october - 25, 2010 whats troubling me about berlin’s newest exhibit? called “hitler and the germans: nation and crime”, the exhibit is an outstanding display of rarely seen imagery, propoganda and documents that catapulted adolph hitler to power. it is a sharp display of a horrid marketing machine that turned hitler from an ordinary street thug into a “folksy/volks” super leader. the displayed posters of proper arian children, women and men stand in contrast to hitler’s own appearance - but to germans of the time, it became irrelevant.
the exhibit showed how hitler was portrayed as the ultimate stateman as he addressed thousands of well-dressed germans at rallies. the people, the photographs reveal loved, if not worshipped him - the devil. displayed were nazi uniforms, hats, knives, pins and flags - the kind of memorabilia easily purchased on ebay these days. several versions of mein kampf were displayed - seeled in a glass case of cours because the book is illegal to purchase in germany. but when probed,
our guide told us the book can be acquired by other means.
anyway, why am i troubled yotu ask? because i think the hordes of people visiting this temporary exhibit will interpret it the way they want to - or maybe even not the way i suppose it was intended. to me, the exhibit is a demonstration of a sick society and how it came to be through the “making of a war criminal”.
but what will it mean to thousands of others who may not be intimately familiar with the holocaust? will it be, to some, a glorification of hitler? as our guide said about magazines of the time, hitler sells. hitler still sells because people are fascinated by him and the iconic imagery of the nazis.
give people the befit of the doubt said my trip companions. its fairly obvious that hitler was a very bad man they said. yes, but there was insufficient evidence about the devastation and tragedy brought on by this man. it was presented almost out of context, i argued.
but is it out of context in berlin which has a prominent holocaust monument, a jewish museum and an outdoor holocaust exhibit and the museum of germany (where this exhibit is held) which deals with the holocaust? anyoone living iin berlin or visiting will have been exposed to some holocaust education - one would hope.
as for the hitler exhibit, thankfully the curators included the word “crime” in its title.