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Merkel warns of apathy’s dangers

BERLIN — On the 80th anniversary of Adolf Hitler’s rise to power, Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Germans to always fight for their principles and not fall into the complacency that enabled the Nazi dictator to seize control.

Speaking Wednesday at the opening of an exhibit at the Topography of Terror memorial documenting Hitler’s election, Merkel said German academics and students happily joined the Nazis only a few months later in burning books deemed subversive.

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‘‘The rise of the Nazis was made possible because the elite of German society worked with them, but also, above all else, because most in Germany at least tolerated this rise,’’ Merkel said.

The memorial is built around the ruins of buildings where the Gestapo, the SS, and the Reich Security Main Office ran Hitler’s police state from 1933 to 1945.

The fact that Hitler was able to destroy German democracy in only six months serves as a warning of what can happen if the public is apathetic, Merkel said.

‘‘Human rights do not assert themselves on their own, freedom does not emerge on its own, and democracy does not succeed on its own,’’ Merkel said. ‘‘No, a dynamic society . . . needs people who have regard and respect for one another.”

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