A new branch of Madame Tussauds in central Berlin is to include in its display of German historical figures the most notorious one of all – Adolf Hitler, a spokeswoman for the world-famous museum said on Friday.
But in order not to give the impression that Hitler was in any way a figure to be revered, the Nazi leader appears as a "broken man" in a mock-up of his bunker just before the end of World War II, spokeswoman Natalie Ruoss said.
The Fuehrer will be depicted as a defeated, shabbily dressed shadow of his former self as the Red Army entered Berlin shortly before his suicide on April 30, 1945. "We did surveys while we were planning the exhibition on the street with Berliners and with tourists, and the result was quite clear that Hitler is one of the figures that they want to see," Ruoss said.
"Seeing as we are portraying the history of Germany we could hardly have left him out ... we want to show the reality." The figure will be behind a table, which will prevent visitors to the museum from posing for photos next to him, Ruoss added.
Stephen Kramer, general secretary of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, said some Holocaust survivors might find the exhibition offensive but that he was not opposed as long as it was done properly.
"Hitler should not become a tourist attraction but if this exhibition helps to some extent normalize the way of dealing with Hitler, as a kind of demystification, let's try it," Kramer said.
"Erasing him from history is not going to bring the perished ones back, it's not going to heal the damage that he did, the crimes that he did. That would be counter-productive," he said.
A spokesman for Berlin Municipality meanwhile said that the city's mayor Klaus Wowereit had sent a letter to Madame Tussauds in London on Thursday expressing Germans' "particular sensitivities" and asking to be shown the figure.
Coming to terms with the Nazi period has entered a new phase in recent years, most notably with the 2004 Oscar-nominated drama "Downfall" which gave the man behind the Holocaust more of a human face.
Other waxworks in Berlin's Madame Tussauds are less controversial, although with a focus overwhelmingly on around 70 famous figures from Germany, the tour is in danger of becoming for foreign visitors a "name that German" contest.