Germans fascinated by Nazi era eight decades later

Fri Apr 26, 2013 7:48am EDT
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By Gareth Jones

BERLIN (Reuters) - An exhibition chronicling the Nazi party's rise to power draws tens of thousands of visitors. Millions of TV viewers tune in to watch a drama about the Third Reich. A satirical novel in which Hitler pops up in modern Berlin becomes an overnight bestseller.

German interest in the darkest chapter of their history seems stronger than it has ever been as the country marks several key anniversaries this year linked to the Nazi era.

On TV talk shows, in newspapers and online, people endlessly debate the Nazi era - from what their own grandparents did and saw, to how the regime's legacy constrains German peacekeepers on overseas missions today, or why unemployed Greek and Spanish protesters lampoon Chancellor Angela Merkel as a new Hitler.

Next month, Germans will also be painfully reminded that the Nazis can still pose a threat today, when a young woman allegedly inspired by Hitler's ideology goes on trial over a spate of racist murders committed since 2000.

"The interest (in the Nazis) is especially visible just now because of the anniversaries," said historian Arnd Bauerkaemper.

January marked 80 years since Hitler became chancellor, May will see the 80th anniversary of the Nazis' symbolic burning of books they considered "un-German" and November the 75th anniversary of the 'Kristallnacht' pogrom against German Jews.

Adding urgency to the commemorations is the realization that the war generation is dying off and young people interested in what happened often have to seek information from other sources.

"Like the undead the demons keep coming back to life from the darkness of abstract history," said the Spiegel weekly in one of its numerous recent articles on the Nazi era.   Continued...

People watch the open air exhibition "Diversity Destroyed" near the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, April 26, 2013. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch