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Art listing Hitler as 'freely elected' attacked

The Local · 2 Jan 2012, 11:37

Published: 02 Jan 2012 11:37 GMT+01:00

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The display – a series of drawers featuring the names of the 4,781 MPs elected between 1919 and 1999 – has been largely ignored since its installation in 1999 when the lower house of Parliament, the Bundestag moved from Bonn to the Reichstag building in Berlin.

The period between 1933 and 1949 when there was no parliament is symbolised in the display by a black box.

The dents to Hitler’s drawer and its repair, reported by the Tagesspiegel newspaper, has ignited a debate over whether Hitler was really fairly elected – and whether the display should feature his name.

French artist Christian Boltanski told the Tagesspiegel that his work was intended to cause controversy.

It does not honour Hitler, but is meant to be a “reminder to take care of our democracy," he said, adding that the damaged deserved to be repaired.

“Parliament is not the place to show beautiful flowers,” he told the newspaper, pointing out that the Nazis seized power through democratic means.

The 1933 federal election was marred by allegations of massive intimidation by Nazi supporters who oppressed rival politicians and “monitored” polling stations.

But, Boltanski said, he relied on the recommendations of historians as well as the Bundestag itself, to decide whether Hitler really was fairly voted into parliament.

Some politicians have, in recent days, expressed various views of the 1933 elections and the artwork’s merit.

Bundestag President Norbert Lammert has said in two speeches that the elections weren’t democratic, although he has so far left open whether the installation should be modified.

Socialist Left Party member Petra Pau agreed that the election had not been fair, although she said she supported repairing Hitler’s name because seeing it “immediately stimulates reflection and discussion” among visitors.

Story continues below…

But Sven Schulz, a member of the centre-left Social Democratic Party said the damage should never have been fixed, calling the repairs “making Hitler pretty again.”

Boltanski told Tagesspiegel that he was open to modifying the display but had not heard from the Bundestag.

The Local/mdm

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

14:09 January 2, 2012 by freechoice
who are the ones working behind the scene, pulling the strings, we will never know.
15:50 January 2, 2012 by bugger
The sad fact is, it is the truth that he was freely and democratically elected. There was no coup d'etat to get him into power.
18:45 January 2, 2012 by Englishted

I don't know how free it can be classed when armed brownshirts stood by the poling stations ,and people who voted against him were known as soon as the polls closed.

This I have heard first hand from voters at the time.
18:55 January 2, 2012 by RClovis
I don't know whether or not Hitler was elected to the Reichstag, but he was not freely or democratically elected as Chancellor. He was appointed by Hindenburg as part of a shady deal between various conservative, centrist and far-right political power-brokers, some (like Papen) without the full support of the parties they supposedly represented. Even that coalition government did not have a majority in the Reichstag until the Communists were expelled.
11:12 January 3, 2012 by danamcmahon
Eight million years from now there will be a german beer hall, I am sure of it, and looking into that future will see none of this past. Everything is built with a vision for the future and new tidings in place of the old.
14:35 January 8, 2012 by raandy
This is a cut and paste , but interesting,never the less.

Hitler never had more than 37 percent of the popular vote in the honest elections that occurred before he became Chancellor. And the opposition among the 63 percent against him was generally quite strong. Hitler therefore would have never seen the light of day had the German Republic been truly democratic. Unfortunately, its otherwise sound constitution contained a few fatal flaws. The German leaders also had a weak devotion to democracy, and some were actively plotting to overthrow it. Hitler furthermore enjoyed an almost unbroken string of luck in coming to power. He benefited greatly from the Great Depression, the half-senility of the president, the incompetence of his opposition, and the appearance of an unnecessary backroom deal just as the Nazis were starting to lose popular appeal and votes.


Critics of democracy often claim that Hitler was democratically elected to power. This is untrue. Hitler never had the popular votes to become Chancellor of Germany, and the only reason he got the job was because the German leaders entered into a series of back-room deals. Some claim that Hitler's rise was nonetheless legal under the German system. The problem is that what was "legal" under the German system would not be considered legal under a truer and better-working democracy. In a democracy along the lines of the United States or Great Britain, Hitler could have never risen to power.
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