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Latest update : 2008-06-02

A newly-opened branch of Madame Tussauds in Berlin will feature Adolf Hitler's wax statute. The museum pledged to portray Hitler as a "broken man" to insure that he is seen negatively, though his inclusion has led to criticism from the German press.

A new branch of Madame Tussauds in 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 -- in London the waxwork is more youthful -- 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," she said.


The figure will be behind a table, which will prevent visitors to the museum in central Berlin, which opens in July, 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 normalise the way of dealing with Hitler, as a kind of a demystification, let's try it," Kramer told AFP.


"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 city 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.


Comedy has even got in on the act, with a slapstick film by a Jewish director about Hitler released in 2007 and filming currently underway of "Mein Kampf", a film about his early life that also cocks a snook at the dictator.


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.


Albert Einstein needs no introduction, nor does probably the current pope, and most people will have heard of Angela Merkel, Otto von Bismarck and Oliver Kahn.


But non-Germans will perhaps have to consult their programmes when they come face to face with Erich Honecker, the former leader of communist East Germany, TV presenter Thomas Gottschalk and rock star Herbert Groenemeyer.


It is not all Germans (or those born Austrian in the case of Hitler) though. Also staring back at you will be the likes of the Dalai Lama, Winston Churchill, J-Lo and Will Smith.


You can also see if your IQ is higher than Einstein's, play a duet on the piano with Johann Sebastian Bach and face Boris Becker on a tennis court, the organisers say.

Date created : 2008-05-31