Berlin museum studies society that created Hitler

Wed Oct 13, 2010 2:54pm EDT
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By Stephen Brown BERLIN (Reuters) - The knuckle-dusters, truncheons and jackboots in the first case of a new exhibition on "Hitler and the Germans" in Berlin sets the tone for a stark look at how German society embraced the Nazi regime in all its brutality.

While lots of memorabilia is on show, from SS and Gestapo uniforms to a sideboard from Hitler's office, the exhibition shows how all levels of German society -- media, industry, the church, schools -- built up the Hitler cult in the 1930s and clung to it through World War Two until defeat was imminent.

Some media have portrayed the show opening on Friday in the German Historical Museum as a taboo-breaking first exhibition on Adolf Hitler himself. But the curators are at pains to stress that their focus is on the society that created the dictator.

"We don't want to focus on Hitler as a personality," said Hans-Ulrich Thamer, curator of the exhibition subtitled "Nation and Crime," at a media preview on Wednesday.

"We want to look at the rise of the regime, how it operated in power and how it fell, and the tremendous destructive potential that National Socialism unleashed," he said.

The show is housed in a modern annexe behind the museum on Unter den Linden -- the boulevard that Hitler stripped of the linden trees that gave it its name -- with no advertising, in deference to German law forbidding the display of Nazi symbols.

But inside the viewer is immersed in a world of propaganda ranging from cigarette packets with the swastika, complete with collectible uniform cards, to a handcart for selling the party paper, "Voelkischer Beobachter."


As the exhibits document the construction of the Nazi state, with its industry, autobahns and folksy celebrations of Hitler, they also reflect the growing racial hatred and discrimination.   Continued...

<p>A man walks in front of photographs showing dictator Adolf Hitler at the press preview of the exhibition "Hilter und die Deutsche Volksgemeinschaft und Verbrechen" (Hitler and the German Nation and Crime) at the Deutsche Historisches Museum (German Historical Museum) in Berlin October 13, 2010. The exhibition will open to the public on October 15 and run till February 6, 2011. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch</p>