The Null Device
An argument has erupted between Italy's brusquely right-wing Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, and archtitect Daniel Libeskind (best known for the Berlin Jewish Museum, New York's planned Freedom Tower and the Metropolitan University student union building in Holloway Road), after Berlusconi criticised Libeskind's design for a tower in Milan for not being straight enough, and emanating "a sense of impotence":
"In Fascist Italy, everything that was not 'straight' was considered 'perverse art'," said Libeskind. "My tower is inspired by the work of Leonardo da Vinci, and great Italian culture. [Mr Berlusconi] does not have the time or intellect to study these.
"As an American and Jew brought up in Poland, I find Berlusconi abominable. His concept of nationalism, of closing borders and denying what's different, is repugnant. He hates foreigners."Some are now speculating that Berlusconi will have planning permission for the project revoked. (Which suggests that in Italy, rule of law is sufficiently feeble to allow the prime minister to override local decision-makers out of pique.)
A funny thing happened in Berlin recently, where Madame Tussaud's opened their latest wax museum. Being ostensibly an educational institution, they had to put some historical figures amongst the celebrities, and it would have been impossible to cover the history of Germany without mentioning the elephant in the room, Adolf Hitler.
Of course, in Germany, any depiction of Hitler or the symbols of Nazism is still fraught with the risk that someone will rally to them or regard them with sympathy, and that the embers of Nazism may once again be fanned into flame; which is why Nazi symbols are banned in Germany, leading to things such as, many years ago, American heavy-metal band KISS having had to change their logo for the German market because two lightning-bolt-shaped 'S's are verboten there.
The Madame Tussaud's management took no chances; they posed Hitler behind a desk, to prevent visitors from getting too close to him, and showed him (quite reasonably) in a state of abject defeat. Additionally, the museum banned touching, kissing or posing with the dummy, and posted security guards to enforce this rule.
All of this was for naught, because, minutes after the museum opened, its second-ever visitor, an ex-policeman turned left-wing anarchist, vaulted the desk and ripped Hitler's head off:
Mr L. resigned from the Berlin police after being assigned to quell a May Day demonstration of left-wing anarchists – “I realised I belonged on the other side,” he said. Since then he has been active in the punk and squatter scene; since February he has been a care worker. His girlfriend Yvonne said: “I’m really proud of him. I’ve been furious about Hitler for days.”The act has been met with popular acclaim in Berlin:
One commentator hailed it as “a successful assassination attempt – sadly 75 years overdue”.
Henryk Broder, a columnist for Der Spiegel, exclaimed: “At last, a successful attack on Hitler!” His one quibble was the nature of Frank L.’s political outburst – no more war. Mr Broder said: “If the Allies hadn’t waged war on Hitler, we might still be under the yoke of his heirs. He should have shouted ‘Never again dictatorship!’ But that’s not a very fashionable rallying call on the Left.”
Politicians were also shedding no tears for the wax Führer. The Social Democrat politician Frank Zimmermann said: “It’s more of an artwork to rip off Hitler’s head than to put him on display.”It's interesting to contrast this with The Times' own readers' comments about the "Looney Left" and its rabid intolerance.