Hitler returns to Berlin, worried, downtrodden, under guard - and made of wax





He sits hunched over his desk, one leg hooked under his chair, gazing at a pink file with the concern of a businessman who has realised the books are looking bad. Encased in a concrete bunker beneath Berlin, he hears the thud of bombs falling. Defeat is nigh for Adolf Hitler, who has been rendered in wax for a German branch of Madame Tussauds.

"Dictator Returns to the Capital," declared the Frankfurter Allgemeine, in a tongue-in-cheek appraisal of the controversial figure, which was previewed yesterday. "He left with a bang, followed by a small fire in the garden of the Reichs chancellery ... he returns to Berlin as a mere representation," the paper said.

In the London Tussauds, it is a Hitler in fighting spirit who is on display, punching his fist in the air as Winston Churchill looks on. But such as pose was out of the question at the Berlin museum, a stone's throw from Hitler's bunker and near the site of the Holocaust memorial. "Of course we could not show him triumphant," said the exhibition's director Susanne Keller. "Not in Germany."

But answering critics who say he should not be shown at all, she said: "He's part of German history. It would look a bit strange if he wasn't here."

As in London, the curators had wanted to stand Hitler opposite Churchill - arch enemies eyeballing each other. But instead, after heated debate, Hitler has been placed in a corner of his own. It makes it seem as if he's been put on a pedestal.

The rules are also stricter. While visitors can stroke Churchill's bald pate, Hitler is cordoned off by a rope and guards who will be in place to stop anyone taking souvenir snapshots.

Nearby hangs a plaque informing visitors that while Tussauds "actively encourages our guests to touch and interact with our figures ... in this case we would ask that to avoid insult to other guests and out of respect for the millions of people who died during the second world war, you refrain from ... attempting to 'pose' alongside Hitler's figure".

Despite Keller saying "we would hate for him to become the centre of attention", inevitably once the doors to the exhibition were open, the pack of journalists had only one wax figure in mind. Streaming past Bismarck, Marx, and the Nazi resistance fighter Sophie Scholl, accompanied by the alternate strains of cabaret and heavy and mournful orchestral tones, they found the man they were looking for, flanked by a map of Europe on one side and a picture of a bombed-out Reichstag on the other.

Lea Rosh, one of the people behind the Holocaust memorial, warned against turning the "analysis of history" into entertainment and commercialism, while the Central Council of Jews said that Hitler should be allowed to appear, but only accompanied by a commentary...


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