By Lawrence Heiskell, M.D. and Hans Bek
Suhl, Germany is located in the eastern province of Prussian Saxony, picturesquely situated on the Lauter River on the southern slope of the Thueringen Forest. In the middle ages, the knights of Southern Germany especially prized the swords and armor made in Suhl and many of the weapons used in the campaigns against the Turks and in the Seven Years War are said to have been manufactured in Suhl. The history of Suhl is closely tied to some of the most famous gun makers in the world such as ERMA, Walther, Sauer & Sons and Merkel, all of which have their roots in Suhl. The gunsmith craft has a long tradition in this small German town dating back to 1535. Suhl was also a major producer of cannons throughout the seventeenth and subsequent centuries. It is also the oldest proof house in Germany dating back to 1893. The extraction and smelting of iron ore had been common in the region around Suhl for centuries, as the mountains around the town are all rich in iron ore. The name Suhl first appeared in connection with weapons during a time when small arms were in demand for growing armies. In 1622, the Suhl based gun maker Simon Stohr received orders for 4,000 match lock muskets and by 1631 the Suhl gun makers had manufactured a total of 28,950 muskets.
In 1753 the town suffered a major setback when a fire destroyed the shops of 82 gunsmiths, 60 stock makers and 9 barrel smiths. It was not until 1800 with theintroduction of the new percussion lock to replace the flint lock did the town somewhat recover economically as the gunsmiths found profits in converting the old flintlock rifles to the new percussion design.
In 1872 two brothers, Paul and Wilhelm Mauser started the Mauser factory in Oberndorf am Neckar (also the home of Heckler & Koch, GmbH) and began mass production of weapons further causing economic problems for Suhl.
After WW II, Suhl became a part of the Eastern and Soviet controlled part of Germany. Over 4,000 enterprises in Suhl were accused of having connections to the former Nazi Regime and were shut down. A major arms company that was located in Suhl for almost 200 years was JP Sauer und Sohn GmbH, producer of hunting rifles, shotguns and pistols such as the Sauer 38H until moving operations to Eckernfoerde at the end of WW II.
The Waffen Museum is located at Friedrich Koenig Strasse 19 and is constructed in the Fachwerk Haus style with a stone foundation and, in the classic German style, has flower boxes in the windows.
As you enter the museum there is a reception desk and a place to buy tickets, postcards and books. The museum collection is on two levels with display cases that are well lit. Some of the larger weapons, such as the Maxim, are openly displayed. There is an exceptional period display showing the tools and materials used to manufacture early weapons. There are several groups of weapons behind Plexiglas lighted enclosures. One such display holds a near mint MP35 and an exceptional MP18 I. In another room is a display with an MP40 and an MP44.
There are several collections of early flint lock and percussion rifles as well as various WWII rifles and pistols. The oldest gun on display dates back to the 14th century. The weapons exhibits provides the visitor an interesting insight into the history and development of small arms that made the town of Suhl famous and well known around the world. Today, Suhl is the home of 14 out of 25 gun makers in the region and still produces fine hunting and sport weapons.
The museum is currently closed until the summer of 2008 for renovation, improvements and construction of new exhibits. If visiting the area it is advised to call to see if they are open.
Museum hours are dependent upon the time of year you visit the museum. From April 1 through October 31, the museum is open Tuesday through Saturday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sundays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Holidays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. From November 1 through March 31, the museum is open Tuesday through Saturday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sundays and Holidays 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Tickets are sold up to one hour prior to closing. Adults cost 3 Euros. Groups of 20 or more are reduced to 2 Euros each. If you want to take photos inside the museum you will be charged one Euro extra.
Waffenmuseum Suhl Friedrich Koenig Strasse 19 D-98527 Suhl Phone: 011 49 3681 72 06 98 Fax: 011 49 3681 72 13 08 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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