OPINION | MUSEUMS | PRAGUE PLATFORM | EU | BELGIUM
by Tord Björk
The Nazis wanted to exterminate a race and Karl Marx wanted to exterminate a social class. Our guide at the House of European History museum (HEH) in Brussels is twisting her tongue as she tries to solve the task of simultaneously explaining that Communism and Nazism are the same thing, and yet, somehow not. Visually, the impression of the museum’s exhibition is overwhelmingly slanted toward the notion that they are fully, inexorably and inherently equivalent.
Towering above us in the ideologically most intense part of the museum are huge video screens tilted towards the visitor. These screens, on four islands in the room, are so large that in spite of the hall being generously spacious, they fill up the room. The spectator can feel small in their shadow. On the screens the masses march in honor of the dictator, people are violently oppressed and the imagery makes this museum’s point very clearly: the interwar period was marked by the very same conflict as that after the war until the Soviet Union collapsed and the Berlin wall fell. That single conflict that is posited as God’s-honest-truth-fact is between Western democracy and (any kind of) totalitarianism. The technically impressive format is meticulously balanced: two huge screens each for the horrific methods of Communism and Nazism. The similarity is indeed visually striking. Stalin and Hitler—in that order— are omnipresent in the midst of terror. As a climax, the hammer and the sickle are projected at the same time as the swastika in meticulously equal format.