Nazi 'centre of evil' opens

2010-05-03 17:06
Berlin - A knee-high wall, a rusty gate, the brick foundations of razed buildings - such are the crumbling remnants of the Nazi empire in the heart of Berlin known by historians as the "centre of evil".

Sixty-five years after the end of World War II, a new exhibition centre is opening this week on the site where the feared Gestapo, SS and other Nazi agencies ran Adolf Hitler's police state from 1933 to 1945.

The centre adds a museum and a library to the previously Spartan exhibit known as the "Topography of Terror", which has attracted as many as 500 000 annual visitors for the last two decades to the former Prinz Albrecht Strasse.

New exhibits document how Hitler's Reich operated and how Germans dealt with the dark chapter of history in the aftermath of World War II.

Hitler's secret police

The area - adjacent to the Martin-Gropius-Bau arts museum - once housed not only Hitler's secret police Gestapo and its prison, but also the leadership of the SS, the Nazi party's paramilitary unit, and the Reich Security main office, which combined and co-ordinated all different police agencies.

Nazi leaders such as Heinrich Himmler, Reinhard Heydrich, and Adolf Eichmann all had offices on the street.

The authenticity of the site is what draws people's interest, from the casual visitor to the detailed academic, said the centre's director Andrea Nachama.

"People coming to Berlin still want to know 'Where were the agencies of terror? Where was the capital of the Third Reich?"' Nachama said.

In addition to the new buildings, the new exhibit opens up the entire site, he said.

"Now, they can see the whole area for the first time, all 4.5 hectares not just one-eighth of it. They can see the layers of history on the site and they can come in and learn where the terror against millions was initiated and planned," he said.

Repression

The Nazis could have located all the agencies in more convenient locations at the edge of town, but chose to put them into the heart of their capital for a reason, Nachama said.

"Repression was used for political purposes," the historian said. "Fuehrer, Gestapo and concentration camp were the key words of the Third Reich."

All citizens were to see clearly what would happen if they resisted, he said, they would end up at Wilhelmstrasse or Prinz Albrecht Strasse, the street addresses of the complex that housed the offices.

The buildings were damaged during the war and levelled afterward, and the whole area was more or less forgotten.

Over the decades, it housed construction companies and a so-called autodrome where West Berliners could practice their driving skills before seeking a licence, and much of the site remained covered by rubble, grass and trees.

"It was the attempt to let grass grow over history in the true sense of the word," said Nachama, a former leader of Berlin's Jewish community.

It was not before the 1980s that interest in the Nazi-era significance of the site budded again and historians made part of the area accessible to the public.

Relief at completion

While the city of Berlin and Germany's federal government came up with plans for a museum-like documentation centre in the late 1980s, planning errors and cost overruns held up the project for more than 20 years before it was finally completed.

Nachama said it cost €12m to raze part of a building that was started in the 1990s but proved unusable. The new documentation centre - a simple, but elegant single-story pavilion - cost some €25m and stayed within budget, he said.

"We are, of course, relieved to finally see it open," Nachama said.

He said Germans had little interest in dealing with the memory of the Third Reich and its crimes in the 1950s and 1960s, but have since then carefully addressed the issue.

"It would be unfair to say German historians have failed," he said.

The site is a few minutes' walk from the capital's Holocaust memorial, which opened in 2005, and the Jewish Museum. Many tourists take a walk from one site to the next also passing by the former East German border Checkpoint Charlie, Nachama said.

The new centre opens on May 7.
- AP
Read more on:    adolf hitler  |  germany  |  nazi crimes
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

 

Inside News24

 
/News
 

Five wrapping hacks you have to know before Christmas

Five gift wrapping hacks that will save Christmas for you!

 
 

I love summer.24

Sexiest Instagrams of 2014
Joburg hot spots for cocktails, craft beer, tapas and wine!
Summer Survey!
Great ideas for the best summer sandwiches!

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Jobs in Western Cape region

upply Chain Manager

Western Cape
ZIMCO Group (PTY) Ltd
R30 000 - R40 000 Per Month

Restaurant Manager

Western Cape
SET Recruitment Consultants
R20 000 - R30 000 Per Month

Accountant - Cape Town

Western Cape
Quantum Recruitment

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Grand Theft Auto 5

Now available on PS4, Xbox One and PC from R649. Buy now!

Festive gifts!

Check out our awesome range of festive gifts to make everyone’s wishes come true. Shop now!

Save on Samsung

Cameras, mobile phones, TVs, Tablets and more. While stocks last. Shop now!

Save up to R2200 on electronics! – As seen in the catalogue

Wishing for tech gadgets this festive? Save up to R2100 on hot tech products at kalahari.com. While stocks last. Shop now!

30% off the bestselling books

Save big on the most captivating reads of 2014. While stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

The energy today is serious, materialistic and hardworking. You may find you get a new outlook on things and you may want to spend...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.