'Nazi' statues raise furore on eve of World Cup

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World Cup soccer fans trooping into the Olympic Stadium in Berlin will be confronted with some of the most powerful ghosts of the Nazi era: broad-shouldered statues sculpted at the behest of Adolf Hitler to celebrate the Aryan master race.

Now, leading Jewish activists are calling for the bronze statues to be draped in canvas, or removed entirely, to shield fans from what they regard as Nazi propaganda.

Lea Rosh, who led the campaign to build a Holocaust memorial in the city centre, has made the "coverup" her new cause. "At the very least, the figures of Arno Breker should be hidden from view, and an explanation given on the plinth," Ms. Rosh said yesterday.

Mr. Breker, who died in 1991, was one of Europe's top sculptors even before the Nazis came to power, and his powerful figures caught the attention of Hitler. His sculptures were supposed to adorn the new Berlin that Hitler and Albert Speer, his chief architect, were planning to build after the war.

For the Olympic Stadium, constructed for the Games of 1936, Mr. Breker sculpted The Female Victor and The Decathlete.

Ms. Rosch wants both to be covered, as well as colossal statues of discus throwers and relay runners by Karl Albiker, The Resting Athlete, by Georg Kolbe, and many others scattered around the complex.

"Breker was a top Nazi," Ms. Rosch said. "It's unacceptable that the statues are still on public view."

Ralph Giordano, a leading German- Jewish novelist, is lobbying for the statues -- some bronze, some stone -- to be pulverised or melted down. "The figures are ugly and deceitful," he said.

"I demand that these statues be taken out of the stadium, quickly dismantled and scrapped."

German historians are skeptical that removing the statues would serve any political purpose, and argue that it would actually distort German history.

"Much of 20th-century art is bound up with dictatorship," Christoph Stolzl, a historian, said. "We should put up plaques explaining the statues. The connection between the celebration of the body and racism is complicated."

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