A partial replica of Hitler's Führerbunker can be toured in Berlin, only a mile from the original 3,000-square-foot bunker where Hitler, Eva Braun, and the Goebbels family killed themselves as Russian troops advanced and the realization set in that the Nazi regime had fallen. Though the original bunker has been mostly destroyed and sits beneath a parking lot, plenty of tourists have shown interest in seeing the inside of the Führerbunker.
The exhibit's opening was met with criticism, saying that the faux bunker glorified and humanized Hitler. This is in line with how much of the world feels about portraying Hitler; auction houses like Sotheby's won't even deal in Nazi relics, and movies about Hitler have been met with vitriol.
But those running the exhibit see things differently, saying that a holistic and truthful picture of World War II as a whole means seeing Hitler as more than a supervillain, particularly as many German children don't get the true story of Hitler's rise. Some tour guides have had to tell students that Hitler was the one killing the Jews, not vice versa. Accordingly, the last 10 years have seen more representations of Hitler — and most importantly the German people's culpability — in response to rising German nationalism.
As one of the exhibit's curators said, the people put Hitler into power — he didn't seize it. The German people were all too ready to enable Hitler's rise to power "because he promised to make Germany great again."
The Exhibit Curator Has A Personal Interest In Hitler And The Bunker
Wieland Giebel, the exhibit's curator, has faced heat for the replica of the bunker, but he stands by it. Giebel's grandfathers make it personal for him, as one hid a Jew and the other was a part of a firing squad. Thus, Giebels continues to defend the exhibit, saying that he has questioned how someone — or something — like Hitler could happen in post-WWI Germany.
Giebels explained he wants the exhibit to show how a combination of the aftermath of the Treaty of Versailles, anti-Semitism in Germany and Europe as a whole, and the fact that some Germans would benefit from exterminating the Jews all led to Hitler's rise to power.
The Question The Replica Tries To Answer Is 'How Could This Happen?'
Enno Lenze, one of the exhibit's organizers, resists the idea that the bunker replica is in any way glorifying Hitler or otherwise giving history a lobotomy. According to Lenzo, the German people have always been afraid that any personal Hitler exhibit makes someone into a right-wing extremist.
"People start to panic when it involves Hitler. It’s sometimes hard to understand. We’ve got to stop panicking and have enough faith to look into all these aspects. I think it’s important to look at the end of Hitler to help understand how it all happened and how democracy got shunted aside.”
There's A Widespread Fear Of Humanizing Hitler
This isn't the first time that humanizing Hitler has struck a chord with Germans, Jews, and the world at large. In 2004, the movie Downfall took a decidedly personal look at Hitler, showing him as more of a man than the leader of the Third Reich. The movie included scenes with Hitler and his beloved dog, Blondi, and his relationships with his staff. Seeing Hitler be kind is wildly uncomfortable for many. It challenges the accepted truth that Hitler was evil incarnate, the man solely responsible for the Holocaust. In this way, the bunker does the same thing — showing where he slept, worked, and lived, giving a personal side to the man who was also giving orders to exterminate an entire group of people.
Some Call The Replica 'Sensationalism'
The bunker replica is a privately funded endeavor, and state-funded exhibits and museums aren't thrilled with it. The Topography of Terror, which sounds more like a horror show than a museum, is one such detractor, even calling the exhibit "Disneyland." Wieland Giebel, who curated the exhibit, has been called "Hitler Disney," even though the exhibit and replica are meant to document Hitler's victims and the atrocities he committed.
It probably didn't help that Enno Lenze, the bunker's owner, hired a movie set designer to create the bunker replica. Lenze has spent over a million pounds (nearly $1.4 million) on the exhibit, yet maintains that "this is not a Hitler show."