With support from the University of Richmond

History News Network

History News Network puts current events into historical perspective. Subscribe to our newsletter for new perspectives on the ways history continues to resonate in the present. Explore our archive of thousands of original op-eds and curated stories from around the web. Join us to learn more about the past, now.

New exhibit at museum in Nuremberg gives insight to how Germans remember the Holocaust

The Nazi race laws that led to the murder of millions of Jews in the Holocaust were enacted in the city of Nuremberg. Nuremberg is a quintessentially German city, and the events that took place there have a particularly great significance in German historical memory.

In Nuremberg, Germany has constructed a museum in the north wing of the unfinished remains of Congress Hall, the grounds of the Nazi party’s enormous rallies. This area was bombed by the Allies at the end of WWII.

The museum’s introductory video makes a great effort to connect the past, the present, and the future. It contrasts what exists today in the area of the museum (green grass, sports complexes, a lake) to what was there in the past (a huge construction project designed to glorify the name of Hitler and his party).

What the video does not do is address the consequences of the decisions that were made in that place. It tries to create a comforting, generic image of yet another historical museum, rather than focus on the location’s unique status as the one-time epicenter of the Nazi party.

The video expresses curiosity and even pride at the tremendous size of the Nazi-era construction project, while conveying no indication of guilt or understanding of its historical meaning. The smoothly edited video is accompanied by pleasant music, and the actors who appear in it are all young and “cool.”

The museum itself displays the historical process that began with the birth of Hitler and ended with the Nuremberg trials, which took place after the war ended. The lack of attention paid to the Holocaust is striking, as is the museum’s approach to presenting the Nuremberg Trials.

The language of the museum is of course German, but headphones are provided for visitors so they can understand the captions. Unfortunately, Hebrew is not one of languages provided. The Museum’s mission appears to be more inwardly focused: to give the German public a more comfortable way of looking at the events that occurred in Nuremberg.

The exhibition starts with the background in which Hitler grew up and from which he developed his murderous ideology. It exhibits his book Mein Kampfas a precious and rare object, though it is forbidden for sale or distribution in many parts of the Western world. The museum discusses the consequences of WWI for the Germans, including damage to the national pride and to the country’s financial situation. It appears to be suggesting that Germans were pushed toward war by the harsh realities they faced after WWI, a message that at least partially absolves them of culpability for their subsequent genocidal history.

Read entire article at BESA Center