This time around, Adolf Hitler's stay in Berlin was considerably shorter than his first stint in the German capital. On Saturday morning, just seconds after the new branch of Madame Tussauds wax museum opened its doors for the first time, a visitor brushed aside two security guards, jumped over the desk at which Hitler was sitting, and tore the Führer's head off.
The man, a 41-year-old from the Kreuzberg neighborhood of Berlin, was just the second visitor to enter the museum. "Never again war!" the man yelled as he attacked the wax figure.
"There were two security guards there, but they couldn't prevent the attack," said Natalie Ruoss, a museum spokeswoman, shortly after the incident. According to the police, one of the guards tried to stop him but the man was able to throw him to the floor. The attacker stands to be charged with assault and property damage.
The museum, located on Unter den Linden not far from the Brandenburg Gate -- and just a few hundred meters from the World War II bunker where Hitler committed suicide in the final days of the war -- remained open after the attack. The headless Hitler, however, had to be hauled away.
Initial reactions were more of bemusement than surprise. "It is more a work of art to rip Hitler's head off than it is to present him in the first place," said Frank Zimmerman, a Social Democratic parliamentarian from Berlin. Henryk M. Broder, a reporter and commentator for SPIEGEL, said wryly: "Finally an attack on Hitler was successful."
Whether the 200,000 wax dictator makes a return depends on how bad the damage turns out to have been, said Ruoss.
Even prior to Saturday's opening, the Hitler figure was controversial. Many thought it tasteless that Madame Tussauds intended to include him in an exhibit that presents many famous and influential Germans from history. The museum, for its part, claimed that, like it or not, Hitler was a major part of Germany's 20th century and thus belonged in the exhibit. Curators promised to present Hitler in such a way as not to glorify him -- and had him sitting behind a heavy desk as he would have looked in his bunker not long before his death.
That Hitler had such a brief stay in Berlin comes as something of a surprise. A Hitler figure in a museum in Hamburg hasn't been touched once in the decades it has been there. The museum there, called the Panoptikum, also has wax figures of Hitler's propaganda guru Joseph Goebbels and the outsized Nazi air force head Hermann Göring. Resistance activists like Hans and Sophie Scholl are also on display.
A figure of Hitler at Madame Tussauds in London has been damaged a number of times since it was put on display in 1933. Only in 2002 did attacks on the Osama bin Laden figure begin outnumbering those on the Führer.
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