Merkel says Hitler's rise 80 years ago 'must be a constant warning'
Tyrant's rise to power 80 years ago reminds us that freedom needs to be defended, says Merkel
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Adolf Hitler's rise to power 80 years ago should be a persistent reminder to Germans that democracy and freedom cannot be taken for granted.
Merkel was speaking on Wednesday at the inauguration of an exhibition in Berlin to commemorate eight decades since Hitler became chancellor on January 30, 1933 - an anniversary that has aroused a significant amount of interest in Germany.
"Human rights don't assert themselves. Freedom doesn't preserve itself all alone and democracy doesn't succeed by itself," Merkel said.
"That must be a constant warning for us, Germans," she added in reference to Hitler's arrival at the chancellery.
The exhibition, "Berlin 1933. On the Path to Dictatorship", is on a site charged with history as the former headquarters of the Gestapo, the secret police of the Nazi regime.
It now houses The Topography of Terror, an open-air documentation centre whose exhibition traces Hitler's first months in power through photos, newspapers and posters.
Merkel noted that it only took six months for the dictator to "wipe out all the diversity" of German society.
But she also underscored that a large part of society had supported "or at least acquiesced" to Hitler's regime.
In a black-and-white photo, visitors to the exhibition can make out Hitler saluting the crowd from the chancellery window on the evening of January 30, 1933, after earlier having been made chancellor and been charged by president Paul von Hindenburg with forming a new government.
Posters go on to show images of the Reichstag going up in flames the following month and then the first measures taken against the Jews on April 1, with the start of a boycott of Jewish shops, doctors and lawyers.
Andreas Nachama, director of The Topography of Terror, said Hitler's arrival at the helm of power in Germany was an "incision" in history, although nobody at the time thought he would last. However, the parliamentary system of the Weimar Republic failed to find a stable majority and Hitler, on the back of over-simplified themes, rallied millions of jobless people and those who had lost everything in the economic crisis.
According to Nachama, the exhibition shows the "daily erosion of democratic institutions" as the Nazi regime began to build up steam, eventually leading to the second world war and the deaths of 40 to 60 million people, including 6 million Jews.
The 80th anniversary has sparked much interest in Germany, with a novel that imagines Hitler's return to modern-day Berlin titled He's Back (Er Ist Wieder Da) becoming a bestseller in the country.