Andreas Etges and Alexandra Schenke in front of an exhibition piece (c) Amerikahaus München

Exhibition Opening "'Goddam Dangerous' 60 Years Later: The Cuban Missile Crisis Revisited"

60 years ago, in October 1962, the Cuban Missile Crisis brought the world to the brink of a nuclear war. The declassification of many secret primary sources in the past decades makes it possible to provide a much more accurate description and a deeper context of these decisive “Thirteen Days.” Our latest exhibition called “Goddam Dangerous” 60 Years Later: The Cuban Missile Crisis Revisited, for which we partnered with the Amerika-Institut at LMU Munich, aims to do just that by showing some of said primary sources from various international archives. The exhibition, which opened at Amerikahaus on Friday, October 14, 2022, was curated by students of the Amerika-Institut of LMU under the direction of historian Dr. Andreas Etges, a leading expert on the Kennedy presidency, and Alexandra Schenke, in cooperation with the Museum Berlin-Karlshorst.

Meike Zwingenberger, CEO of the Amerikahaus - Bavarian Center for Transatlantic Relations, commenced the exhibition by providing introductory welcome remarks. She particularly highlighted how the exhibition offers insights about different protagonists who were involved in the Cuban Missile Crisis, and how various works featured in the collection showcase the importance of public opinion and popular culture during the crisis.

As Consul John Stubbs (U.S. Consulate General Munich) could not attend the event, Nina Schaller-Gartz filled in for him, delivering his speech. Stubb’s speech referenced a recent comment by a high-ranking U.S. administration official which suggested that 2022 could be considered a runner-up to the 1962 situation that almost sparked a nuclear conflict. Continuing the speech, Schaller-Gartz also noted that the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 and the Russian war against Ukraine in 2022 are far from comparable, criticizing Russia’s lack of interest in diplomatic discourse and worsening nuclear rhetoric. Ultimately, diplomacy instead of physical and verbal escalation was encouraged:

“Remember, just in January of this year, the five nuclear weapon states […] affirmed in a joint statement that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought. We hope that Russia will find the path of diplomacy, rather than continue to seek a decision on the battlefield, or through rhetorical escalation.”

Andreas Etges (Amerika-Institut, LMU Munich) also touched on diplomacy and communication in his welcome remarks. As he provided some historical details on the Cuban Missile Crisis, he stressed that the crisis cannot be viewed in simple black-and-white terms since neither the American nor the Soviet side was solely good or evil. Referencing some declassified primary sources, he explained how both Kennedy and Khrushchev aimed to avoid nuclear confrontation and continuously communicated throughout the crisis. Despite reciprocal accusations, both managed to build trust and negotiate a deal to de-escalate the situation – all without a formal contract or a written agreement.

In addition to the historical and political dimension of the exhibition, co-curator Alexandra Schenke (Amerika-Institut, LMU Munich) provided a new perspective on the relationship between Kennedy and Khrushchev. She reflected on a project she had organized which would accompany the exhibition later in October: Through a staged reading, she and her students would not only examine and interpret various primary sources, but would also attempt to capture the underlying emotions of the different parties involved in the Cuban Missile Crisis. She highlighted how the rehearsal process allowed them to acquire a deeper understanding of the protagonists, and how it led them to appreciate Kennedy’s and Khrushchev’s direct style of communication.

Finally, Tamara Blank and Franca Lindner, two students who were part of the project, reflected on the process of curating an exhibition. They thanked Dr. Etges and Alexandra Schenke for their boundless commitment and enthusiasm while working on the exhibit and the stage reading. They expressed pride in the finished exhibition and emphasized the passion for North American studies shared by Dr. Etges and the students involved.

We would like to express our gratitude towards our partner, i.e., the Amerika-Institut at LMU Munich, and towards our supporters: U.S. Mission Germany, the Amerikahaus Verein e.V., the Alumni Association of the Amerika-Institut Munich, the Lasky Center for Transatlantic Studies, and the LMU Munich. Furthermore, we would like to thank our speakers, as well as everybody who attended the exhibition opening.

Photo: © Amerikahaus München

“Goddam Dangerous” 60 Years Later: The Cuban Missile Crisis Revisited will be on display at the Amerikahaus until Friday, December 23, 2022.

The opening hours are as follows:

Monday - Thursday, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Friday, 2 p.m. - 8 p.m.
Saturday, 10 a.m. -6 p.m.

The exhibition is closed on Sundays, as well as on public holidays.

We look forward to your visit!