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A New Adolf Hitler In Berlin

Jul 11, 2008
The glass encasement is also intended to dissuade people of dubious intent from turning the waxwork into a place of pilgrimage. Nobody knows what magic keeps this extreme right-wing element away from the UK's Madame Tussauds. Its waxwork Fuhrer was once put behind glass to avoid damaging abuse rather than worship.

Museums and the objects they house say something of artistic, historical, or scientific importance. But they also so often say something of importance about the societies that decide upon them.

New Delhi's Sulabh International Museum of Toilets might seem a singular and random collection if you come from a country where sanitation has been solved. But the non-profit organization behind the museum, like Mahatma Gandhi before them, think modern India including its villages without plumbing can have hygienic latrines too - combating the main source of disease throughout the land through better awareness.

A museum of toilets in New Delhi is then just as relevant as, say, a museum journeying through 100 glorified years of Coca Cola in Atlanta (don't mention killed union workers) - or the provocation of a waxwork Adolf in Berlin. All societies have their difficulties to overcome.

The argument goes that the waxwork's inclusion trivializes the real man's impact, presumably including his indirect hand in the repression of the Palestinian people into today. But it also points to a treading-on-eggshells and a dominating theme in popular culture. For example, despite its numerous museums, until 2006 Berlin had none exclusively devoted to the German Democratic Republic. The highly repressive secret police of former East Germany - normally referred to as the 'Stasi' - monitored even the most benign of activities.

At Berlin's participatory DDR Museum, the visitors are as much part of the display as the artifacts on view: A concealed microphone picks up and broadcasts private conversations to headphone wearing visitors in another corner. In fact a private museum, it packs a playful punch.

Adolf Hitler refused to leave the capital and finally fell, in Berlin, in 1945. The Berlin Wall finally fell in 1989. However enduring periods of tyranny appear, they have a funny way of ultimately failing. This has been the well-founded hope throughout history for the future. The same is true of taboos, the most subtle of repressive forces. People will always break them. And Berlin at least is no longer a place of walls.
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