Respectful Insolence

A Nazi Santa?

As much as I detest Holocaust denial, neo-Nazis, and all they stand for, I can still understand why there is a certain sensitivity to emblems of Nazi-ism in Germany and Austria, although I have pointed out that sometimes Germans and Austrians go a bit too far, all too often stomping on free speech in the process, in their efforts to prevent the resurgence of Nazi-ism.

However, even 61 years later, there may be a reason these governments act the way they do. There is still a large contingent of people in Germany who see Nazi symbolism where none is there or intended:

BERLIN (Reuters) – A German chain of shops has removed miniature wooden Santa Claus figures from its shelves and destroyed them after customers complained it looked like they were giving the stiff-armed Hitler salute that is outlawed.

Josef Lange, a spokesman for the Rossmann chain that has 1,200 outlets, told Reuters Friday the figures depicting Father Christmas with his right arm stiffly upright toward the sky and holding a sack in his left hand upset some customers.

“We were astonished by the reaction,” Lange said. “It looks like he’s just pointing up to the sky and we were surprised that anyone saw the so-called ‘Hitler salute’ in that. But we responded and had the entire inventory removed and destroyed.”

Here’s a picture of the offending Santas:

i-903a4a106b9b506825104d4145c91e6b-1nazisantas.jpg

It looks to me like nothing more than Santa looking up at the sky and pointing. Maybe if the manufacturer had made the Santas pointing to the sky with their left hands, it wouldn’t have caused such a stir.

On the one hand, I want to laugh at this foolishness. But then I pause. After all, weirdness like this is just another piece of evidence at just how difficult it is for Germany to shake free the memory of its Nazi past. So powerful is the vile legacy of Nazi-ism that thousands of otherwise sane Germans see Hitler where he is not, based on a vague resemblance between the pointing and the Nazi salute, and ban Nazi symbols even when they are being used not to promote fascism but rather to protest it.

ADDENDUM: Little Green Fascists has a rather amusing take on this story, linking it to the “War on Christmas”:

Dis “War On Christmas” has got to shtop, gottdammit! What is wrong mit Santa showing his true colors und giving ein salute in der fashion dat we Germans have become accustomed to?

Comments

  1. #1 Scott Belyea
    December 7, 2006

    Foolishness? Maybe so, but it sure looks like ranks of Santa giving the Nazi salute to me.

    What’s almost equally odd is the moose in what looks like a Royal Canadian Mounted Police tunic …

  2. #2 Brian
    December 7, 2006

    Well, maybe if they had shelved them so they weren’t all facing the same direction in nice orderly lines…

    Yes the Germans are really touchy about that kind of thing, but after all, they still do have neo-nazi marches in Germany. (of course, what the police actually worry about are the anti-nazi marchers who inevitably show up in numbers 10 or 20 times as great)

    In Munich, there are one or two places where you can still see an actual swastika – such as in a tile mosaic – or at least an obvious change in the color/texture of a building where a nazi insignia used to be. Berlin, too, actually. So while it’s all in the distant past for us (mostly), plenty of people live and work in and around buildings that were built by the nazis. It’s a very subtle but constant reminder.

  3. #3 Bartholomew Cubbins
    December 7, 2006

    Am I seeing things or does the moose look like he’s got a Hitler/Hardy ‘stache?

    Were the moose destroyed too?

  4. #4 manfred
    December 7, 2006

    The insanity of political correctness gets weirder and weirder! I really would love to see the reaction of the political correctness crowd if they ever came across one of those Nazi bars that were popular in South Korea some years ago (until the Simon Wiesenthal Center started one hell of a ruckus, that is) I`m not making this up – bars with waitresses in SS uniforms giving the Hitler salute to customers, with march music playing and swastika flags on the walls. Such bars were located in Seoul, Pusan and Taegu; similar bars (or Nazi theme-restaurants) were also situated in Taiwan and Hongkong. These establishments were successful enterprises and no locals complained. Yes, indeed – political correctness is a Western thing!

  5. #5 TheBrummell
    December 7, 2006

    …the entire inventory removed and destroyed.

    This action guarantees that any surviving “Nazi-Santa”s will be worth more than their weight in gold. Any bets on how long before one of these shows up on eBay?

  6. #6 MJ Memphis
    December 7, 2006

    “Yes, indeed – political correctness is a Western thing!”

    Oh, I don’t know about that. The Koreans (and Chinese) still get riled up when Japanese politicians go to honor their dead from WWII at the Yasukuni Shrine. And I bet if you opened a Unit 731-themed restuarant in China or Korea, they would have a pretty unpleasant reaction. Just because they like to make light of someone else’s genocide doesn’t mean they aren’t sensitive to crimes perpetrated against themselves.

  7. #7 Kristjan Wager
    December 7, 2006

    In Munich, there are one or two places where you can still see an actual swastika – such as in a tile mosaic – or at least an obvious change in the color/texture of a building where a nazi insignia used to be. Berlin, too, actually. So while it’s all in the distant past for us (mostly), plenty of people live and work in and around buildings that were built by the nazis. It’s a very subtle but constant reminder.

