Adolf Hitler's Bunker: Need to Forget
Updated: Jun 21
Adolf Hitler's bunker no longer exists. Yet, tourists continue to search for it, leaving Berlin at a loss for words. For the sake of oblivion, there is no need to visit the site.
A Visit is Optional
Adolf Hitler is a notorious figure in history. He is primarily responsible for the crimes perpetrated under the National Socialist regime and the domination of most of the continent. He bears responsibility for the extermination of Europe's Jews, the implementation of the General Plan East, the systematic elimination of all opposition, and the murder of people in the name of absolute racism. The ideology cannot be detached from its application because the principles laid down by Hitler were intrinsically criminogenic and genocidal.
It may seem commonplace to summarise the crimes of National Socialism, but such a preamble is necessary. There are historical facts that need to be recalled because there is no room for shortcuts. The crimes are not to be relativised and Adolf Hitler, along with his fellow travellers, have no extenuating circumstances. Bearing this framework in mind, let's discuss the terrible legacy of the German leader to the city of Berlin.
An Indelible Memory
Berlin is a city of arts and history, offering visitors preferential tours that the tourism industry eagerly promotes. Its history is that of the 20th century and its dramas. The city has been variously a capital of the Third Reich, a symbol of the Cold War, and a place marking the fall and death of communism. Although the last two phenomena are more contemporary, they are also very localized in space. In some ways, they may lack proximity or accessibility in the collective imagination.
The moral legacy of the years of National Socialism, on the other hand, is universal in scope. The work of justice has been followed by research, testimony, education, and remembrance. This movement has been accompanied by a cultural appropriation of literature, film, painting, music, and even video games. All these mediums influence individuals' behavior and establish collective reference points.
Catharsis or Dark Tourism?
Contemplating today's Berlin in terms of its Hitlerian past is the work of a minority, and motivations are diverse and often opposing.
In the 2010s, people in their seventies embarked on 'introspective pilgrimages.' They came from France, Italy, Israel, or elsewhere to trace the footsteps of a relative deported or imprisoned during the war. Sometimes accompanied by their families, this terrible ordeal had a cathartic and reconciliatory effect for many. Memory was kept alive on both sides.
Others, devoid of personal affect, follow the codes of 'dark tourism.' They wish to confront a critical reflection which, far from the work of commemoration, might help them define their identity, particularly their moral identity. Consequently, their approach favors places characteristic of crime.
'Dark tourism' contrasts with remembrance work because its educational dimension is neglected. Its moral essence is part of a duty to remember. This phenomenon takes on full meaning in Berlin around the myth of Hitler's bunker, the Führerbunker.
After the war, the former Reich Chancellery was entirely demolished by Soviet authorities. The primary aim was to remove a symbol of Hitler's power from public view and prevent it from becoming a meeting place for nostalgics. No trace remains of the bunker where Hitler spent his last days. The site now houses residential blocks, a children's playground, and a car park. The visual impact is almost non-existent.
However, walking tour participants crowd there daily, taking pictures, attempting to delve into the past. Their presence enhances the site, giving it an importance that history itself has denied. The placement of an informative plaque recalling the event and detailing the bunker's plans invites imagination, cultural references (in particular, the film 'Downfall' by Oliver Hirschbiegel), and the over-interpretation of a historical fact that eventually loses its authenticity and becomes part of entertainment.
Additionally, a private museum in Berlin has reconstructed Hitler's office and offers a tour. The experience is essentially recreational and contributes to a more general trivialisation. Critics of such an accusation retort that the de-dramatization and desacralization of Hitler's figure aid in deconstructing his myth.
The Place of Oblivion
Beyond the opposition between the different approaches to the historical event, the work of memory offers an alternative: forgetting. Oblivion is indeed a second death, and it is a choice. Berlin has the right to renounce the Hitler legacy without denying the existence of the historical fact. In other words, this legacy is forgettable.
Numerous memorials honor the victims of Nazi Germany, while others deal with the executioners. The Topography of Terror presents both sides in a very educational way. Berlin can leave the memory of the place where Adolf Hitler died to history and does not need to advertise it.