Exhibition of Samples of Trophy Weapons (1943-1948). An article and a documentary.

The article you are about to read is dedicated to the exhibition of the weaponry from Germany and their accomplices, trophied after their invasion of the USSR on the 22nd of June 1941.

On the 22nd of June 1943, exactly two years after the Nazi Germany invaded the USSR, the central park of Moscow, bearing the name of Maxim Gorky, opened its gates to an extensive exhibition over the trophied armaments of Nazi-Germany and its accomplices. The exhibition lasted until 1948.

The article consists of three parts: first comes the cinematographic essay, filmed in 1943 to give an overview of the exhibition, then a short note with the documents from Moscow City Archive, and finally, a portion of a historiographic work, dedicated to the exhibition.

Only one thought to add – the tradition that started during the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945 has now seen a rebirth during the present-day Patriotic War, with the exhibition of the weaponry of the Nazi Germany’s successor being displayed on the Poklonnaya Mountain in Moscow from the 1st of May 2024.

We publish about the trophy exhibition, past and present, at our Telegram channel “Beorn And The Shieldmaiden”, for example in this and this post.

Let’s go!

Trophies of the Great Battles

A short cinematographic essay, filmed in colour, presented the visible testimony over the ongoing victories on the battlefield over the invading horde.

The essay is full of jabs and snide remarks, mixed with facts and figures – just the way we like to watch the parallel present-day events unfold now, 80 years later.

Visible evidence of our victories: The Moscow Main Archive tells about the exhibition of captured German weapons


The Main Archive of the capital contains documents documenting the creation of an exhibition of samples of weapons and military equipment trophied by the Red Army in battles with Nazi troops and their allies. The exposition was opened on June 22, 1943 and operated until 1948.

The decision to create an exhibition pavilion “Trophies of War” on the territory of Gorky Park was made back in December 1941, when the successful counteroffensive of Soviet troops near Moscow provided residents of the capital with exhibits of the most diverse kind. In 1942, the exhibition pavilion began to operate. However, it was located deep inside the territory of the park, near the border with the Neskuchny Garden, and did not attract mass attention. A more impressive demonstration of our combat achievements was needed.

Order by the Moscow City Council of the Workers’ Deputies from May 28, 1943. “On preparation of the Central Park of Culture and Recreation named after Gorky to open the exhibition of the trophied armament and machinery.” Page 1

As a result, on May 28, 1943, the order of the Moscow City Council No. 497 “On the preparation of the Central Park of Culture and Recreation named after Gorky for the opening of the exhibition of captured weapons and equipment.” Especially for the exhibition, the Central Entrance to the park was rebuilt and a new fence was installed. For orientation, two 20-meter obelisks were installed along the axis of the embankment of the Moskva River and along the axis of the “Flower Alley”. The water supply and sewerage network were re-created in the park, street lighting was installed in compliance with all blackout measures. 50 drinking fountains, numerous kiosks for the sale of soft drinks and light snacks, as well as 10 new public restrooms were made for visitors to the exhibition.

The total area of the exhibition was 10.5 hectares. The exhibits were installed in the semi-closed pavilions “Trophies of War” and “Cultural Base”, and the renovated building of the Sound Cinema pavilion could be used as a reserve. Most of the exhibits, due to their size, could not fit in the pavilions, and they were placed along alleys and on specially prepared sites, and the contents of the section “Engineering and sapper weapons” were comfortably placed right on the water of the Moskva River near the embankment. The enemy’s aviation got the most space – 26 thousand square metres were allocated for the placement of Luftwaffe equipment meters. Also, a large area was allocated for improvised batteries of artillery systems of Europe. The third place in terms of occupied area went to the samples of armoured vehicles of German, Czechoslovak, Italian, French and Hungarian production.

Order by the Moscow City Council of the Workers’ Deputies from May 28, 1943. “On preparation of the Central Park of Culture and Recreation named after Gorky to open the exhibition of the trophied armament and machinery.” Page 2

Order by the Moscow City Council of the Workers’ Deputies from May 28, 1943. “On preparation of the Central Park of Culture and Recreation named after Gorky to open the exhibition of the trophied armament and machinery.” Page 3

Following, is a portion of a historiographic publication by Fyodor Dmitrievich Michurin. The PDF of the source article can be found here. The web view of the entire article in Russian, with all the references to the sources, can be read at the site of the CSDF Museum. The translated fragment below omits details about the particular exhibits, and focuses on the overall history.

