countries displayed together with German Panzer to illustrate the development of these machines of war.
Descriptions for especially the older tanks are comprehensive and in both German and English but in some cases only German is use, or no descriptions are available yet. (The museum currently follows the principle that no description is better than an inaccurate of clearly biased description.) The free audio guide adds considerable further details and explains broader trends and influences.
The Early Development of Tanks
For many visitors, the most interesting displays are the early and Second World War tanks. A copy of Wotan, the first German tank, is on display, as well as video footage of German experiments with captured British tanks. (The only surviving example of the first German tank is in Brisbane, Australia.)
The German high command came to the largely correct conclusion that tanks were easy to knock out on the battlefield and given the state of German industry at the time was not worth producing in high numbers.
However, in the interwar years, and well before the rise of National Socialism, tanks were developed and produced by all major European nations, including largely illegally in Germany.
Second World War Tanks in Munster
During the Second World War tanks were of real importance. Developments progressed fast in all countries involved with tanks produced in high numbers. The inability of German industry to keep up production of tanks with the Russians (and Americans) largely contributed to Germany losing the war badly during the final year of fighting.
Many tanks from the Second World War are on display and generally well described. Additional audiovisual displayed further explain the workings and use of tanks. Examples from most German tanks (and a few copies) are on display, as well as a number of tanks from other countries, especially Russia.
Elements of War Exhibition
From the Second World War hall detour via the Elements of War exhibition that include uniforms, medals and decorations, smaller weapons, and toys. This section is not particularly big and thus easy to explore.
A few interesting items include Nazi-era medals including German Crosses so rare now that copies are used. Also interesting is a tunic long thought to have belonged to Erwin Rommel with a detailed explanation why the museum currently reckons it probably is not Rommel’s jacket after all.
German Tanks of the Cold War Era
Many tanks from the Cold War period are also in display. This really was the war of tank production although very few tanks were used in post-war Europe with the notable exception of putting down civilian uprisings such as in Berlin in 1953 and Prague in 1968.
The display starts with tanks from the two Germanies: The Bundeswehr (federal defense force of West Germany) that used mostly tanks based on American designs and the Volksarmee (People’s Army from East Germany) with Soviet tank versions. The museum clearly explain why different designs where used and for what intended purposes designs differed.
Around 40 tanks from the Cold War Period are on display together with a selection of the support vehicles required to keep these engines of war operational. Full-scale cut-out models of a few tanks give an opportunity to see how these vehicles were constructed – these models were mostly used in training of service personnel.
A special hall also has a selection of armored vehicles mostly used as air defense systems.
Although the tank museum is very close to Germany’s panzer division, even the museum has to admit that the role of tanks in future are likely to be very limited. The West German army had 3,500 operational battle tanks in 1985. In 2015, the Bundeswehr had only 225 left. (Excluding the tanks in the museum – many are maintained in working condition.)
A few further tanks are on display in the outdoor area. Here a Leopard I is the only tank that visitors may climb on and in.
German Tank Museum Visitors Information
Opening Hours of the Tank Museum
The Tank Museum is open on most national holidays but usually closed over the Christmas and New Year period from mid-December to early January.
Note that the exhibition halls are unheated – keep coats on in winter.
Even visitors with limited interest in tanks will find it easy to spend two hours in the museum while those with more knowledge and interest in tanks could easily spend a full day here. Tickets are valid for the day and permits reentry.
Tickets for the German Tank Museum
A family ticket is €15.
Multimedia guides are free but not always offered unless asked for. For non-German speakers the audio guide is particularly helpful, as not all exhibits are fully described in English. The guide also covers broader themes and trends.
Occasionally outdoor demonstrations of the tanks on the move are held. These are hugely popular and frequently sell out – buy tickets well in advance.
The museum kiosk has a limited number of souvenirs – and mostly publications in German. Drinks and very basic snacks are on sale but restaurants are available near the museum – tickets are valid for the day with readmission allowed.
Transportation to the German Tank Museum
The Deutsches Panzermuseum, Hans-Krüger-Straße 33, 29633 Munster in the state Lower Saxony (Niedersachsen) to the south of Hamburg and Lübeck. Munster, is home to military bases and should not be confused with the better-known Münster / Muenster (of 1648 fame) in North Rhine-Westphalia.
The German Tank Museum is best reached by car. It is only 15 km from the Soltau-Ost exit with Soltau Fashion Outlet Mall on the Autobahn A7 that is roughly halfway between Hamburg and Hannover. Driving time from Hamburg is around an hour and around 90 minutes from Hannover. Driving time on country roads from Lüneburg or Celle is less than an hour.
Public transportation to the Tank Museum is not ideal but possible. The museum is an around 1.5 km walk from the Munster (Örtze) station. Direct trains from Bremen take around 90 minutes while travel from Hamburg or Hannover require transfers with traveling times closer to two hours. From Berlin, traveling time is at least three hours.
Other sights in the immediate region include the Lüneburger Heide (Heaths), the Soltau Fashion Outlet Mall, the small Berlin Air Lift Museum at Faßberg, and the Bergen-Belsen Memorial Site. Celle and Lüneburg are the closest major towns with excellent hotels and restaurants.
See also more photos at Flickr.