    Brian, while many, or most, of those swastikas probably were because of the Nazis, it was a popular symbol before the rise of the Nazis. For example, in Copenhagen, there are quite a few swastikas around on buildings, especially buildings connected to or donated by Carlsberg.
    Carlsberg used the swastika as a symbol, but for some reason stopped using it six-seven decades ago.

  8. #8 MJ Memphis
    December 7, 2006

    Oops! My apologies for feeding the troll. I had not yet read the Pearl Harbor thread before posting.

  9. #9 Orac
    December 7, 2006

    Don’t worry about it. I sometimes feed trolls for my own amusement when I’m bored.

  10. #10 Justin Moretti
    December 7, 2006

    I have to admit, these Santas do (and quite accidentally I agree) look like they are giving that salute. And the way they’re lined up and all giving it together does make it look worse.

    Given that Christianity has a history of not being very nice to Jews, I think these particular Santas are in bad taste. Accidentally, yes, but still in bad taste. For Germany.

  11. #11 XtianR
    December 7, 2006

    I think it’s primarily because of the way the tabloid lined them up for the picture. If I’d seen one Santa by himself, without having read the story, I never would have taken it for a Nazi salute. The Nazis didn’t raise their arms so steeply, and they extended all their fingers. Santa looks like he’s pointing with one finger, as if someone just made off with his reindeer and sleigh.

  12. #12 Brian
    December 7, 2006

    Interesting Kristjan… I hadn’t known the swastika was in use anywhere in Europe pre-nazis. I guess I’ll have to do a little research on the one in Munich and find out exactly when it was put there.

    Thanks for the tip.

  13. #13 Orac
    December 7, 2006

    I think it’s primarily because of the way the tabloid lined them up for the picture. If I’d seen one Santa by himself, without having read the story, I never would have taken it for a Nazi salute. The Nazis didn’t raise their arms so steeply, and they extended all their fingers. Santa looks like he’s pointing with one finger, as if someone just made off with his reindeer and sleigh.

    Exactly. Nor did the Nazi salute require one to look up at such an angle. Usually one looked straight ahead when giving the salute.

  14. #14 Melissa G
    December 7, 2006

    WHAT is this world coming to when someone jacks Santa’s sleigh??? And do we still get our toys???

  15. #15 dikkii
    December 7, 2006

    Manfred wrote:

    I really would love to see the reaction of the political correctness crowd if they ever came across one of those Nazi bars that were popular in South Korea some years ago (until the Simon Wiesenthal Center started one hell of a ruckus, that is) I`m not making this up – bars with waitresses in SS uniforms giving the Hitler salute to customers, with march music playing and swastika flags on the walls.

    Hey, we’ve got a cafe like that in Melbourne. Only, instead of Hitler, its got a Mao theme.

    Maybe that’s OK, though. Mao is, like, flavour of the month when it comes to bastard dictators.

    Just as long as he’s not Hitler, I guess. Or maybe Pol Pot.

  16. #16 Inquisitive Raven
    December 8, 2006

    Brian,

    There’s a few swastikas embedded in the architecture of Philadelphia as well. AFAIK, they date from the 1920′s. I don’t remember the details though.

  17. #17 Justin Moretti
    December 8, 2006

    Nor did the Nazi salute require one to look up at such an angle.

    Unless of course one were looking up to the Fuhrer on a balcony.

  18. #18 Flex
    December 8, 2006

    Bartholomew Cubbins wrote “Am I seeing things or does the moose look like he’s got a Hitler/Hardy ‘stache?”

    Ahhh!! Run away!

    A squad of Canadian Mountie Moose Hitler-Clones!

  19. #19 Brent
    December 8, 2006

    Oddly enough the same sort of symbology came up on last Monday’s episode of “Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip” where a mannequin of Santa came off as looking as though it was making the Nazi salute (and a more accurate one than these Santas). It had the crazy eyes too. The question is how do you depict Santa – in an inanimate form – waving at people without making it look as if he’s “heiling” Hitler?

  20. #20 Garrett
    December 8, 2006

    Hmmmm… I guess Santa doesn’t like the Jews either… Someone has to do a survey someday to determine the ratio by which the sane are outnumbered by the insane.

  21. #21 Ahistoricality
    December 8, 2006

    The swastika itself goes back centuries in Asian iconography: it’s a symbol of the “burning wheel of samsara,” the cycle of birth and rebirth driven by karma. It’s used as a marker on Asian maps for Buddhist temples, among other things.

  22. #22 idlemind
    December 8, 2006

    You’ll still see swastikas in Buddhist temples (at least here in the US) to this day, though generally in a subdued ornamental role. As Ahistoricality says, it symbolizes the cycle of birth-death-rebirth. It also appears in petroglyphs made by Native Americans from pre-Columbian times. It’s a pretty catchy symbol; it’s unfortunate that it now must forever bear the stigma of Nazi evil.

  23. #23 Roman Werpachowski
    December 9, 2006

    Swastika used to be a part of the Carpathian folklore in Poland.

  24. #24 Membrane
    December 13, 2006

    No-one mentioned Invader Zim? What’s wrong with you people?! Hail Santa!

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