Germany’s Central Council of Jews recently welcomed a new exhibition on Hitler and the Germans in Berlin and warned against worrying parallels between the Nazi era and the current debate about integration in Germany.
Hitler and the Germans: Crime and the People’s Community opened on October 15 in the German Historical Museum in Berlin and runs through February 6, 2011. This is the first exhibit in Germany after the end of the war to focus exclusively on Hitler with the goal to explain the Nazi leader’s personality cult and how it affected the nation during his reign from 1933-45.
It took more than 10 years of planning to stage an exhibit of such nature that doesn’t conflict with the country’s strict laws against displaying Nazi paraphernalia in public. The exhibit curators have mounted more than 1,000 items, including photographs, artworks, uniforms, videos and narrative, to draw the connection between Hitler’s rise to power and the personal cult surrounding him. Approximately 10,000 people attended the opening weekend.
According to Stephan Kramer, the general secretary of the Central Council of Jews,
“The exhibition is going in the right direction, it is dealing seriously with the issue, and I don’t think there is a danger of any form of glorification. […] “The exhibition does not excuse Hitler, nor does it stylize or glorify him. […] The current debate about the integration of people of foreign backgrounds, particularly Islamic, into mainstream society in Germany, should moreover be viewed through the lens of this history. […] The exhibition does not excuse Germans for their role in Nazi Germany.”
The New York Times recently published a lengthy article on the exhibit, under the headline Hitler Exhibition Explores a Wider Circle of Guilt. The paper states,
“The planners began discussing this kind of show 10 years ago [and] an expert committee viewed it as part of a continuum of penance and awareness that historians say began with the Auschwitz trials. […] The exhibit, with all its photographs of young and old adoring Hitler, also sought to dispel the notion that the Nazi spirit was simply impossible to resist.”