Hitler exhibition breaks Germany's last taboo

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

The first German exhibition since the Second World War to deal exclusively with the taboo subject of Adolf Hitler opens in Berlin tomorrow despite organisers' concerns it may be used as a shrine by neo-Nazis or invoke angry criticism from Holocaust survivors.

As a result, curators at Berlin's German History Museum have been scrupulous in their efforts to show the Nazi leader in a constantly negative light. To minimise controversy they also ruled out giving the exhibition the simple but possibly ambiguous title, "Hitler". Instead the elaborate display of Nazi memorabilia and propaganda, which includes dozens of Hitler postcards, bronze busts, paintings, Swastika beer mats and lampshades, has been more didactically named: "Hitler and the Germans. The national community and violence."

Fears that the exhibition could deliver the wrong message were underlined by Professor Hans-Ulrich Thamer, the chief curator when the idea was first mooted six years ago. He insisted that every effort should be made to avoid glorification of the Nazi leader. "We must not create any opportunity for people to identify with him," he said.

Consequently, while visitors will see plenty of images of Hitler, they will not hear him, as no audio recordings of his speeches will be played. A 1939 portrait of the Nazi leader, currently held by the US army, which shows him posing as a visionary hero, will not be shown either. "To display such relics would be overstepping the mark," Professor Thamer argued earlier this week.

The exhibition's opening coincides with a survey published yesterday which found that every tenth German would like a strong national leader or "Führer" to take power. More than 35 percent of those questioned also felt that Germany was "dangerously overwhelmed" by foreigners.

On entering the museum visitors are confronted with three portraits depicting Hitler as Nazi party activist, statesman and – confusingly at first – in the shape of a skull in the form of a photo montage. Images of unemployed workers, cheering crowds of supporters and soldiers marching past a burning house are projected on to a screen in the background as part of a permanent effort to display the Nazi leader in context.

Visitors are also able to read a powerful account by the acclaimed British Hitler biographer, Ian Kershaw, which evokes the quasi-religious, mystical appeal the Nazi leader had to millions of Germans: "It is the miracle of our times that you found me," Hitler told some 140,000 ecstatic supporters at a Nuremberg rally in 1936.

Yet the exhibition is by no means Germany's first attempt to come to terms with Hitler. Although the Nazi party remains banned in Germany and displaying the Swastika is forbidden, there have been scores of biographies and television documentaries about the Nazi leader and tens of thousands of magazine and newspaper articles about him.

In 2004, Germany's long-running post-war Hitler taboo was effectively shattered by the award-winning film, Downfall which gave a close-up account of the Führer's final days in his besieged Berlin bunker. The production was acclaimed for showing him as a "person" rather than a monster.

The cautious approach adopted by the curators has provoked criticism from Der Spiegel magazine, among others, which suggested that even 65 years after the end of the war, the organisers remained condescending towards the German public. It also took the curators to task for treating some of the exhibits "as if they were pornography".

Fears that the exhibition might be used as a rallying point for German neo-Nazis have been echoed by the Berlin Green party politician Benedikt Lux, who demanded that the museum be subjected to rigorous police surveillance, should it become necessary.

To allay such concerns a museum spokesman said the Hitler busts on display at the exhibition had been deliberately squeezed into a tiny cabinet. "Being photographed alongside in an heroic pose will be difficult," he said.

Yet Levi Salomon, an anti-Semitism expert for Germany's Central Council of Jews said he was not alarmed at the prospect of a Hitler exhibition. "We need to deal with the Nazi era in a number of different ways," he said.

Arts & Entertainment
Maisie Williams of Game of Thrones now
tvMajor roles that grow with their child actors are helping them to steal the show on TV
Arts & Entertainment
Customers browse through Vinyl Junkies record shop in Berwick Street, Soho, London
music

Arts & Entertainment
Who laughs lass: Jenny Collier on stage
ComedyCollier was once told there were "too many women" on bill
Arts & Entertainment
Ian Anderson, the leader of British rock band Jethro Tull, (right) and British guitar player Martin Barre (left) perform on stage
music

VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Arts & Entertainment
film

Arts & Entertainment
Don (John Hamm) and Megan (Jessica Paré) Draper are going their separate ways in the final series of ‘Mad Men’
tvReview: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Arts & Entertainment
James Franco and Chris O'Dowd in Of Mice and Men on Broadway
theatre

Review: Of Mice and Men

Arts & Entertainment
art

By opportunistic local hoping to exhibit the work

Arts & Entertainment
Leonardo DiCaprio will star in an adaptation of Michael Punke's thriller 'The Revenant'
film

Fans will be hoping the role finally wins him an Oscar

Arts & Entertainment
Cody and Paul Walker pictured in 2003.
film

Arts & Entertainment
Down to earth: Fern Britton presents 'The Big Allotment Challenge'
TV

Arts & Entertainment
The London Mozart Players is the longest-running chamber orchestra in the UK
musicThreatened orchestra plays on, managed by its own members
Arts & Entertainment
Seeing red: James Dean with Sal Mineo in 'Rebel without a Cause'
film

Arts & Entertainment
TV
Arts & Entertainment
Heads up: Andy Scott's The Kelpies in Falkirk
art

What do gigantic horse heads tell us about Falkirk?

Arts & Entertainment
artGraffiti legend posts picture of work – but no one knows where it is
Arts & Entertainment
A close-up of Tom of Finland's new Finnish stamp
art

Finnish Postal Service praises the 'self irony and humour' of the drawings

Arts & Entertainment
Pierce Brosnan as James Bond in 2002's Die Another Day
film

The actor has confessed to his own insecurities

Life & Style
Green fingers: a plot in East London
TV

Allotments are the focus of a new reality show

Arts & Entertainment
Myleene Klass attends the Olivier awards 2014

Oliviers 2014Theatre stars arrive at Britain's most prestigious theatre awards
Arts & Entertainment
Stars of The Book of Mormon by Trey Parker and Matt Stone of South Park

Oliviers 2014Blockbuster picked up Best Musical and Best Actor in a Musical
Arts & Entertainment
Lesley Manville with her Olivier for Best Actress for her role in 'Ghosts'

Oliviers 2014Actress thanked director Richard Eyre for a stunning production
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

    Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
    Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

    British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

    The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
    Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

    Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

    Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
    A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

    A History of the First World War in 100 moments

    A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
    Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
    Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

    Cannes Film Festival

    Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
    The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

    The concept album makes surprise top ten return

    Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
    Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

    Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

    Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
    10 best baking books

    10 best baking books

    Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
    Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

    Jury still out on Pellegrini

    Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
    Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

    Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

    The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
    Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

    Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

    The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
    Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

    Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

    As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
    Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

    Mad Men returns for a final fling

    The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
    Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

    Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

    Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit