(photo credit: AP)
A man tore the head off an Adolf Hitler wax figure at Madame Tussauds' new branch in Berlin in what appeared to be a symbolic protest on the museum's opening day Saturday, police said.
The 41-year-old man shoved aside two museum employees - one of whom was assigned to protect the exhibit- and slightly injured one of them, police said. They said he then ripped the head off the likeness of the Nazi dictator.
Police said they arrested the man and he told them he was demonstrating against the Hitler figure.
The man, who looked "absolutely normal," was only the second visitor to enter the museum, employee Stephan Koch said - adding that he and a colleague had tried unsuccessfully to prevent the assailant from jumping over a table in front of the figure and damaging the effigy.
The Berlin resident now faces an investigation on suspicion of causing damage to property and bodily harm, police spokesman Bernd Schodrowski said.
Koch said the damaged figure has been removed, but the museum remained open. Museum official Nathalie Ruoss said organizers would decide Monday what to do about the figure.
The presence of the Nazi dictator's likeness in the new museum led to criticism in German media over recent weeks, but defenders of the plan argued Hitler's role in German history could not be ignored.
Last month, Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit urged the museum to consider carefully whether to include Hitler and, if it did, to ensure that he not be shown as a "cult figure."
The museum, which is near the German capital's Brandenburg Gate, pledged to portray Hitler without glorifying him, showing him as he would have looked shortly before his 1945 suicide.
Madame Tussauds produced a likeness of the Nazi leader hunched over a desk in a dimly lit bunker. The figure, unveiled to journalists Thursday, showed Hitler - with deep lines furrowing his forehead - sitting beneath a map of Europe on the wall, monitoring the advance of allied troops from the east and west.
Museum officials offered assurances that visitors would not be able to touch, photograph or pose with the wax Hitler - unlike the rest of the 75 figures in the new collection.
Prominent figures in the two-story exhibition, which spreads out over nearly 2,500 square meters, include German Chancellor Angela Merkel, communist East Germany's longtime leader, Erich Honecker, and psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud.