Destroyed Rhine bridge

A New Beginning

Rubble, ruined cities, the daily struggle for food and fuel: this backdrop shaped the lives of many in the state in the aftermath of the Second World War. National Socialist Germany had lost the war and the victorious powers divided the country into four occupied zones. During this time, the British occupying forces founded the new state of North Rhine-Westphalia. A democracy was to take shape, its people taking their lives into their own hands and making decisions together. How could this succeed? What was day-to-day life like for the people?

The first part of this room focuses on the story of this new beginning. Then, towards the back of the room, you will find out about the role international influences played in North Rhine-Westphalia. The state sought and found its place in Europe. From the beginning, it has made every effort to form amicable relationships with its European neighbours.

The Cold War, the decades-long strife between the USA and the Soviet Union, also left its traces here. For instance, the state government built its own bunker as protection against a potential nuclear strike. More on this later.

For now, let us begin with the state’s birth certificate.