WW2 Relevance

|   6 May 2011

Bin Laden, Hitler and Munich

The site for the new document centre, next to the building that housed Hitler’s office in Munich.

Hitler and Bin Laden, both mass murderers whilst alive, now have something in common whilst dead – nobody knows precisely where their bodies are. Bin Laden’s remains were¬† chucked by the Americans into the ocean and Hitler’s charred bones were taken from Berlin by the Soviets and have remained hidden from view ever since. His skull was supposed to be in a Moscow secret museum, but even that is in doubt today.

Both the Americans and the Soviets clearly thought it vital to deny each of them a grave. As far as Hitler is concerned, as long as the Nazis ruled Germany, he most certainly wanted his grave to become a sacred place. As I told a BBC journalist this week, whilst Hitler did not believe in an afterlife in the sense of a heaven or hell, he did believe that he would live on here on earth, with pilgrims visiting his sarcophagus. As a result it was claimed by many in Munich after the war that any Hitler memorial – even museum – might become a ‘shrine’ – so none was ever built. As a result no proper place existed in the city for the public to visit in order to understand why and how Hitler and the Nazis came to call Munich home.

But on a visit last week to Munich for research (I was there on the day of the Royal wedding and can report that many Germans seemed just as obsessed with this story as most of the British were) I was pleased to see this placard just by Koenigsplatz at the heart of the old Nazi quarter of Munich.

It proclaims that very shortly a new ‘NS Documentation Centre’ will be built on this site. It is designed, so the placard says, ‘to keep memory alive and to strengthen historical consciousness – in the present and in the future. In this way the City of Munich accepts its responsibility as the former ‘capital of the movement’ and clearly indicates its commitment to democracy, historical-political debate and respect for human rights.’

Terrific news. Though it is also worth remembering that it has taken sixty six years since the death of Hitler for Munich to so publicly accept ‘its responsibility as the former ‘capital of the movement’

Where will a centre for the study of Bin Laden’s crimes be built, I wonder? And when?

One Response to “Bin Laden, Hitler and Munich”

  1. Interested says:

    I fear Laurence, that Bin Laden shall never receive any such centre – except perhaps at the WTC memorial. His crimes were not on the same scale as Hitler’s – and there are still those in the Islamic world who view him as a heroic figure.