Tuesday 19 October 2010

Fear and Loathing in Berlin

Amongst other things (always, always there are other things!) I’m reading Utopia or Auschwitz: Germany’s 1968 Generation and the Holocaust by Hans Kundnani. I don’t want to say too much about it at the present, as I have it in mind to write an article on the legacy in Germany of the Baader Meinhof terrorist faction, born of profound ignorance, born of an ignorance of history. This was to produce some grotesque inversions, a type of poisonous relativism. It came to mind when I discovered that the Berlin Historical Museum has just opened and exhibition about Hitler, the first since 1945 to break a taboo subject.

I say it’s about Hitler but it isn’t really, at least not Hitler in isolation. There are still some taboos, you see, to be overcome. So, no Hitler; instead the ponderous and didactic Hitler and the Germans: the National Community and Violence. The museum authorities seem to have approached the subject with quite a high degree of caution, fearful that it might attract the Neo-Nazi fringe.

Because of this nothing directly connected with Hitler personally has been allowed, just a lot of Nazi-era brick-a-brack: uniforms, beer mugs with swastikas, cigar boxes, banners, posters and so on and on and on. No recordings of Hitler speeches because that would be well, too Hitler, and the busts have been placed in such a way that won’t allow people to pose beside them for photographs!

I was inclined to dismiss this as a rather futile display of Nazi kitsch but with all of the qualifications, all the ands and ifs and buts, it is intended to make a serious point. For too long the Germans failed to engage with their past, either because of a sense of shame or because of a convenient collective amnesia, fertile ground for the hysterical delusions of the 68ers.

The museum is attempting to show, in as wide a context as possible, how the nation was seduced by Hitler and what impact this had. In a country where the swastika is still banned history is being allowed to come back to life and at least to some extent speak for itself. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it, George Santayana wrote. An important step has been taken in remembering the past.

In writing this I was immediately reminded of a depiction of Hitler that is not likely to appear in Berlin or anywhere else in Germany, not in any immediate future that I can foresee. It happens to be my favourite image of a monster who, in the end, was no more than a man. It's called An Icon of Fear by the Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan. It caused a controversy when it was first exhibited because it seems to invite sympathy. At the risk of being misunderstood I have to say that it invited my sympathy, something I never thought I would feel for a man who destroyed so many futures and almost destroyed the civilization of Europe itself. But what sins he carries, what a terrible burden. I remember reading the words of a Jewish writer -unfortunately I can’t remember whom -, saying that he hoped that Hitler's tortured soul had at last found peace. When I look at An Icon of Fear, an image of the child as father of the man, an image of a penitent and frightened little boy, I can only echo these sentiments.


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  2. Thanks, Adam. I think I might pop over to Berlin, possibly the first weekend in November, just to have a look.

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  4. I had a super time when I was last there though I agree it's not the most handsome city in Europe, not by a long way.

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  7. Well Big "A" you gave it a right good go. Die Fahne Hoch! Til Valhall!

  8. I wonder if I shall live long enough to see the Austrian tyrant and his over-dressed thugs demoted from their inflated reputation as the world's evilest-ever bugaboos to their true status: just one of a long line of groups of murderous morons taking that well-worn short cut to Utopia that consists of killing everyone who might disagree with you?

    The Nazis are not by any means top of the Hit Parade. Their death factories paid lip-service to efficiency, but were far less effective than the brutal simplicity of Stalin and Mao. Hell, even the Pol Pot and the Rwandan Hutus managed their slaughters with greater dispatch . . . if only they'd been able to keep up the momentum.

    As a conqueror, Hitler repeated all of Napoleon's errors, quicker - some achievement! He employed some fairly capable tacticians, but his strategy was crap. Look at his list of 'victories': most were walk-ins achieved by intimidation or Quisling treachery. The Poles were fully-equipped to fight the Charge of the Light Brigade, the French will surrender to anyone who asks. Denmark? Holland? Belgium? Norway? What ferocious opposition! As soon as Hitler's "supermen" encountered REAL opposition they crumpled like tin-foil.

    It's time to assess the Nazis honestly and assign them their true place in the history of horror: mundane murderers styled by closet queens.

  9. (Basil Fawlty voice:) Just "pop over to Berlin"! Alright for you Europeans! I'll just pop over to Tau Ceti shall I?

    I wish I could see this for myself..I saw a selection of the exhibits in some newspaper photos. That's what comes of living in the most isolated city in the Galaxy..you win some, you lose some. E.g. Oprah Winfrey's not coming here. Praise the gods!!

    Apropos of nothing (or maybe the banality of evil), I found this while looking at Dr Who videos:


    Hope you enjoy it. (+|:!::: <-- Dalekey

  10. Calvin, probably not. It's as well to remember that Napoleon dominated the European imagination for almost a hundred years after Waterloo. Hitler has only had sixty-five, so he still has some way to go!

    As far as communist atrocities are concerned, yes, I fully agree with you. I have never understood why these vile people are not held in equal loathing with the Nazis. The Fascists, and by that I mean the regimes in Italy and Spain, were positively benign in contrast.

  11. Retarius, that vid is brilliant:, it sums up perfectly how fucking frustrating these things are!

    Are you not further from Sydney in Perth than I am from Moscow in London? Never mind; wait for the TARDIS to be invented. The Japanese are sure to make a break-through any day now. :-)

  12. There may be a sliver of hope for you to save your national identity. Vote BNP or Auslander Rein! The goal of the Socialists is to dilute National identities and institute a one world goverment. Hitler was right.

  13. Here it is:

    London, UK -0.1167
    Moscow, RS 37.6156
    Miles: 1552.42
    Kilometres: 2498.32
    Bearing: NE

    Perth, AS 115.8333
    Sydney,AS 151.2167
    Miles: 2045.38
    Kilometres: 3291.63
    Bearing: SE

    Yes, Perth is about 1200 kilometres furhter from Sydney than London is from Moscow. Of course, no one in their right mind would want to go to Sydney, so it's of little matter.

    Glad you liked the Dalek video. Here's another; a masterpiece of low-budget production in which he gets even:


  14. Retarius, it was brilliant; it just summed up the thing perfectly, all the times I've been faced with one Berlin Wall after another, all the "Your call is important to us", the ear muzak in between, with me whispering OFFS! Thanks, I'll look at that too.

  15. Retarius, I can't get that link. Do you have a title I can look for?

  16. Mmh..worked okay when I ctrl-v'd it..It's a YouTube video called

    Dalek vs Cyberman - The Ultimate Battle!

    It's posted by user zeframcochran

  17. Right, thanks. I'll look for that in a bit.