World War II was a global war of epic proportions and war that was quite different from World War I. After World War I Germany was in bad shape and poverty quickly rippled through the country. Part of the reason for their despair was that they were required to pay reparations to France for World War I and the reparations that they were being required to pay were significantly higher than what the country could afford at the time. What made matters worse is that Germany was unable to occupy the Rhineland which had once been their center of business and industry. This meant that they were not able to make as much money as what they had been able to make prior to the war. With so many hardships, the Weimar Republic (which was the standing government in Germany after World War I) fell and Hitler and the Nazi party rose to power.
In Hitler’s Germany things took a drastic turn. Soon those who were not part of the strong Aryan stock and those who were not Christian were under attack. These changes did not happen overnight and they were compounded with a long list of internal conflicts that Hitler and the Nazi party were able to manipulate to fit their hate filled agenda. Hitler hated people who were of Jewish descent and believed that only those who were white were worthy of life in Germany. At first, those who were Jewish or from other groups like the LGBTQ community or even the Gypsies were pushed out of Germany. However, when that did nothing to remove them fast enough, concentration camps were opened up under the guise of work camps. However, it soon became apparent that much more than work was happening in these camps. Over the course of the Holocaust, Hitler and the Nazi party were responsible for the murder of six million Jews. This all happened quickly between 1933 and 1945. Had the allied forces not stepped in, Hitler would have been very close to his goal of eradicating the earth of the Jewish population.
Thankfully, the allied forces were able to step in and stop Hitler. However, Hitler and many of the top Nazi party officials committed suicide and many of the details of this time were lost with them. Historians have worked hard to put the pieces of the puzzle together to offer a strong supporting narrative of World War II. Today, museums around the world celebrate those heroes who saved lives and condemn those who took part in the mass extinction of the Jews.
The National World War II Museum
WHERE: New Orleans, LA, United States of America
- Daily 9:00 am - 5:00 pm
- Closed during Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas, Mardis Gras
MAIN THEME: The museum specializes in different exhibits that show World War II from the American perspective.
The National World War II Museum in New Orleans, LA was actually named the number two museum in the world by travelers according TripAdvisor’s Travelers’ Choice Awards in 2017. The museum features compelling exhibits that depict a number of different stages of the war from the American point of view. This includes information about the political discord in the United States leading up to the war, the attack on Pearl Harbor, and the explosion in manufacturing during the war. It also explores the homefront and what life was like here in the United States while we were at war (WWII). This museum offers the chance to experience World War II from the perspective of the United States. It is a unique lens since the majority of World War II was not fought on American soil.
Nazi Party Rally Grounds
WHERE: Nuremberg, Germany
- Aytime, no official hours
MAIN THEME: This is the historic site where six Nazi rallies were held between 1933 and 1938. Some of the buildings that were standing when Hitler held the rallies are still standing today.
WEBSITE: Wikipedia Page
The Nazi Party Rally Grounds in Nuremberg is the place in Germany where the Nazis held six rallies between 1933 and 1938. This site is a memorial and not technically a museum, but for those who believe that living history museums offer a better understanding of history, this site is perfect. Many of the historic buildings have since been destroyed, but a few remain and you can explore the grounds where Hitler and the Nazis were able to rally together prior to World War II. This is a historic site and a place that you can visit on your own nearly any time.
Auschwitz Concentration Camp
WHERE: Birkenau, Poland
- January -- 7:30 am - 3:00 pm
- February -- 7:30 am - 4:00 pm
- March -- 7:30 am - 5:00 pm
- April & May -- 7:30 am - 6:00 pm
- June, July & August -- 7:30 am - 7:00 pm
- September -- 7:30 am - 6:00 pm
- October -- 7:30 am - 5:00 pm
- November -- 7:30 am - 3:00 pm
- December -- 7:30 am - 2:00 pm
MAIN THEME: This is the site of one of the Nazi concentration camps.
Auschwitz is the most well known of all of the Nazi concentration camps. This is perhaps because the most survivors were from there, which lends to one being able to gather more information about what really took place behind the gates of the camp. While it was first built as a detention center for political prisoners, it would later be transformed into one of Hitler’s many death camps. It was the key site in his “Final Solution”. While it was liberated by the Soviet army, there were millions who lost their lives behind the gates.
