Friday, 4 July 2008

Adolf Hitler finally returns to Berlin – but will tight security ensure model behaviour?

From The Times

July 4, 2008


A wax figure of Adolf Hitler

The wax figure of Adolf Hitler in a mock bunker at the war’s end will be among the main attractions at the new Madame Tussauds museum in Berlin

Roger Boyes in Berlin

Before Adolf Hitler killed himself in April 1945 he explained to his aides that he was determined not to fall into the hands of the Russians — and land up as the freak exhibit in a Moscow waxworks.

As luck would have it, Hitler — or, at least, a waxen effigy — has now been put on display in Berlin, a short stroll away from his former bunker.

Thanks to Madame Tussauds, which has just opened a new affiliate in Berlin, Germans can at last view a realistic model of the Führer. The suspicion, though, is that he will bring nothing but trouble.

To ensure that the wax Führer does not inspire neo-Nazi pilgrimages, Madame Tussauds has cordoned off the dummy and imposed a no-touch rule. You can kiss Robbie Williams or even Angela Merkel, but not Hitler; nor can you pose for a picture with him. There are CCTV cameras and the London-based company has also taken the precaution of moulding a very shrivelled Führer. Unlike the Hitler model in London, he is shown as a distinctly unvigorous character: a hunched, brooding man sitting behind his desk, apparently contemplating whether to first poison his alsatian dog, Blondie, and then his wife, Eva Braun, or vice versa. Behind him there is a map of the Europe which his troops once occupied. It would take a very determined neo-Nazi indeed to get a happy snap before being hustled out by the security guards.

Times Archive, 1945: Hitler, The Times obituary

Few men in the whole of history and none in modern times have been the cause of suffering on so large a scale as Hitler

“We wanted to show him as he was in his final days,” said Meike Schulze, Germany manager for the Midway division of Merlin Entertainments. “We conducted a survey and found that most people said that he belongs to history and should be shown.”

There has been a wax model of Hitler on display in Hamburg for the past 60 years but it is a yellowing and barely credible version. Since it was moulded, there have been countless film versions of Hitler — notably in Downfall depicting his last ten days in the bunker — and younger visitors are demanding a closer match. The Berlin model is based on a three-dimensional reconstruction from 2,000 images.

“We were aware the figure would attract a lot of interest but we hope people will also pay attention to our other great exhibits,” said Ms Schulze. “It would be a shame if the focus were just on this one figure.” This is probably a vain hope: the 200 reporters crowding in for the preview barely took in the figure of Winston Churchill lurking nearby.

One key question being pondered by Berliners is what to do about the children. “Do we threaten to take them to see the bogeyman Hitler if they misbehave?” asked a father of two young daughters. “Or will it be that the kids kick me awake on Sunday morning and demand to go and see Hitler after brunch? I wish they had stuck to Robbie Williams.”

The Jewish community is divided over the decision to place Hitler in a museum that is essentially designed to entertain rather than inform.

“The confrontation with history should not be degraded into pure consumption and amusement,” said Lea Rosh, one of the moving spirits behind the creation of the vast Holocaust memorial in Berlin which, like the cemented-over and modestly signposted Hitler bunker, is only a few hundred yards from the Tussauds exhibition on Unter den Linden.

Stephan Kramer, secretary-general of the Council for German Jewry, is relaxed about the reappearance of Hitler in Berlin: “If such an exhibition helps to demystify him, one should give it a go.”

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