Does Berlin need a wax Hitler?

June 7th, 2008 - 9:58 am ICT by IANS  

Berlin, June 7 (DPA) A “broken man” is how Adolf Hitler is to appear when Madame Tussaud’s opens its Berlin branch in July. “We will show him behind a desk in a darkened bunker shortly before his suicide,” says Katrin Froemsdorf, a spokeswoman for the Berlin exhibition, which opens to the public on Unter den Linden July 9.

“He will not be shown in the fuehrer role, as in London,” she says.

The original Madame Tussaud’s in the British capital has the Nazi dictator with his fist raised and clenched, staring firmly into the distance with his piercing blue eyes and clearly at the height of his dark powers.

Froemsdorf acknowledged receiving a letter from Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit, who has made plain he would prefer a wax museum without the Nazi leader.

Wowereit, who has no powers to tell Madame Tussaud’s how to manage its own exhibition, wants Hitler shown “in the historical context of the Nazi crimes” and has asked for more information.

Berlin commentators were sceptical whether an exhibition dedicated primarily to entertainment could achieve this.

“Choosing Hitler is risky, particularly in a city from which he overran the world with war and mass murder,” the daily Berliner Zeitung commented.

But Stephen Kramer, general secretary of the Central Council of German Jews, said a wax Hitler could help with demystifying the dictator.

Kramer agreed with Wowereit that background information was essential, in comments made to the online Netzeitung daily.

“If an exhibition of this kind helps to normalize our view of Hitler and to demystify him, then we should try it,” he said.

Airbrushing the German wartime fuehrer out of history was “counterproductive,” Kramer added.

Madame Tussaud’s insists it has come up with measures to ensure that visitors cannot have themselves photographed next to the Hitler wax figure.

“The whole display will be barred off. He will be behind his desk,” says Froemsdorf.

And the historical context will be provided by information boards around the desk.

This is in sharp contrast to the other figures on display. Visitors are allowed to approach the waxworks and even to touch them.

Froemsdorf says the company will do all in its power to prevent the Hitler exhibition from becoming an attraction for the German far-right.

“This is not our aim,” she says emphatically.

Madame Tussaud’s will also take measures to prevent the Hitler exhibition being trashed by leftists - the German capital is rich in political activists of all persuasions.

The entrance price of 16.65 euros (26.00 dollars) for adults booking online is in any case likely to put many potential troublemakers off.

Berliners are divided on the issue, with 57 percent believing an historical exhibition needs to include a man as significant as Hitler, according to a survey by another Berlin daily, the Tagesspiegel.

But experts are less sure. Historian Johannes Tuchel, who heads the German Resistance Memorial Centre, which is dedicated to remembering those who opposed the dictator, queries whether a waxwork exhibition is the right place for serious history.

“It’s tasteless,” he says in a view echoed by many.

Visitors to Berlin seeking to hone their history have plenty of other options.

A 15-minute walk down Friedrichstrasse from Unter den Linden is the “Topography of Terror,” situated on the ruined site of the headquarters of the Gestapo - Hitler’s notorious secret police.

The outdoor exhibition of stark photographs is dedicated to revealing the deeds of the dictator’s henchmen in context. Close to half a million people visit it every year - free of charge.

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