Advancing a Free Society

We feel the absence of Germany's shoulder at the European wheel

Thursday, November 4, 2010

'Zweimal Hitler bitte," I requested at the ticket desk for the Hitler exhibition at the German Historical Museum, meaning "two tickets please" but saying literally (and, I confess, as a little experiment) "two times Hitler please". The middle-aged lady on the desk neither batted an eyelid nor missed a beat. "Den gab's aber nur einmal," she replied, in the characteristic Berlin accent: "but he only existed once" or "there was only one of him".

Quite right too. And Gott sei dank. For decades, probably centuries to come, the name of Hitler will remain a worldwide synonym for evil. In a secularised Europe, he is a more frequently encountered personification of evil than the devil. In a Californian swimming pool this summer, I saw an American dad offer himself as the "bad guy" to be shot at by the kids with water-pistols. "Hitler!" they shrieked, as they squirted him with water, "Hitler!"

Continue reading Timothy Garton Ash in The Guardian