TUM Emeritus of Excellence Winfried Nerdinger

“We must face up to our history”

Since 1988 Professor and TUM Alumni Winfried Nerdinger has repeatedly demanded that Munich also take a critical look at National Socialism. More than a quarter of a century later he opened the Documentation Center for the NS History as its founding director.

After just a few semesters, when Winfried Nerdinger was still a student, he realized that he was mainly interested in the historical subjects in architecture: “I actually began studying with the aim to become an architect, in other words to design and build,” he remembers. But it was the analyses of works of art and buildings by Professors Schmoll and Gruben that fascinated him. “It wasn’t long before I was spending almost as much time on Art History as I was on working on the designs.” His work as a research assistant and assistant at the Institute of Art History and his dissertation on the sculptor Rudolf Belling then set him on a course towards historical research.

The TUM Architecture Museum

And Nerdinger the architectural historian has achieved a great deal and left his own mark on TUM and on his home state of Bavaria. He was appointed Professor of Architectural History at the TUM when he received a call from McGill University in Montreal, and as part of his work as associate professor at the Faculty of Architecture he built up the TUM Architecture Museum, which opened in the Pinakothek der Moderne in 2002: “The inventory in the university’s architectural collection were still in a storeroom above the library and in a rented apartment on Augustenstrasse,” he explains. “I started collecting models and plans and working on exhibitions, and this work led to the Architecture Museum.”

Munich has an obligation to face up to its National Socialist history.

Shortly before he retired, a new field of activity opened up for the passionate historian when he took over managing the foundation of the Munich Documentation Centre for the History of National Socialism. “When Nazi documentation centres were established in Berlin and Nuremberg, I repeatedly demanded that a place for the documentation and critical examination of National Socialism also be created in Munich, the former “capital of the movement”.

Munich Documentation Centre for the History of National Socialism

In the TUM jubilee year 2018, the Munich Documentation Centre for the History of National Socialism dedicated a special exhibition to the history of TUM under the National Socialism (Photo: Jens Weber).

For Nerdinger, the topic of National Socialism was one that was present almost every day. He comes from a social democratic family, and his father was active in the resistance against National Socialism. For a long time, he was disturbed by the fact that you could not find any indication in the public arena that National Socialism emerged in this city and Hitler built up his power base here with the help of many people and institutions.

Munich Documentation Centre for the History of National Socialism

In my opinion, Munich simply had an obligation to face up to this history and to create a place where all citizens and future generations could find out about the Nazi era and learn from it.” It took more than 25 years and cost “endless efforts and arguments” until the new building was opened on Königsplatz in May 2015 – another achievement, and perhaps the greatest, in Munich by Winfried Nerdinger after the TUM Architecture Museum. “It was a happy coincidence that I was able to take over the founding management directly after my work at the university, and that I was able to design the Documentation Centre and lead to its opening, which was the logical consequence of many years of hard work.

Winfried Nerdinger has received many awards for his commitment: He was appointed TUM Emeritus of Excellence and was awarded the Cross of the Order of Merit, among others. The last exhibition he curated for the NS Documentation Center brought together his work for Munich’s NS Documentation Center and for TUM, his alma mater. On the occasion of the 150-year anniversary of the founding of TUM, he documented staff, ideological and institutional changes that took place at the university during the Nazi era in a special exhibition titled “The Technische Hochschule München under National Socialism”, which made use of a wealth of previously unknown materials. The exhibition catalogue was published by TUM.University Press.