Wednesday, February 15, 2006

New Munich, Germany Museum To Evoke The Legacy Of The Nazi Third Reich

... "Change is afoot in Munich. In the heart of the city, behind a cheap chain-link fence a stone's throw from the historic Königsplatz, lies one of Munich's last undeveloped and most historically burdened plots of land. Inconspicuous to the average pedestrian, the small patch of grass is the former site of the Brown House, the Nazi movement's original party headquarters, whose war ravaged ruins were cleared away in 1947.

For years the spot symbolized the shadows of the past, but recently it has come to express the promise of the future: Two months ago, Bavarian state authorities announced that the site would soon become the home of the future NS-Dokumentationszentrum (Documentation Center for the History of National Socialism).

On the face of it, the prospect of a major new museum devoted to exploring Munich's deep links to National Socialism represents a significant milestone in the city's ongoing effort to come to terms with its Nazi past. But it remains to be seen how significant the announcement really is. The effort to create such a documentation center is hardly a new idea, after all. Indeed, for nearly 20 years, supporters of such a museum have struggled mightily to build it, only to have their efforts consistently stymied and their hopes dashed....

Fittingly, the most controversial example of the tendency to evade the past by eliminating its physical traces was the one that ended up sparking the call to build the Documentation Center in the first place: the 1988 demolition of Hitler's granite-paved marching grounds at the Königsplatz. The decision to remove the 25,000 square meters of granite slabs (known as the "Plattensee," or "flagstone sea") had been a priority for Munich city and Bavarian state officials ever since the 1960s ...

This new effort to eradicate the traces of the Nazi regime from the Königsplatz backfired, however, as it prompted the formation of a grass-roots movement of local journalists, scholars, intellectuals and progressive city politicians to document the Nazi regime's substantial presence at the site. Over the course of the 1990s — aided by the surging interest in the Nazi era promoted by the 50th anniversary commemorations of the Second World War — a series of art installations, exhibitions and conferences increased local awareness of the Nazi past of the Königsplatz and built up political support for the idea of a documentation center....

Only in March of 2002 did the Bavarian Parliament grudgingly give its approval to the concept of a museum. By this point, the state's resistance to the project had begun to generate negative press in the local and national media and to create a public relations nightmare. Most of the press coverage focused on how Munich had fallen embarrassingly behind other German cities in publicly commemorating the Nazi period. In fact, other German cities around the turn of the millennium had begun to receive considerable international acclaim for commemorating the Nazi past in a wide range of museums and memorials. Berlin, for example, was widely hailed for commissioning Daniel Libeskind's Jewish Museum and Peter Eisenman's Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, while Nuremberg was credited for establishing its Documentation Center at the former Reich Party Rally Grounds. By contrast, Munich, the former capital of the movement, appeared content to remain what one journalist called the "capital of repression." ...

Gavriel Rosenfeld. Associate Professor of History at Fairfield University and author of "Munich and Memory: Architecture, Monuments, and the Legacy of the Third Reich" (University of California Press, 2000).

Source: Gavriel Rosenfeld "Munich Evokes the Past in Future Museum" February 10, 2006 via The Forward

Adolph Hitler's "Führerbau", now used by the Munich Classical Music Conservatory.

Photo credit: copyright © 2005 by Tamiko Thiel and Peter Graf. With thanks.

Please see the major photo documentation project Mission Base: Photos of Munich


"After the World War One Hitler moved to Munich and within a couple of years formed the nazi movement. Already in 1923 he attempted to overthrow the government of Bavaria with a coup in Munich, the "Beerhall Putsch". Only after the nazis took the government in Berlin in 1933 did the center of nazi power shift from Munich to Berlin. Until the end of the tyranny Munich carried the name "Hauptstadt der Bewegung", "Capital of the Movement". Munich also was the city where the members of the anti nazi group "Weisse Rose" were captured by nazi police and the city where a bombing attack on Hitler was attempted by Georg Elser.

Sixty years after the Allies conquered Germany and ended the nazi regime, the city of Munich has still not decided on how and where to put a place to document and commemorate its involvement in the darkest period of German history.

I took some pictures of buildings and places significant during the nazi rule of terror." [2005]


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