Mercedes-Benz Museum: What to Expect From This Stuttgart Museum

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The Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart is one of the largest tourist attractions in Stuttgart featuring 1500 car exhibits.

The museum is architecturally interesting.
The museum is one of the most popular attractions in Stuttgart.

I am not a car person, but I was curious to know that the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart was all about. This is one of the most popular attractions in Stuttgart. I was intrigued to find out why and because I’m a big believer in exploring closer to home so that you feel like you’re always on vacation.

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What the Mercedes-Benz Museum is all About

The first thing I learned was that the automobile was a German invention. Karl Benz received the patent for the first car before Ford did (contrary to what Americans believe). The first patent was received in 1886 for the automobile pictured above. In 2011 Mercedes-Benz celebrated its 125th birthday. Learning about the history of this iconic brand was quite fun, to be honest. The early automobiles were great to see, especially considering that they have evolved so much.

I enjoyed learning about the early “cars” and seeing how the car has evolved over 125 years.  The Mercedes-Benz Museum is much slicker than the Stuttgart Tram Museum, but I enjoyed learning about Stuttgart’s 140-year tram history as well.

The world's first four-wheeled automobile invented by Gottleib Daimler, another German.
The world’s first four-wheeled automobile invented by Gottlieb Daimler, another German.

What to Expect at the Mercedes-Benz Museum

I was surprised that the Mercedes-Benz museum was one of the busiest museums in Stuttgart, definitely busier than any of the other museums I had visited. It is also massive. Expect 9 stories and 1500 sq m. That should be an indication of exactly how many cars are in the museum. the Mercedez-Benz museum also does an amazing job of tying in its interesting history.

Headset control to guide you through a self-guided customizable tour.
Visitors can customize their visit with their headsets. Very cool!

The museum offers great signage, both in German and English. Each visitor is given a headset which you can customize to your interests, I really enjoyed this as I wasn’t overly interested in the cars themselves. But there was a great variety of information available such as social trends and even a portion for children. Although, to be honest, I didn’t consider it to be age-appropriate. Some of the information didn’t interest me at all. But like I mentioned, the in’s and out’s of cars is not really my thing.

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The History of Mercedes-Benz

Most of the history of Mercedes-Benz is interesting, to be honest, It is always great to learn new things, especially about iconic brands and how they have grown their companies. But the most surprising thing I learnt about Daimler-Benz, which produces Mercedes-Benz, was that they cooperated with the Nazi Regime. I was thoroughly surprised that the company openly acknowledges this fact too.

Before the Nazi Regime, the company had already been working on government contracts. These contracts continued and gradually shifted towards arms production. By the start of World War II, arms production made up two-thirds of Daimler Benz’s revenues. During this time they also employed forced labourers, hired from the Nazi Regime. By 1944 half of the workforce was made up of forced labourers.

 

Early car model
One of 1500 exhibits on display at the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart

To be honest this part of the history left me feeling a little queasy. Especially considering that before now, I never realised what a sordid history the company had. If that wasn’t enough, as I continued I found out that during this time these factories were prime targets for the Allied bombers. It is little consolation as many of those killed in these strikes were forced labourers. Germans are more pragmatic when it comes to these facts though, as my friends made me realise. To them they considered it this way; what if Daimler-Benz had not conformed to the Nazi Regime?

The outcome would have been that the management of the company would have been perceived as an enemy of the Regime. This would have resulted in them and their families being, at best, imprisoned and at worst tortured. As hard as it was for me to think of it in this way, it did in some ways make sense.

early car

There is Light at the End

But credit must be given to them since they admitted their involvement with the Nazi Regime. They also went on to apologise to the forced labourers and offer them financial aid. Daimler-Benz has since gone on to champion human rights. Does it make up for their wrongs during the war? That is entirely up to you to decide.

Considering that I have read a lot about World War II, I never really knew exactly what part businesses had played until I visited the Mercedes-Benz museum. Although the information was heartbreaking, to say the least, I enjoyed the fact that it made me think of things differently. Especially the fact that major companies such as Daimler-Benz had major roles in previous wars and probably still hold that power today. I appreciate any place that keeps me thinking about events long after I have left and returned home.

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The popemobile, used for Pope John Paul IIs visit to Germany. Built in 1980 with bullet proof glazing, that would still let the public see the Pope.
The popemobile, used for Pope John Paul IIs visit to Germany. Built-in 1980 with bulletproof glazing, that would still let the public see the Pope.

My Final Thoughts

I liked the fact that the Mercedes-Benz Museum made me think about a subject I did not consider before. But I doubt that most people would walk away with the same thoughts about this museum as it isn’t the overall theme. I really enjoyed learning about the history of the automobile and the customizable headsets available. Admittedly, the sleek, modern building and amenities are really great and make for an excellent experience. I also liked the fact that the museum itself is well organised.

Besides these facts, it’s not a museum I would return to. But that hinges solely on my interests. I prefer kitsch, fun museums such as the World’s Largest Pig Museum. Although this is not the top of my list, I have to admit that the Mercedes-Benz museum is a good place to go on a rainy day when there isn’t much else to do.

To me, a good museum is one that makes me interested in a subject that I didn’t even know I was interested in.  The Mercedes-Benz Museum had my attention in places, but not consistently.  If you happen to be in Stuttgart for a week or so, it’s worth a trip. But if you’re only here for a day or two, check out the World’s Largest Pig Museum instead (unless you happen to like cars), or one of the other fine museums Stuttgart has to offer.

I may not return to the Mercedes-Benz Museum, but I have to admit I did enjoy my visit and would recommend it even if you aren’t a car buff.

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