My main question entering Berlin was how the Germans would acknowledge their country’s horrific acts during World War II. I was curious to see if they would go out of their way to make sure they denounced Naziism, or if they would show denial in citizen involvement under Hitler’s reign.
On the first day, we visited the Topography of Terror, a museum built at the site of Nazi police headquarters during the war. This museum discussed much of the terror the Nazis inflicted on Jews, gypsies, Romas, and other outcasts. Yet, much of its focus was on the SS and SD, the military police and security service, rather than Hitler. It provided an extensive discussion of the faults of each branch, but only mentioned Hitler’s name a few times throughout the exhibit. I still ponder what I should interpret from the frequent absence of his name throughout the museum. Are the Germans trying to distance themselves from Hitler out of shame? Do they not acknowledge what Hitler did? Or do they subscribe to the argument he was not as directly involved in the mass murder of millions during the war?
We also went to the German Resistance museum, where we learned about Claus von Stauffenberg’s assassination attempt in 1944, and heard numerous stories of German resistance throughout the war, whether it be from prisoners, religious groups, youth leaders, or Jews. I thought this museum brilliantly illustrated all those who were against the Nazi regime, without denying the involvement or approval from the majority of German citizens during the time.
These two museums, along with all the others we visited throughout the trip, taught me an important fact about the study of history. While the facts remain the same, the inclusion of them is critical to how people interpret the past. At the Topography of Terror, they included far more detailed descriptions of police action in their museum than the faults of Hitler, leading one to believe that the police were mainly at fault despite Hitler being leader. Absence of details allow people to push narratives differing from fact, even if they did not mention something untrue. It demonstrates how crucial it is to incorporate all the facts, allowing visitors to fully judge the historical effects of past events.