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German exhibit of Nazi-era art raising debate

soldiers February 25, 1997
Web posted at: 11:15 p.m. EST (0315 GMT)

From Correspondent Kim Underwood

MUNICH, Germany (CNN) -- Munich officials say they will not stop a neo-Nazi march on Saturday, despite fears that it will spark violence. The march is planned to protest the opening of a controversial museum exhibit, which looks at the part Adolf Hitler's regular army, the Wehrmacht, played in Holocaust crimes.

Munich was the cradle of the Nazi movement, the city where Hitler rose to political power. It is now home to the traveling art exhibit on the Wehrmacht, which opened Monday.

The exhibit features photographs, newspaper clippings and letters from soldiers. They document mass killings of Jews, gypsies and prisoners of war in the Balkans and what was then the Soviet Union.


"We are trying in this exhibition to get rid of the 50-year-old legend which showed the Wehrmacht as a clean and courageous army, which had nothing to do with war crimes," said exhibition curator Hannes Heer. "To show that not only the SS had committed crimes, but also the Wehrmacht."

The opening was met with protests and counterprotests. Anti-Nazi groups shouted "Nazis out! Nazis out!" on one side. On the other side, banners proclaimed, "Honor to the Wehrmacht" and "A few thousand is not the Wehrmacht." At least 11 people were arrested.


The Bavarian state's ultra-nationalist ruling party, the Christian Social Union, is leading criticism of the exhibit, the harshest since it opened in Hamburg two years ago. CSU leaders boycotted Munich's opening ceremony Monday night, instead laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

"We don't think it is right on the one hand to hold an exhibition about world war crimes and then only to present the half the truth, for example, to completely ignore the crimes committed by the Russian Red army," said Peter Gauweiler, the CSU Munich party leader.

The controversy is not harming the popularity of the roving exhibit: It is booked until the year 1999.


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