Museum of the Great Patriotic War
WHERE: Moscow, Russia
- Monday -- closed
- Tuesday -- 10:00 am - 8:30 pm
- Wednesday -- 10:00 am - 8:30 pm
- Thursday -- 10:00 am - 8:30 pm
- Friday -- 10:00 am - 9:30 pm
- Saturday -- 10:00 am - 9:30 pm
- Sunday -- 10:00 am - 8:30 pm
MAIN THEME: This is a museum focussed on WWII from the Soviet perspective.
In Russia WWII is known as the Great Patriotic War. According to CNN, the museum is “a stark reminder of the huge human and material cost the war inflicted on the former Soviet Union”. The museum features three halls that commemorate the 26 million who died on the Soviet side, the top commanders of the Red Army, and those who were able to earn the Hero of the Soviet Union honor. This museum is known for having some of the most unique exhibits in the world when it pertains to World War II. It also offers a completely unique viewpoint of the war as it pertained to the Soviet Union.
Musée du débarquement Utah Beach
WHERE: Normandy, France
- Usually daily 09:00 am - 6:00 pm, but check website.
MAIN THEME: The beaches of Normandy are where the United States troops first landed after D-Day. This museum is focused on the events that took place there as well as how the American troops worked together with French forces to invade Germany.
The Musee Du Debarquement or the Landing Museum is located in the spot where the western troops landed after D-Day. This unique museum is on the beach where the US troops landed as they prepared to invade Germany with France. The museum offers a unique look at this important day in history and has documents and models that you cannot find anywhere else in the world. As one of the main sites of WWII, this area has secured a place in history and the museum offers visitors a chance to learn about the events that took place signaling the beginning of the second World War.
Dachau Memorial and Museum
WHERE: Dachau, Germany
- Daily 9:00 am - 5:00 pm
- Closed December 24th
MAIN THEME: This site is the place where the first Nazi concentration camp once was.
Dachau was actually the beginning of the Nazi concentration camp system in Germany. It was the first concentration camp to open within the country. The idea in the beginning was to hold political prisoners at this camp. These were to be the people who did not agree with the Nazis from Poland and Germany. However, it quickly escalated to where Jews were also being housed in the camp. You can visit the museum and a memorial to those who lost their lives at Dachau. The site is open daily from 9:00 am - 5:00 pm but is closed on December 24th.
Caen Memorial Museum
WHERE: Normandy, France
- Varies, between 9:00 am & 9:30 am - between 5:00 pm & 7:00 pm
MAIN THEME: The Caen Memorial Museum is a peace museum, but they have a huge interactive display featuring artifacts from WWII.
The Caen Memorial Museum is one of the most in depth options for a museum about WWII. In fact, this museum allows for visitors with free time on their hands to explore more aspects of the war than other museums. If you are looking online, you might note that the Caen Museum is targeted as being a peace museum, but if you are a visitor you quickly see that the majority of the exhibits and artifacts that are on display are from the second world war. This museum is a must for anyone who has ever been interested in WWII.
WHERE: Berlin, Germany
- Days of the week and hours change seasonally, check website
MAIN THEME: The Holocaust Memorial in Berlin is a place dedicated to the Jews who lost their lives during the events surrounding the Holocaust.
WEBSITE: Wikipedia Page
The Holocaust Memorial is one of the most famous WWII attractions where people from around the globe pay their respects to those who lost their life during the Holocaust. This is a unique display and exhibit that is focussed on paying respect to those who were affected during the Holocaust and the many Jewish individuals who lost their life during the war. There are 2,711 concrete slabs present where the names of the known victims of the Holocaust are inscribed. This memorial is a must see if you are hoping to retrace the footsteps of the Holocaust to better understand what happened and to learn how one must never allow that happen again. The museum is open different days of the week and hours seasonally. Please check the website prior to your visit to see if they are open and when they are open.
Historical Museum of the City of Krakow
WHERE: Krakow, Poland
- Varies, check website first
MAIN THEME: The Historical Museum of the City of Krakow is a museum that is dedicated to Oskar Schindler, who his a man who risked his life to help keep Jews alive during WWII by employing them at his enamel factory which is the building that the museum is now housed in.
