A nightmare began in Berlin 80 years ago.
On Jan. 30, 1933, German President Paul von Hindenburg, a respected but aging leader, yielded to political pressure and swore in as the country’s chancellor the Austrian-born leader of the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (Nazi Party) whom he dismissively called that “Bohemian corporal.”
Adolf Hitler’s rise to power, in a democracy he rapidly turned into a dictatorship, marked the start of his envisioned Thousand-Year Reich that ended in rubble 12 years later with the Fuhrer taking his own life as Allied troops advanced.
To commemorate the 1933 turning point in modern European history, which ushered in the near-destruction of the continent’s Jewish population and the murder and enslavement of millions more, the capital of again-unified Germany recently initiated a yearlong “Theme Year” under the title “Diversity Destroyed.”
The nationwide commemoration (berlin.de/2013) features more than 120 partner organizations, including museums and theaters, churches and archives, businesses and research institutes, and a special session of parliament.
“The diversity of cosmopolitan Berlin in the 1920s and 1930s was destroyed by the National Socialist regime within a short period of time, and with grave consequences,” said Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit. “Diversity, tolerance and openness are values that we must consciously seek to cultivate as a society and within our personal lives.”
Among the events in the Theme Year are concerts, a “Road to Dictatorship” exhibition at the Topography of Terror documentation center where SS headquarters were located, above, an open-air display of portraits of Germans who were persecuted by the Nazis, and other historical exhibits at the German History Museum and the Brandenburg Gate.
“We have an everlasting responsibility for the crimes of national-socialism, for the victims of World War II, and above all, for the Holocaust,” Chancellor Angela Merkel said during the opening commemoration ceremony. “We’re facing our history, we’re not hiding anything, we’re not repressing anything.”