Last year I happened to be spending some time in Berlin, doing some research at the Bode Museum. Whilst exploring this vibrant German city I came across a particular museum called the Topography of Terror. This is an outdoor and indoor history museum located on Niederkirchnerstrasse, formerly Prinz-Albrecht-Strasse, on the site of a group of buildings which between 1933 to 1945 was the Nazi regime’s SS Reich Main Security Office, the headquarters of the Sicherheitspolizei, SD, Einsatzgruppen and Gestapo.
Today the 27th of January, I would like to share with you two didactic boards that I came across whilst visiting this museum on the occasion of the International Holocaust Remembrance Day. On this day we remember the genocide that resulted in the deaths of 6 million Jews and 11 million others, by the Nazi regime and its collaborators. Anyone visiting any of the concentration camps particularly Auschwitz and Birkenau is shocked to see how genocide was efficiently organized into the systematic killing of millions of human beings. When I visited these two terrible places I could not help but keep asking myself how was it possible for such a genocide to happen. How could normal Germans support a regime that killed and murdered fellow human beings n such a massive scale.
An in this museum I came across two boards which made me stop and think…
How did the Nazis manage to achieve whatever they wanted with the apparent blessing of the majority of the population? German journalist and historian explains one aspect of how this happened brilliantly. Initially, the Nazi party radiated strength and vitality. Hitler’s image as a strong dynamic leader was very different from the greying politicians of the established parties
The Nazis used populist politics and bought public approval or indifference. They built a dictatorship of consent. The majority of the population was ready to trade off their erstwhile freedom and personal rights for perceived greater material security.
The second board which provides an insight into how this dictatorship of concent managed to coerce the public into submission describes how through the destruction of rule of law in Germany together with the take over of the police, the Nazis ensured that anyone who opposed them was “threatened, maltreated, publicly humiliated and arrested”. In this very building, the Gestapo intimidated and neutralized anyone who dared question or oppose the regime.
‘As Primo Levi, a Holocaust survivor and acclaimed writer said “Monsters exist, but they are too few in number to be truly dangerous. More dangerous are the common men, the functionaries ready to believe and to act without asking questions.’ So today as so many posts on FB are shared remembering the unimaginable atrocities committed in the Shoah let us also reflect on how all this could have happened.
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If you are interested in reading about my experience when visiting Auschwitz and Birkenau last year please click here — My visit to Auschwitz, and how I felt “nothing”