May 12, 2009 / 3:33 PM / 10 years ago

Court fines man for beheading wax Hitler

A waxwork of Adolf Hitler before a 41-year-old man tore its head off from the controversial exhibit on the opening day of Berlin's Madame Tussauds July 5, 2008 is seen in this July 3, 2008 file photo. REUTERS/Tobias Schwarz/Files

BERLIN (Reuters) - A German court fined an unemployed man 900 euros ($1,227) Tuesday for knocking the head off a waxwork figure of Adolf Hitler in a Berlin museum.

Minutes after the Madame Tussauds museum opened in the German capital in July, the 42-year-old pushed past security staff ripped off its head. The man, an ex-policeman, said he found it inappropriate to display an exhibit showing the Nazi leader only some 500 meters from Berlin’s Holocaust memorial.

The waxwork of a glum-looking Hitler in a mock bunker stirred debate in Germany even before it went on display. Critics argued it was tasteless to display a replica of the man who unleashed World War Two and ordered the extermination of Europe’s Jews.

Madame Tussauds said the museum avoided politics, arguing Hitler stood for a significant part of German history and his waxwork therefore had a legitimate part in the exhibition.

The restored figure was returned to the museum in September and is now displayed behind a glass wall.

About 25 workers spent about four months on the original waxwork, using more than 2,000 pictures and pieces of archive material and also guided by a model of the “Fuehrer” in the London branch of Madame Tussauds.

The wax figure has been cited as the latest in a gradual breaking down of taboos about Hitler in Germany more than 60 years after the end of the war and the Holocaust in which some six million Jews were killed.

The 2004 film “Downfall” provoked controversy as it portrayed the leader in a human light during the last days of his life. In 2007, a satire about Hitler by Swiss-born Jewish director Dani Levy was released in Germany.

It is illegal in Germany to show Nazi symbols and art glorifying Hitler.

Reporting by Kerstin Rebien; Writing by Kerstin Gehmlich; editing by Ralph Boulton

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