BERLIN (JTA) – Hitler continues to fascinate, and a new exhibit in Berlin is proof with its most sensational attraction: a reconstruction of the bunker where Hitler took his life in April 1945.
Meant to show the dangers of dictatorship, the exhibit – called “How Could It Happen” – also contains thousands of documents, photos and objects that tell the life story of the Nazi dictator, ending with his suicide.
More than 20,000 visitors reportedly have poured into the new private museum in the two months since it opened. Billed as the “world’s largest documentation about Hitler,” it was created in only four months, and cost $1.5 million.
Historian Wieland Giebel and museum entrepreneur Enno Lenze told local news media they wanted to show how low a society can go when it hands over the reins to a dictator. Their recreated bunker is behind glass and – like the wax figure of Hitler in the nearby Madam Tussauds – is not to be photographed by visitors.
Giebel, 67, told Reuters he’d been accused of promoting a “Hitler Disney” for recreating the bunker. His answer: “This room is where the crimes ended, where everything ended, so that’s why we’re showing it.”
Hitler’s actual underground bunker was destroyed in 1947. Its site is marked by an informational sign. Several civilian bomb shelters – like the one used for this museum – still stand in the city, nearly indestructible by conventional means.
Before opening the new Hitler-centric museum, Lenze ceremoniously destroyed a clay bust of the dictator and added the shards to a pile of rubble in the exhibit.
Exhibits featuring images of Hitler remain controversial in Germany. Curators of an exhibit about Nazi propaganda in the German Historical Museum some years ago deliberately relegated mass-produced busts of Hitler to a glass case that appeared difficult to photograph, due to glare.
In July 2008, one of the first visitors to Madame Tussauds in Berlin lopped off the head of the wax Hitler, depicted sitting at a desk with a morose expression. It was repaired and visitors were barred from approaching and taking selfies.