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:
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?