R.Alf Raths is perhaps the most successful German tank commander today. He can’t show any kills, but his videos are clicked hundreds of thousands of times on Youtube. Around 130 vehicles belong to the von Raths armored force, including the well-known “big cats”. As director of the German Tank Museum in Munster, Lower Saxony, Raths naturally attaches great importance to their separate accommodation: The “Leopard” stands together with the other tanks of the Bundeswehr, the “Gepard” and the “Marder” or the cute “Wiesel”, which is also in could park in an ordinary parking garage. The famous tanks of the Wehrmacht, the “Tiger” and the “Panther”, are in another hall. Legends of military history. Raths knows how to use such legends for himself. However, not by continuing them, but by smashing them with pleasure and calculation.
Rath is particularly fond of the “Blitzkrieg”, which is closely linked to the myth of the German tank weapon. Raths already rejects the term “Blitzkrieg”, speaking of a propaganda word that the Wehrmacht leadership also rejected. Indeed, the operational procedure was not new. The rapid successes against Poland and France were in the tradition of the Prussian war of movement and its principle of “leading from the front”.
Far away from the largest museums in the country on the Internet
Raths also contradicts the thesis that the German tanks “Tiger” and “Panther” were superior to their allied opponents. On the one hand, because “tigers” and “panthers” weren’t that important. The main burden of warfare was carried by the somewhat smaller “Panzer III” and “Panzer IV”, which were not named after predators and perhaps because of that are less mythical. The “Tiger” and the “Panther” also show the strategic error of German war planning, says Raths. While the Soviets mass-produced simple T-34s and threw them onto the battlefields, the German engineers and generals had long disregarded the advantages of series production. Instead, more complex models such as the “Tiger” and the “Panther” were produced according to the manufacturing principle. Although these were superior to a T-34, the Germans at the front were noticeably left behind due to lack of mass.
The video in which Raths explains the “Panther” including the advantages of torsion bar suspension compared to leaf suspension currently has almost a million clicks on the Internet. Rath’s four-part, two-hour presentation on the subject of “Petrol or Diesel. The armored engines of the Wehrmacht ”. The number of views fluctuates around a hundred thousand, depending on the episode. But that is still a multiple of what the art museums in Germany achieve when they present a Dürer or a Caravaggio.
The small tank museum in the Lüneburg Heath is far from even the largest museums in the country on the Internet: 71,000 subscribers on YouTube, 12,000 on Instagram, 85,000 on Facebook. For Ralf Raths, social media means “mediation, advertising, loyalty, fun”. The success of the tank museum on the online platforms is also due to the fact that the principle of “leading from the front” also applies there. As a director of a museum, you have to be ready to step in front of the camera yourself, says Raths, who describes himself as a “rampage pig”. “And you should always be ready to deal with conflicts and react immediately.”