Europe

Dutch museum bans cameras at controversial Nazi design exhibition to stop selfies

A sideboard formerly owned by Adolf Hitler is unpacked at the Den Bosch Design Museum as part of the exhibition. Source: ANP

The controversial ‘Design of the Third Reich’ exhibition includes sculptures by Adolf Hitler’s favourite artists, photos, Leni Riefenstahl films and even a 1943 VW Beetle.

A Dutch museum has been forced to ban cameras from a controversial exhibition of Nazi design, art and propaganda to ensure Neo-Nazis and members of the alt-right don’t take selfies with the collection. 

The Museum of Design in Den Bosch, The Netherlands, has also called in extra security and a digital team to monitor what is being written about its “Design of the Third Reich” exhibition on social media. 

The collection includes sculptures by Arno Breker, one of Adolf Hitler’s favourite artists, propaganda and recruiting posters, furniture, photos from the 1936 Berlin Olympics and films by Nazi sponsored director Leni Riefenstahl. 

A museum employee points out a swastika on the side of Hitler’s sideboard, which is featured in the exhibition.
A museum employee points out a swastika on the side of Hitler’s sideboard, which is featured in the exhibition.
ANP

A 1943 Volkswagen Beetle is also on display as part of a segment on the Nazi Party’s success with propaganda as it rose to power in the 1930s.

The concept for the Volkswagen – “people’s car” in German – was formulated by Nazi leader Hitler and automotive engineer Ferdinand Porsche as a low-cost vehicle that would be available to regular Germans and be seen as a symbol of Germany’s rise from the ashes of WWI. 

Hitler came to power in 1933 and six years later invaded Poland in conjunction with Soviet Russia, sparking WWII.

Prior to the war and embarking on the large-scale persecution and murder of Jews, Roma, Communists, homosexuals, the disabled, mentally ill and anti-government figures, the Nazis used art and design to fuel nationalist and anti-Semitic sentiment among citizens.

Organisers are hoping the exhibition will highlight how design assisted the Third Reich in spreading its message of hate and nationalism.

League of German Girls Dancing during the Reich Party Congress in the 1930s. The photo features in the collection.
League of German Girls Dancing during the Reich Party Congress in the 1930s. The photo features in the collection.
Getty Images

“The exhibition shows design as an instrument in the hands of the ultimate forces of darkness,” the museum said in a statement.

“The Nazis were masters in using design to achieve their goal, to both convince and destroy huge numbers of people.”

However, the museum opened to protests and accusations it was glorifying the architects of the Holocaust.

Communist and left-wing activists staged a small protest outside the museum’s front door, while the Dutch anti-fascist association has called for a total ban of the exhibition.

Protesters demonstrate outside the museum as the Design of the Third Reich exhibition opens on Sunday.
Protesters demonstrate outside the museum as the Design of the Third Reich exhibition opens on Sunday.
ANP

But museum director Timo de Rijk defended the exhibit, saying it did not glorify the Nazis.

“They are concerned that maybe we are glorifying it all. I would not be doing this if I thought we were, but I can understand that they are aware of that kind of evil in history,” he told The Guardian.

“From the start, we explain that this was a racist ideology and that the party’s aim was to establish a racist volk (people) culture.

The media and anti-fascist protesters outside the museum.
The media and anti-fascist protesters outside the museum.
ANP

"The exhibition has the feel of a documentary.”

He stressed the extra security and banning of selfies throughout the exhibition  - apart from the room containing the VW Beetle – showed the institute was committed to keeping neo-Nazis out.

“I have had no signal that people from the far left or far right are planning to come to the museum, but you never know.”

Mr de Rijk also met with protesters prior to the exhibition’s opening.

“They are a group of young people from the Communist party, and we had a long conversation," he said.

Nazi troops occupied The Netherlands for almost five years, before being forced out by the Allies. During the occupation, an estimated 100,000 Jews were murdered by the Nazis as part of the Holocaust – most famously Anne Frank, who detailed her attempts to hide from the occupiers.

The exhibition includes numerous swastikas and other Nazi symbols as part of the collection, raising the ire of some groups. Pictures shot during the exhibition's opening also appear to show a red carpet style swastika laid out at the front door.

A Swastika by artist Ralph Posset laid out on the footpath during the opening of the Design of the Third Reich exhibition.
A Swastika by artist Ralph Posset laid out on the footpath during the opening of the Design of the Third Reich exhibition.
ANP

While the Nazi flag is banned in several European countries, including Russia, Austria and Estonia, there is no specific legislation around it in The Netherlands.

The exhibition opened on Sunday, the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Den Bosch from the Nazis, and will run for five months.

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