Hitler exhibition breaks taboos

2010-10-14 14:08

Berlin - Almost every aspect of the Nazis has been covered by German museums, but a chilling new exhibition in Berlin from this week explores for the first time the personality cult of Adolf Hitler.

Hitler and the Germans, at the German Historical Museum (DHM) from Friday until February 6, explores how the Fuehrer managed not only to win power but also how he kept it even as "total defeat" in WWII loomed.

The exhibition features a hoard of eerie Nazi artefacts like propaganda posters, busts of Hitler, a card game helping players to learn the names of top Nazis, SS cufflinks, a red swastika lampshade to Christmas tree decorations.

Good little Nazis

Other items include a Nazi-themed rug that used to adorn the wall of a town church, poster guides explaining correct usage of the Hitler salute and the Nuremberg race laws, and a record of the SA brown-shirts marching song greatest hits.

For children, there were figures to collect of Wehrmacht troops in action, of brown-shirted SA men and even the Fuehrer himself and board games like Air Raid - an entertaining game for young and old.

An exercise book, which visitors can browse through electronically, shows the extent to which Hitler changed the curriculum to make sure the education system churned out good little Nazis.


The exhibits are juxtaposed, however, with evidence of the truth behind the propaganda, pictures and items showing the fate of those who had no place in the German "Volk," like Jews, political opponents or the mentally ill.

By doing so, organisers hope to fend off accusation that their exhibition will attract far-right sympathisers and glorify the darkest chapter in Germany's history.

"Piles of bodies, emaciated and broken people (...) were witness to the violence and destruction that were the real aims of National Socialist leaders, but which they tried to hide," curator Hans-Ulrich Thamer said.

System of domination

"There have been exhibitions on National Socialism (Nazism) for years in Germany in all different forms," Thamer told reporters at a preview for the show for the foreign press.

"We wanted to explain the rise to power and the operation and exercise of power all the way until the end," the curator said. "What we wanted to do differently here was to show how the system of domination developed."

Part of the reason why the previously anonymous former corporal rose to power is that Nazis played on the need of the German people for a "saviour" after defeat in WWI and the chaotic inter-war years, Thamer said.

Attitudes changed

"It is a wonder of our times that you found me," Hitler told a party rally in 1936. "And that I found you is Germany's good fortune!"

Such an exhibition would not have been possible in Germany even 10 years ago, commentators say, and follows a recent change in attitudes in Germany towards Hitler, at least among the general public.

The groundbreaking 2004 film Downfall portrayed Hitler as a deeply flawed human, not a monster, for example, and Germans have even learned to laugh at the dictator. Critics loved Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds.

One of the exhibits in Berlin is a recent spoof video using contemporary footage of a speech by Hitler, changing the words to make him sound like a stand-up comedian.

The "demonic" view of Hitler was dominant for many years, "but in the research world, this has not been the case since the first comprehensive biography by Alan Bullock (in 1952)," Thamer said.

"The demon has been dead for a long time."

  • Mike - 2010-10-14 16:12

    In Africa and South Africa the cult of the 'Big Man' is still very much alive. Think of uncle Bob and JZ with people blindly follwing "The Leader". In the land of the blind one-eye is king.
    The Nelson Mandela cult is also carefully being managed.
    Viva democracy!

  • clint - 2010-10-14 17:26

    Interesting ""Piles of bodies, emaciated and broken people (...) were witness to the violence and destruction that were the real aims of National Socialist leaders, but which they tried to hide," curator Hans-Ulrich Thamer said."

    I am not sure violence was the aim at all but rather a necessity to reach their aim. Their aim was a pure race, violence was however the way this was to be achieved.

    It is amazing that Hitler is portrayed as the ultimate evil when in fact other leaders such as Pol Pot killed more. They just killed poor people and not jews.

  • PRESHEN GOVENDER - 2010-10-15 08:23

    is it true he had one testicle

  • Sol - 2010-10-15 08:45

    Nice to see, the constant barrage that Hitler was a raving maniacal lunatic is highly inaccurate. No single person has come closer to ruling the entire freakin' planet. You dont be that by being a fool.

  • WJ - 2010-10-15 14:08

    Preshen, what has his testical(s) to do with the report. The repot is, as I understand it, about the reasons for the germans following Hitler, one or two testicals is of no concern. You should direct your question to the Sun. They and their readers are interested in that kind of topic.

  • History - 2010-10-15 14:53

    Hitler was far from a lunatic. He was in fact a highly intelligent, manipulative man who surrounded himself with like minded intelligent people. One has to remember that it was not until he invaded Poland that the Western Allies did anything to try and stop him. By this time he had acquired Austria and Czechoslovakia - both of which he alleged Germany had unfairly lost after WWI. And the West handed over Czechoslovakia to him after he promised that he wouldn't try and take over any other coutry. The US did little to assist the Western Allies prior to Pearl Harbour. They were busy with efforts to try and overcome the Great Depression at the time. All in all, he used strategy, propaganda and his highly charismatic personality to get what he wanted. Unfortunately for him, Mussolini and Japan, he got a little too greedy and reneged on the deal he had struck with Stalin (Russia) at the outset and attacked them as well. Basically the same mistake his predecessor Kaiser William I made.
    All of this and the fact that the Museum attempts to portray the "real" Hitler is fine but what about the Far Right Wingers who still believe in, support and espouse the content of "Mine Kampf" ? Is the world ready to forget the horrors of the "monster" to focus on the "light" side of the War?

  • steve - 2010-10-15 19:09

    Mr Adolf Hitler (SIR),he had immense love for the (his)people to the extent that he ordered carmaker VW to mass produce a cheap car for all and sundry.Its unfortunate some people got killed, the man had his beliefs. I couldt blame him but the right thinking people who surrounded and supported his actions.Who wouldnt want a pure race that would dorminate in sports,war and you name it.

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