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Fate of beheaded Hitler statue uncertain

Latest update : 2008-07-07

After an eventful opening day during which a visitor decapitated a controversial wax figure of Adolf Hitler, Berlin's Madame Tussauds museum said it would repair the statue but remained unsure about putting it back on display.

The new Madame Tussauds museum in Berlin said Monday it would repair a wax figure of Adolf Hitler that was beheaded by an ex-policeman on opening day but was unsure about putting it back on display.

"The statue will be repaired but first we will today evaluate the extent of the damage," said a spokeswoman for the museum that opened Saturday.

She told AFP that a decision on putting the likeness of the Nazi dictator back on display "has not been taken yet" and denied reports that the 200,000-euro (313,000-dollar) waxwork would be sent to London for repairs.

Madame Tussauds has been accused of poor taste and publicity-seeking for deciding to feature Hitler in its eighth museum, situated a stone's throw from where he committed suicide in his bunker in Berlin in April 1945.

On Saturday, minutes after the museum opened, a man stormed towards the statue showing an embattled Fuehrer, seated behind a desk in surroundings depicting the bunker, and ripped off its head.

The 41-year-old Berliner was arrested and faces charges of causing criminal damage and bodily harm for allegedly pushing away a security guard and a museum official who tried to stop him.

The unemployed former policeman, identified only as Frank L., has been quoted in the press as saying he came up with the idea over drinks with friends and they dared him to go ahead.

He said he was starting to regret the vandalism.

"I did not do it for money, nor for fame, though I suppose I will now be famous for a while," he told Die Welt newspaper.

"Yesterday I said I felt good, but today I am already feeling bad about what I did."

Museum employee Stephan Koch, who tried to stop the man as he lurched at the statue, told the Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily he had repeatedly shouted "No more war!" as he lurched at the waxwork.

"Then he simply ripped off the head. It looked dreadful," Koch told the newspaper, adding that once the head rolled on the floor, the man calmed down.

"One could see that he was proud of what he had done."

The attack has generated massive coverage and commentary in the German press, with the left-leaning Tageszeitung joking that it was proof that Germans had left behind the nation's Nazi past.

The centre-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung said the attack was not surprising in a city that cultivated a tradition of civil disobedience, adding that many quietly applauded it.

It quoted a policeman in the capital as saying: "From a humanistic point of view, the attack was a success."

It has also reopened the debate over whether the museum should show Hitler's likeness in its line-up of historical figures that include former chancellor Helmut Kohl, statesman Otto von Bismarck, and Elisabeth, empress consort of Austria.

Berlin's state secretary for culture, Andre Schmitz, told Monday's edition of the Berliner Zeitung that showing a Hitler statue smacked of "bad taste".

Ironically Madame Tussauds had decided to place the waxwork behind a table to prevent visitors to the museum on Berlin's main historic avenue Unter den Linden from damaging it or posing for photographs with it.

A Hitler waxwork in the Madame Tussauds museum in London was long protected by glass after visitors began spitting at it in the 1930s.

Date created : 2008-07-07