The Exhibition of the Samples of the Trophy Weapons (1943-1948).
Origins, history, the exposition, and the influence.


A fragment of a German bomber shot down in the sky over Moscow on July 22, 1941 in the Vykhino area and exhibited in the Central Park of Culture and Recreation named after him. Gorky. Photo source: STATE CATALOGUE, Ref.No. 23483313.

Exhibitions in Moscow and other Soviet cities were held during the Great Patriotic War, the focus of which was to show the successes of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Red Army (Red Army) by exposing trophies captured in battles from the troops of the Third Reich and its allies. One of these events was the “Exhibition of samples of captured weapons”, held in Moscow, in the Gorky Central Park of Culture and Recreation in 1943-1948. M.V.Kolomiets wrote about this exhibition his works “The Iron of the Whole Europe…” and “Trophies of the Great Victory (exhibitions of captured equipment 1941-1948)”, and it is also mentioned in the work of A.M.Kuznetsov “Military museums and their role in cultural and educational work with military personnel (1918-1991)”. However, despite the fact that the exhibition became the most important exposition event during the Great Patriotic War and left a mark on the national museum and exhibition activities, except for these works, there are practically no works dedicated to it in historiography.

To begin with, it is worth referring to the background of the organisation of this exhibition. It should be noted here that the first wartime exhibitions, where trophies were used as exhibits, took place in the summer of 1941. One of the first exhibitions where trophies were exhibited was opened on July 25, 1941 in Murmansk, at the Kirov House of Culture. It exhibited not only weapons and ammunition, but also cartographic materials, aerial photography, etc.

The first Moscow exhibition where the trophies of the German army were exhibited was the “Patriotic War” in the Central Museum of the Red Army, opened in August 1941. Around the same period, an exhibition dedicated to air raids on the capital opened on Sverdlov Square (present-day Theatre Square). The objects were later moved to the Gorky Central Park of Culture and Recreation for an exhibition opened on August 18, 1941. Among the objects of this exhibition were, in particular, fragments from the He-111 bomber, rammed by V.V.Talalikhin. This exposition became a direct predecessor of the exhibition of samples of captured weapons.

On April 13, 1943, the State Defence Committee issued a decree “On the establishment of a Museum of captured Weapons and Equipment”, which initiated preparations for the organisation of this exhibition. The organisers sought to simultaneously show the fighting strength of the Third Reich and its allies and the superiority of the Red Army, capable of defeating a strong enemy. The future exhibition had to meet certain trends in the museum and exhibition area. First, the People’s Commissariat of Education issued in 1943 an instructional letter “On the further development of museum and exposition work on the subject of the Great Patriotic War”, secondly, the idea of creating permanent departments dedicated to the Great Patriotic War in local history and historical revolutionary museums was proposed by museum staff. This idea was approved and supported by the authorities.

Various museum specialists were invited to organise the exhibition, including staff from art museums. For example, the director of the State Tretyakov Gallery A.I.Zamoshkin took part in the organisation of the exhibition. The staff of the Central Museum of the Red Army also provided items for the creation of the exhibition.

According to the decree of the State Committee of the USSR dated May 7, 1943 No. 3295, the exhibition was to be opened on June 22, 1943 (by the second anniversary of the beginning of the Great Patriotic War). Such rigidly defined deadlines accelerated the work on the organisation of the event: The exhibition was opened on the exact day.

The opening took place at 10a.m., and among the first visitors were soldiers and commanders of the Red Army. The exhibition was spread over 15 hectares, where captured items were exhibited, including enemy equipment, ammunition and household items. R.P.Hmelnitsky became the head of the trophy exhibition.

Both intact objects and their remains were exhibited. For example, a damaged Tiger tank (T-VI) was displayed on the lawn of the park, while long-range artillery pieces were exposed without external defects. The latter circumstance had a significant emotional effect. This was noted by one of the visitors in an interview:

“Hitler’s machinery is significant, but I was looking and looking around – it turns out that there are more hardy, even stronger machines that crush this force. When I come [home], I will tell everyone that the Red Army not only beats the fascist, destroys their guns, tanks, planes, but also takes them brand new, whole”.

Each exhibit had a label where the main technical characteristics of the objects were written, which allowed visitors, including future military personnel, to get better acquainted with the equipment.

