DEN BOSCH, The Netherlands – An exhibition about Nazi design featuring photos of Adolf Hitler, posters, costumes, copies of Mein Kampf and swastika flags, has raised concerns in the Netherlands over glorification of the ideology and has forced the museum to ramp up security.
When pondering what political movements of the twentieth century had had the most impact on design, the Design Museum Den Bosch staff agreed that the “most evil ideology,” National Socialism, had exerted great efforts into creating cultural references that would prop up the movement’s identity, the director of the gallery, Timo de Rijk, told Efe.
“They were interested in all kinds of ideas that would help them present themselves, propaganda, architecture,” the expert said.
“We knew it was a delicate subject, but we are a museum and we deal with historical issues, we have to have a proper look at history, so let’s dot it,” de Rijk added
The exhibition takes visitors on a complete tour of the design used by the Nazis, which includes propaganda and electoral posters with images of Hitler taken by his photographer, Heinrich Hoffmann, uniforms, helmets, ceramic dishes, furniture, documents on propaganda techniques, paintings and even a Volkswagen Beetle, the now-iconic car Adolf Hitler famously used to get around in.
One of the first pieces to greet members of the public is “Der Wager” a bronze figure made by Arno Brejer, Hitler’s favorite sculptor.
It was designed as part of a group of five statues to decorate the building of the Reich Chancellery which championed classical art.
The Nazi regime was keen to associate Greek and Roman culture with National Socialism.
Nazi’s were masters of appropriation, the museum director told Efe.
“The most interesting thing we found out was that there is no such thing as a true Nazi design, the Nazi’s or the National Socialists stole everything,” de Rijk said.
Further into the exhibition “Family” (1938), a painting by the artist Hans Schmitz-Wiedenbrueck which was used as Nazi propaganda to promote views on the purity of race and popular culture, illustrates the ideal Nazi Aryan family with many children and rural roots.
The painting, which was Germany’s entry for the 1940 Venice Biennale, taps into another cultural trend the Nazi’s adopted as their own.
“They wanted to be true, pure Germans and they also used a farmer-like design with very simple things,” de Rijk continued.
The most abundant objects featured in the show are posters, such as those by biology curriculum writer Alfred Vogel, who was also a principal of a primary school during the Third Reich.
These posters have racist and anti-Semitic content that, disguised as natural lessons about heritage, were used to classify people into races by on their physical appearance.
The intention was to present Jews and Slavs as inferior to Germans in appearance, character, physical health and culture, the Dutch museum explains on a panel.
Also on show are several copies of different sizes of the Mein Kampf by Hitler, including the Braille edition which was only published in the first days of the Third Reich until the Nazis adopted a policy of extermination against people with disabilities.
A chilling display on a wall presents the symbols that the Nazis used to identify the different groups of prisoners held in their concentration camps: a green triangle for criminals, brown for gypsies, red for political prisoners, pink for homosexuals, and a yellow one or star for Jews.
The Communist Youth Movement in the Netherlands and the Dutch anti-fascists league (AFVN) have held rallies in front of the museum to protest the exhibition to denounce that it “glorifies Nazism.”
A far-right group pledged its support to the exhibition which has been seen by opponents as a confirmation that the museum has legitimized the Nazi ideology through the show.
The tension around the exploration of Nazi design has forced the gallery to strengthen security, for fear of riots, by tripling the number of security personnel.
Organizers have also banned visitors from taking pictures of the objects on show as a precaution.