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article imageGerman Historical Museum set to open first-ever Hitler exhibit

By Kim I. Hartman     Oct 13, 2010 in World
Berlin - The German Historical Museum is opening Germany's first-ever postwar comprehensive exhibit on Adolf Hitler this week, reports say curators have went to extreme lengths to avoid attracting cheering neo-Nazi's and angry protesters.
An extensive exhibition about the dictator opens this Friday at the German Historical Museum in Berlin, the first in Germany's post-war history to focus exclusively on Hitler's life, reported Spiegel Online International.
The exhibition is not without risks says der Spiegel, organizers fear that the show could be showered with unwanted praise from right-wing extremists -- and with bitter protest from the rest of the country. Indeed, out of a lack of trust in those who will visit the exhibition, the show will omit anything that might glorify Hitler as a hero. "We cannot provide any opportunity to identify with him," said lead museum curator Hans-Ulrich Thamer, who developed the show.
There have been countless exhibitions in Germany addressing the Third Reich. These have covered topics including the Holocaust, crimes committed by the German military, the Nazi justice system, medicine in the Third Reich, forced labor, concentration camps and other horrors. Until now, though, museum directors and politicians responsible for cultural affairs have shied away from dealing directly with the man who presided over those horrors said the reviewers.
The exhibit is the first ever at the German Historical Museum to feature Adolf Hitler focusing on the theme of how his personal cult permeated the ordinary German psyche through various propaganda materials and memorabilia. The exhibit title was one of many debated issues with several possibilities ruled out before settling on "Hitler and the Germans: Nation and Crime."
Organizers wanted to avoid breathing new life into the a postwar period that painted Hitler as the evil seducer of an unknowing and innocent general population.
Still, an exhibition held in the center of the former Nazi capital follows different rules than the ones that govern academic discourse, and the curators exercised great caution in choosing items for the show. Many of Hitler's uniforms and other personal items have been preserved, in storage in Moscow, but there are no plans to display them. "Using relics like those would cross the line into making this an homage to a hero," Thamer says. The intention is always to create a critical distance between the viewer and the 20th century's greatest criminal reported Spiegel.
Visitors to the exhibition are first greeted with three photographic portraits -- Hitler as a party agitator, as a statesman and -- in a photo-montage -- as a death's head. Behind these images, which are projected onto a transparent screen, other photographs light up -- of unemployed people, of cheering supporters and of soldiers marching past a burning house. The dictator is never shown alone -- he is always embedded in the social, political and military context in which he acted.
Some of the items on exhibit include trading cards with the Nazi party's top leaders; the toy was a hit with German youth at the time. Also on display are Chinese paper lanterns with swastikas, brown "Trommel" shirts, "Drum" cigarettes, painted Hitler busts, key -holder cabinets with swastikas, a huge tapestry of SS Stormtroopers invading a church with the slogan "We are bringing the Swastika to the Church" and, from the collection of Hitler's personal photographer, pictures, posters and photos of the Fuhrer himself, book cover, several busts of Hitler, tin cans used to collect monies for German charities and tins made to save money to purchase a 1940's Volkswagen.
Organizers for this historical event hope to attract victims of the Holocaust. The show's final display room will feature forty-six "Spiegel" covers on Hitler and National Socialism -- along with the fake Hitler diaries published by Stern magazine. From the earliest title to the most recent, these articles also reflect the changing perceptions of history says Spiegel.
The exhibition will run from October 15 through Feb 2011.
Photo Gallery: The F├╝hrer on Exhibit
More about Adolf hitler, Hitler exhibition, German historical museum, German history museum, Neo-nazis
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