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December 1999

Shock value

Museum with Hitler memorabilia opens in Berchtesgaden

Berchtesgaden. For tourists, a reference to this mountain village located a stone’s throw from the Austrian border conjures up images of Adolph Hitler playing with German shepherds or relaxing with Eva Braun outside one of his two rustic retreats. Whereas the familiar Eagle’s Nest, better known as Kehlsteinhaus still stands (though today serves as little more than a café with a checkered past), the Führer’s nearby Obersalzberg refuge “Berghof” was destroyed in 1945. Over the last three years, local officials and historians have disputed the form in which the man and his reign of terror should be remembered in the region. It is at the bombed- out Berghof that the winner of the debate, the Münchner Institut für Zeitgeschichte, recently opened its documentation facility. A permanent exhibition, it provides a realistic and disturbing look at Hitler’s maniacal activities. Designed to resemble the famous high-elevation cottage, the museum houses a collection of photographs, sound clips, relics and works of art, some of them shocking, all of them very much to the point. Hitler’s bunkers lead from the basement of the museum into the mountain upon which this hall of horrors sits. Visitors on this macabre tour finally reach a common room in the bombproof cavern in which film documentation of concentration camps and the Holocaust, as well as a recording of two Jewish women recounting their release from a KZ form a powerful adjunct to the display. Organizers hope that, unlike the cups of espresso offered at the Kehlsteinhaus or the benign memorabilia sold in area knick-knack shops, their look at Berchtesgaden’s chilling place in Nazi history will force traveling voyeurs to think. <<< lv

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