Oskar Schindler is a hero in his own right. He was a member of the Nazi party but actually saved hundreds of Jews from death at concentration camps by employing them in his enamel factory. The building that was a part of this narrative is still standing in Krakow. It is known as Oskar Schindler’s Enamel Factory and in addition to the museum, it houses a second museum, the Krakow Museum of Contemporary Art. With this museum, you get to explore a key point in the history of WWII, while also learning more about the operations that allowed some Jews to keep living during the war. This museum is made up of many different buildings and parts and each has its own hours and days of the week for which it is open. Please check the website to see which locations you are most interested in visiting and the hours for those locations.
Dutch Resistance Museum
WHERE: Amsterdam, Netherlands
- Monday - Friday -- 10:00 am - 5:00 pm
- Saturday, Sunday, & holidays -- 11:00 am - 5:00 pm
MAIN THEME: The Dutch Resistance Museum really focuses on allowing the visitor to immerse themselves into what life and death was like on enemy lines.
The Dutch Resistance Museum in Amsterdam, Netherlands is a museum that is very unique. It does not always score this high, but it is a top ten museum for a number of reasons. One of these is that it is a “highly immersive experience”. You walk through the museum exploring life and death beyond enemy lines by taking a look at real life objects which are displayed in their natural setting. This allows you to fully immerse yourself in the experience and to better understand the different types of experiences that were shared amongst those who were living in Eastern Europe during Hitler’s reign of terror. This museum is not intended for children, but there is a Resistance Museum Jr. that looks at World War II through the lens of a child. The museum is open Monday - Friday 10:00 am - 5:00 pm and Saturday, Sunday & holidays from 11:00 am - 5:00 pm.
Museo Storico dello Sbarco in Sicilia 1943
WHERE: Sicily, Italy
- varies, check website
MAIN THEME: The Museo Storico dello Sbarco in Sicilia 1943 is a museum that looks at the place where the Canadian forces landed and how the US and British worked together with allied forces to bring an end to the spread of fascism.
WEBSITE: Facebook Page
The Museo Storico dello Sbarco in Sicilia is also known as the Allied Landings in Sicily Museum. This museum can be found on the historic site where the Canadians landed as they came to assist the allied forces in World War II. The museum explores the history behind the US and British interest to stop fascism during WWII. The presence of allied forces in Italy was the beginning of a shift in the war.
Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum
WHERE: Honolulu, Hawaii
- Daily 9:00 am - 5:00 pm
- Closed New Year’s Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day
MAIN THEME: The Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum focuses on the aircraft that was used in the WWII (along with that used in other wars) and the attacks that took place on Pearl Harbor that brought America into WWII.
The attacks on Pearl Harbor are what led the Americans into WWII. The Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum in Honolulu is the very site where these attacks took place. This museum features a number of aircrafts that have been used throughout history, including those that were used during WWII. This museum has a lot of exhibits that change on a somewhat frequent basis. There are even flight simulators that would allow for you to be able to experience what life was like for a fighter pilot during WWII. The museum is open each day from 9:00 am - 5:00 pm, except New Year’s Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day.
Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp
WHERE: Berlin, Germany
- March 15th - October 14th -- 8:30 am - 6:00 pm
- October 15th - March 14th -- 8:30 am - 4:30 pm
MAIN THEME: The focus of the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp is to allow people to check out the place that served as the center of the Nazi operation at one time.
The Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp is located just outside of Berlin, Germany.This is a camp that was actually used by the Nazis. In fact, at one point during WWII this became the center of the entire Nazi operation. Today, it offers visitors a chance to see and try to grip the reality of what life was like in Germany. The lives of SS officers and prisoners are both detailed through this unique experience. The fact that this museum explores both sides is interesting and allows one to understand more about the humans who were involved in the war and how it affected their lives both during the war and after the war was over. The museum is open from March 15th until October 14th from 8:30 am - 6:00 pm and October 15th until March 14th from 8:30 am - 4:30 pm.
WHERE: Berlin, Germany
- Open anytime, no official hours
MAIN THEME: The Fuhrerbunker explores the place where Hitler was making demands and allows you to learn more about WWII with exhibits that show how Hitler spent his last days.
