By Tord Björk
The Nazis wanted to exterminate another race and Karl Marx wanted to exterminate a social class. The guide at the House of European History (HEH) in Brussels is twisting her tongue when she tries to solve the task of simultaneously explaining that communism and nazism are both the same and yet not. Visually, the impression of the museum’s exhibition gives overwhelming evidence one side of the story, they are the same.
Towering above us in the ideologically most intense part of the museum are large video screens tilted towards the visitor. These screens on four islands in the room are so large that in spite of that the hall is generously big they fill up the room and the spectator can feel small under them. On the screens the masses march in honour of the dictator, people are violently oppressed and the imagery makes very clear: the interwar period was marked by the very same conflict as after the war until Soviet Union collapses and the Berlin wall falls, that between Western democracy and totalitarianism. In the impressive format is shown on the first two communism’s horrific methods, on the two later the same for Nazism. The similarity is visually striking. Stalin and Hitler in that order, omnipresent in the midst of terror. As a climax, the hammer and the sickle are projected at the same time as the swastika in oversized format.
The first time I visited the museum I was very surprised. The emphasis that the seemingly official guide gave to a group that followed her that the extinction of social classes and extermination of Jews was as morally abominable and basically as totalitarian and reprehensible appeared as confused. If this was the case, then a renunciation of the French Revolution’s abolition of nobility as a class with unique priveleges and the liberal revolution against feudal society would also be in place.
The second time I had the headphones on when the symbols of Communism and Nazism illuminated at the same time. The voice clearly stated that the two ideologies were different, something that the guide also pointed out, but in practice the next moment the voice spoke against itself. They were equally genocidal. A contradiction in practice which also to a large extent is given by HEH’s overall picture by texts and images.