Living history on Museum night

The Scientific Collection of Defense Engineering Specimens welcomed visitors

The Scientific Collection of Defense Engineering Specimens welcomed visitors

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In early September, a great number of guests came to visit the Scientific Collection of Defense Engineering Specimens (Wehrtechnische Studiensammlung - WTSWehrtechnische Studiensammlung) in Koblenz for the Long Night of Museums – for the first time after a four-year break due to the pandemic. On this special occasion, the WTSWehrtechnische Studiensammlung team surprised the visitors with some additional exhibits, making the exhibition one of the largest of the night.

A soldier is pointing at a showcase; a group of people is standing in front of him.

During the guided tours, the visitors learned a lot about military technology and took the opportunity to exchange their knowledge

Bundeswehr/Thorsten Erxleben

The WTSWehrtechnische Studiensammlung is an organizational element of the Federal Office of Bundeswehr Equipment, Information Technology and In-Service Support (BAAINBwBundesamt für Ausrüstung, Informationstechnik und Nutzung der Bundeswehr). Just recently, the public exhibition of the scientific collection located in the Lützel district of Koblenz was successfully reopened to the public. Within less than three months, over 8,500 people from 52 nations came to visit the WTSWehrtechnische Studiensammlung. The Long Night of Museums was a great opportunity to follow up on this promising start. 

The WTSWehrtechnische Studiensammlung is supported by the personnel of the Bundeswehr Technical Center for Land-Based Vehicle Systems, Engineer and General Field Equipment (WTDWehrtechnische Dienststelle 41), former BAAINBwBundesamt für Ausrüstung, Informationstechnik und Nutzung der Bundeswehr members of the amateur radio group “DK0KO”, the Koblenz model making club and members of the Association of Friends and Supporters of WTSWehrtechnische Studiensammlung Koblenz. Not only numerous exhibits but also interesting lectures were part of the event’s program

Enigma – cryptographic technology spanning back more than a hundred years

The lecture “Cryptographic technology – past and present” was a highlight for visitors of all age groups. They even had the opportunity to admire a still functioning Enigma outside its showcase.

A device with keys labelled with letters and a box with wires are lying next to each other on a desk.

Though small in size, this device made a great impression on the visitors.


The so-called Enigma encryption device dates back to the 1920s. It was first brought to the market by its inventor Arthur Scherbius, who called it a “device for the transmission of business communication”. It then attracted the attention of the German military, which introduced different versions of the device as of 1930. Also called rotor-based cipher machine, the device operates with moving rotors that change their position during encryption. In principle, the more rotors are installed, the better is the resulting encryption.

For a long time, cracking the encryption was considered impossible. It was only thanks to great scientific and technical effort – including the first analog predecessors of the computer – that the Allies managed to do so in the Second World War. Learning about the long history of this technology helped the visitors understand its great value.

A not so silent night

For a short time, the exhibits contributed by WTDWehrtechnische Dienststelle 41 attracted special attention thanks to their deafening sound effects. Among other things, WTDWehrtechnische Dienststelle 41 had brought a tank engine for demonstration producing a great deal of noise. Moreover, the late-night visitors learned about internal combustion engines and electric motors in wheeled and tracked vehicles.

A group of people is standing in front of an exhibition hall. A tank is standing at the side.

WTSWehrtechnische Studiensammlung presents both old and new devices offering an interesting opportunity for the numerous visitors to take a closer look at the Bundeswehr’s equipment.

Bundeswehr/Peter Theisen
Flames are shooting out of an engine in the dark. A man wearing ear protection is standing in the background.

A spectacular sight – a running tank engine in the dark. This twelve-cylinder four-stroke gasoline engine with magneto ignition has a capacity of 29.4 liters and creates impressive 810 horsepower.

Bundeswehr/Thorsten Erxleben

A night to remember

 “The duties in my field are special. It’s not just some normal administration activity. Everybody is doing their job. This is one of the few branches at BAAINBwBundesamt für Ausrüstung, Informationstechnik und Nutzung der Bundeswehr where physical work is part of the agenda. But it’s the smile on the visitors’ faces that is the best reward for us,” concludes Thorsten Erxleben, head of the WTSWehrtechnische Studiensammlung. It is this passion shared by all members of the WTSWehrtechnische Studiensammlung team that made the event a memorable evening for all the visitors. They proudly look back on a successful night.

by Heike Westhöfer

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