Soon after Nazi Germany’s defeat in 1945, there was talk in Munich about building an education centre that would document the city’s critical role in Adolf Hitler’s climb to power.
Berlin and some other cities built similar facilities over the years. But the idea languished in Munich, the city Hitler himself called the “Capital of the (Nazi) Movement.”
Munich officials decided in 2001 to go ahead with it, and Bavaria’s parliament signed on as well. Discussions were marred by disagreements over concepts for exhibits, financing, and even what to call it. But it’s finally under construction and scheduled to open on April 30, 2015, the 70th anniversary of American troops’ liberation of this city from Nazi rule.
In English, it will be called the Munich Documentation Centre for the History of National Socialism.
The cube-shaped structure is being erected on a site laden with dark symbolism: an empty lot where the Brown House, the Nazis’ headquarters, once stood. The area surrounding the Brown House was a Nazi showcase.
Buildings in the area housed the party bureaucracy. The vast square located there – called the Koenigsplatz – was turned into a site for mass rallies. The area during Hitler’s rule was crawling with Nazi bureaucrats, storm troopers and SS men.
The new building will stand in stark contrast to architectural designs favoured by Hitler. It will be modernist in style – a white cube rising from the former site of Nazi power. By going from floor to floor, visitors will be able to examine each step along Munich’s role in Hitler’s rise to power. The permanent exhibit will also examine Germans’ difficulties in dealing with the Nazi past since 1945.
Included in the plans are research stations, a library, lectures, panel discussions, conferences, and tours.
City officials expect more than 140,000 visitors a year. Exhibits will be in German and English.