This past week I found myself in Stuttgart, an industrial city in southwest Germany. As I usually do in a European city I haven’t visited before, I went to the local history museum to see how the story of the Second World War is presented. Stuttgart’s museum opened just last year, and its handling of the Nazi era is more circumspect than that of older German memorials. The period from 1933 to 1945 comprises a small set of displays, perhaps ten per cent of the entire exhibition. The tone is neutral.
“After 1933, National Socialism pursued Hitler’s anti-Semitic, racist, and imperialistic ends in Shtuttgart, too,” a caption explains in English. “Despite their Social Democratic past, many citizens endorsed and profited from the new policies.” Only a third of Stuttgart’s residents voted for the Nationalist Socialists, but this was enough to make the party dominant in the city. “In 1933 began the marginalization, persecution, and murder of Jews, political opponents (social democrats and communists), and other groups,” another caption states, using an impersonal construction that makes marginalization, persecution, and murder sound like forces of nature rather than acts of man. Members of Hitler’s party defaced the entrances to Jewish shops and then rallied in the town square.