Bunker ex­hi­bi­tion as Ger­many ques­tions Hitler’s rise

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BER­LIN: More than 70 years af­ter Adolf Hitler com­mit­ted sui­cide in his Ber­lin bunker in the fi­nal days of World War II, an ex­hi­bi­tion in the cap­i­tal ex­am­ines how he be­came a Nazi and what turned or­di­nary Ger­mans into mur­der­ers dur­ing the Third Re­ich.

For decades it was taboo in Ger­many to fo­cus on Hitler, although that has be­gun to change with films such as the 2004 Down­fall, chron­i­cling the dic­ta­tor’s last days, and an ex­hi­bi­tion about him in 2010.

The ex­hi­bi­tion Hitler – how could it hap­pen? is set in a bunker in Ber­lin that was used by civil­ians dur­ing bomb­ing raids, close to the bunker where Hitler lived while Ber­lin was be­ing bombed and which is not accessible to the pub­lic.

It ex­am­ines Hitler’s life from his child­hood in Aus­tria to his ex­pe­ri­ence as a sol­dier dur­ing World War I and his rise to power. Other ex­hibits fo­cus on con­cen­tra­tion camps, pogroms and the Holo­caust that killed 6 mil­lion Jews.

It ends with a con­tro­ver­sial re­con­struc­tion of the bunker room where Hitler killed him­self on April 30, 1945 – with grand­fa­ther clock, flo­ral sofa and an oxy­gen tank. The ex­hibit is be­hind glass and mon­i­tored by cam­era, with vis­i­tors for­bid­den to take pho­to­graphs.

Ex­hi­bi­tion cu­ra­tor Wieland Giebel, 67, said he had been ac­cused of “Hitler Dis­ney” for putting the room on show. But he de­fended the de­ci­sion, say­ing the ex­hi­bi­tion fo­cused on the crimes car­ried out by Hitler’s regime, adding: “This room is where the crimes ended, where ev­ery­thing ended…”

He said he had been ask­ing how World War II and the Holo­caust came about ever since he played in the rub­ble of post­war Ger­many as a child, and said the ex­hi­bi­tion at­tempted to an­swer that ques­tion.

“Af­ter World War I a lot of Ger­mans felt hu­mil­i­ated due to the Ver­sailles Treaty,” Giebel said, re­fer­ring to the ac­cord signed in 1919 that forced de­feated Ger­many to make mas­sive repa­ra­tion pay­ments.

“At the same time there was anti-Semitism in Europe and not just in Ger­many... and Hitler built on this anti-Semitism and what peo­ple called the “shame­ful peace of Ver­sailles” and used those two is­sues to mo­bilise peo­ple,” he added.

Giebel, who has a per­sonal in­ter­est in the topic be­cause one of his grand­fa­thers was part of a fir­ing squad while the other hid a Jew, said he also wanted the ex­hi­bi­tion to show how quickly a democ­racy could be abol­ished and make clear that un­demo­cratic move­ments needed to be nipped in the bud.

The ex­hi­bi­tion, which has pho­to­graphs, Hitler’s draw­ings, films of his mar­riage to Eva Braun, and a model of Hitler’s bunker, has at­tracted around 20 000 vis­i­tors since open­ing two months ago. – Reuters

PIC­TURE: REUTERS

A mock-up of the bunker of Ger­man Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, part of the ex­hi­bi­tion Hitler – How Could it Hap­pen? in a World War II bunker in Ber­lin, Ger­many.

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