Since Berlin was the epicenter of the Nazi party and Nazi rule during WWII, the very places where Hitler made his demands and commanded his troops are important to check out when you are looking for a museum to help you learn more about WWII. The Fuhrerbunker is the place where Hitler spent his last days. This is where he married Eva Braun and where the pair committed suicide along with other key SS party heads. The bunker is still located underground and there is currently a parking lot above it. While you cannot explore the bunker, you can explore the site where it once stood and truly are able to understand the history behind this pivotal location for part of Hitler’s narrative.
WHERE: Buren, Germany
- Tuesday - Friday -- 10:00 am - 5:00 pm
- Saturday, Sunday & holidays -- 10:00 am - 6:00 pm
- Closed -- Mondays, New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day, Christmas Eve, & Christmas Day
MAIN THEME: Wewelsburg Castle was the main place where Heinrich Himmler lived and where the SS troops were based during WWII.
Wewelsburg Castle was the main headquarters for the SS troops during WWII. This castle was also home to Heinrich Himmler, the leader of the SS troops. Himmler was a strong believer in the supernatural and the occult and the artifacts that were preserved within the castle show this part of his life. It is a unique place to visit and one that is often left off of lists like this one, but with so much living history to explore and a new narrative to add to your understanding, it was a historic site that serves in some ways as a museum.
WHERE: Warsaw, Poland
- Anytime, no official hours
MAIN THEME: Umschlagplatz is a place where you can visit leftover ruins from when the Nazis occupied Poland.
WEBSITE: Facebook Page
The ruins that stand at Umschlagplatz in Warsaw are some of the most eerie landmarks left behind after World War II. This area was forged during the German occupation of Poland. Umschlagplatz actually means reloading point and this was the area of the city in which the Jews were taken after they were rounded up. From here they were shipped off to concentration camps. As the people were rounded up in the ghetto, they were brought to this area to await their fate. They were not taken anywhere until the cars would be full, so they might have to stand around and wait for hours before discovering what was going to happen to them. While not a technical museum, this area is definitely a site from WWII that should be explored if you are trying to discover the best WWII museums.
Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and Military History
WHERE: Brussels, Belgium
- Daily, 9:00 am - 5:00 pm, except January 1st, May 1st, November 1st, & December 1st
MAIN THEME: The Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and Military History tells the story of Belgium’s involvement in wars, including World War II.
The Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and Military History in Brussels, Belgium is more than your typical WWII museum. In fact, it is not a WWII museum at all. Instead it is a museum that is dedicated to Belgium’s role in a variety of wars throughout history including the two world wars. This museum is actually part of the World Heritage Institute. This is an organization that looks into the different types of military history sites within the country. It is a unique museum that allows you to explore the role that Belgium played in the history of WWII while also exploring a number of different military periods for the country, a truly unique experience.
National Museum of the U.S. Air Force
WHERE: Dayton, Ohio, United States of America
- Daily 9:00 am - 5:00 pm
- Closed New Year’s Day, Thanksgiving Day, & Christmas Day
MAIN THEME: The National Museum of the Air Force is a museum that shares with visitors the story of the Air Force in the United States including their involvement in WWII.
This museum if another one that is not just a WWII museum. In fact, while it has some rather interesting WWII artifacts and information, the museum is home to air force artifacts from the time of its inception. The reason that it is being included in this WWII list is that it the museum is home to the B-17 Memphis Belle. Now, if you are not familiar with the B-17 Memphis Belle, there are a few key facts that you should be aware of. The B-17 Memphis Belle is on display in the section of the museum that is reserved for WWII memorabilia, so if you are not interested in other wars, you could visit the museum for this specific exhibition. This aircraft actually flew in every combat zone in WWII.
US Naval Academy Museum
WHERE: Annapolis, Maryland, United States of America
- Monday - Saturday -- 9:00 am - 5:00 pm
- Sunday -- 11:00 am - 5:00 pm
- Closed -- Thanksgiving, Christmas, & New Year’s
MAIN THEME: The US Naval Academy Museum is focussed on the US Navy and shares with visitors the history of the Navy, including their history during WWII.
The US Naval Academy Museum in Annapolis, Maryland is another museum that is more than just a WWII museum. This museum offers you the chance to see an incredible history of the United States military at sea. It offers ships from a wide variety of different time periods through modern times, including the ships that were used in WWII.