All large-sized equipment and its remnants were located on the lawns or on the embankment of the park, while small-sized equipment, small arms, radio stations, banners, awards and other items were exhibited in two covered pavilions. The exhibition was replenished every year with new items that belonged to the troops of the Third Reich and its allies: Romania, Finland, Hungary, Italy, Japan. By 1946, more than 6,500 exhibits could be seen at the exhibition in various departments of the exhibition. Two obelisks were located in front of the entrance, and a sculpture of I.V.Stalin, authored by S.D. Merkurov, was installed between them.

[This part of the publication, describing various departments of the exhibition is omitted]

German 280mm rockets on sWG 41 (schweres Wurfgerät 41) installations. Source

The exhibition was open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. The entrance cost 1 rouble, while for the military and war invalids there was a discounted price of 20 kopecks. Visitors had the opportunity to leave their hand luggage in special storage rooms. At the exhibition there were a reference bureau of the Moscow City Publishing House, kiosks of “Soyuzpechat” and “MOGIZ”. A short guide to the exhibition could also be purchased among the printed materials.

The exhibition was very popular among Muscovites and guests of the capital, which is confirmed by various interviews in newspapers, for example in “Evening Moscow” (June 23, 1943 and June 24, 1943), and the presence of emotional reviews in the special review book. Some people visited the exhibition more than once to get acquainted with all its departments in more detail. Indeed, the minimum time required to get fully acquainted with the exhibition was 3-3.5 hours. In addition, it performed a training function, for example, the main characteristics of enemy equipment were often studied using samples of captured weapons, which made it possible to identify their vulnerabilities.

For example, students of the artillery special school and individual military units came here. The exhibition was visited by I.V.Stalin along with some members of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the CPSU(b): V.M.Molotov, L.P.Beria, A.I.Mikoyan, N.A.Bulganin, as well as foreigners, including from allied countries. For example, on June 24, 1943, the exhibition was visited by a delegation of the British trade unions, who were satisfied with the information provided by it, as evidenced by an enthusiastic review:

“A wonderful exhibition, instructive, calling for further victories, showing how successfully our friendly Soviet allies defeat the Nazis armed to the teeth. Citrin, Conley, Garrison, Feder.”

The exhibition was such a remarkable event that in 1943 a colour documentary film was shot about it, called “Trophies of the Great Battles”, and the commentary text was read by B.P.Chirkov.

The exhibition continued to work after the end of the Second World War. In 1946, about 5.5 million people visited it, and in the time of peace, about 100 thousand people came to it per year. For comparison, 180 thousand people a year visited the exhibition in wartime. In addition, it was included in the guide “Museums and Exhibitions of Moscow”, compiled by D.L.Malinsky, which indicated the popularity of this place.

By 1948, the staff of the exhibition consisted of: officers – 50 people, sergeants and privates – 19 people, freelancers – 33 people.

By the middle of 1948, the exhibition ceased to meet the challenge of that time – the war with Germany and its allies was over, and it also began to interfere with the work of the Park, since it occupied a third of its area. This was the main reason for the closure. On August 5, 1948, N.A.Bulganin and G.M.Popov proposed to close the exhibition, on August 14, 1948, a special commission was established to close it. On October 1, 1948 “The Exhibition of Samples of Trophy Weapons, Captured from the Germans” was finally closed.

The further fate of the exhibits of this exhibition was different. Unfortunately, some of the exhibits were melted down, including 65 armoured vehicles, 141 artillery pieces, and 22 aircraft. Among the aircraft sent for melting, were four copies of the He-111], one of which was even an exhibit of the 1941 predecessor exhibition. Other exhibits were more fortunate: some were transferred to the warehouses of the main and central departments of the Ministry of the Armed Forces, some went to various military and historical museums, including the Central Museum of the Red Army, the Artillery Historical Museum in Leningrad, as well as to the Scientific Testing Ground of the Main Armoured Directorate (GBTU), which later became the Museum of Armoured Weapons in Kubinka.

The exhibition also became a model for the creation of similar exhibitions in Minsk, Kiev, Lvov and other cities in the 1940s. In addition, the main idea of the exhibition lives to this day, as an example, the mobile exhibition of trophies (including military equipment) “Syrian Breakthrough”, which demonstrated the power of the Russian armed forces in the fight against the Middle Eastern terrorists.

Thus, the “The Exhibition of Samples of Trophy Weapons, Captured from the Germans” became one of the main exhibition events of the USSR during the Great Patriotic War. It featured numerous trophies of various kinds, which emphasized the strength of the Soviet Union in the fight against the Third Reich and its allies. The exhibition, which was created with the efforts of many museum and military specialists, became popular among Soviet citizens, had a significant emotional effect and found continuation in the exhibition tradition.

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