Merkel raises Hitler fears to warn against risk of tyranny
Published 31/01/2013 | 05:00
GERMANY marked the 80th anniversary of Adolf Hitler's rise to power with a warning from Angela Merkel that social divisions could allow far-Right tyranny to rise again.
Nationwide events to highlight Nazi atrocities and the obiliteration of whole segments of German society were staged to deliver the message: never again.
Mrs Merkel gave a speech timed to coincide with the moment that President Paul von Hindenburg appointed Hitler as head of government in 1933.
The German chancellor opened an exhibition named the 'Topography of Terror', which displayed details of Nazi crimes at Berlin sites used by the Hitler regime. With clear references to the parallels between the economic troubles of inter-war Germany and challenges facing Europe's biggest economy, Mrs Merkel told listeners that Hitler was helped to power by a failing establishment.
"The rise of the Nazis was made possible because the elite of German society worked with them, but also, above all else, because most in Germany at least tolerated this rise," she said. "Human rights don't assert themselves. Freedom doesn't preserve itself all alone and democracy doesn't succeed by itself.
"That must be a constant warning for us Germans."
Posters draped on landmarks, including the famous KaDeWe department store, contained biographies of the Jews, intellectuals and others who were targets for the Nazis. At what was once the headquarters of the Gestapo, another exhibition showed photographs of the Reichstag burning and the first official poster issued by the Hitler government on April 1, 1933, declaring a boycott of Jewish businesses.
Hitler's National Socialists won their largest share of the vote – 37pc – in the 1932 election. Diplomats were uncertain how long the new leader would last but George Messersmith, the US consul general in Berlin, was one of several to wrongly predict a period of political stability. Within a year, the party's grip on power was absolute and a relentless war on its enemies had begun.
At a special two-day session of the Bundestag, leading politicians recalled recent "hate crimes" against minorities and the stirrings of neo-Nazi parties. Norbert Lammert, the speaker, said it was necessary to bring Nazi horrors "to life every day" so that the crimes were never repeated.
German investigators have reportedly reopened an investigation into one of the worst massacres of World War Two when SS troops killed 642 people residents of the French village of Oradour-sur-Glane.
A German prosecutor accompanied by police visited the abandoned village and spoke to the two surviving witnesses to the 1944 crime.
More than 400 women and children were shot or burnt alive in the attack.
The case was reopened after a historian researching the files of East Germany's Stasi secret police in 2010 discovered documents implicating six suspects, still alive and now aged between 85 and 86. (© Daily Telegraph, London)