Bunker exhibition as Germany questions Hitler’s rise
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
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.