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Munich's Nazi museum opens at old party headquarters

On the anniversary of the American troops entering the city in 1945, Munich has officially opened its Nazi documentation center. The museum focuses on the city's role as the birthplace of German fascism.

In 1930, Adolf Hitler established the headquarters of the National Socialist German Workers‘ Party in an upscale part of Munich. On Thursday, the 70th anniversary of the city's liberation by US troops, the same site saw the long-awaited

opening of the museum

on the Nazi movement's history in and impact on the town where it was born.

Political leaders stood alongside American war veterans and Holocaust survivors to open the "Documentation Center for the History of National Socialism." The museum's director, Winfried Nerdinger, himself the son of a local resistance fighter, admitted that it had taken far too long for the city to open up about its toxic legacy.

"Munich had a hard time with this than all the other cities in Germany because it is also more tainted than any other city. This is where it all began," said Nerdinger.

The cradle of fascism

The German Workers' Party was originally founded in a Munich beer hall in 1919, and Hitler joined the same year. Four years later Munich was also the site of the Beer Hall Putsch, Hitler's first, and unsuccessful, grab at power. He used his subsequent trial for high treason as a platform to gain a national following.

It was also in Munich that Hitler, already appointed leader in Berlin, convinced European powers to sign an agreement ceding the Czechoslovakian Sudetenland to Germany in 1933. Munich was further key to the planning of the concentration camp system, and it was on

the city's suburb of Dachau

that the first was built, also in 1933.

Nerdinger said he had no desire to use the 28 million euro ($31 million) institution to showcase the fascist "aesthetic." Instead of displays of brown uniforms and swastika-emblazoned flags, the visitor can view items such as hand-written sonnets found in the pocket of an executed resistance member, or a video display showing how the city's Jewish community vanished over time as they were deported to the camps.

Around 30 neo-Nazi demonstrators gathered outside the ceremony, behind security barriers and a larger group of counter-protesters. Munich Mayor Dieter Reiter said this showed why this museum was needed "here and today."

es/jil (AFP, dpa)

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