Maybe we have this all wrong. Maybe the fact collectors who are also normal people (I think and hope that includes all people here), have too long hid collecting as to not be associated with skinheads and the likes who revere the symbolism these artifacts carry. If more people were introduced to normal individuals who collect these items, and who defined a clear difference between those who would seek to carry on this terrible legacy and those who want to make sure we preserve these relics as a reminder of a darker part of history, it may not be so curious to them.
We don't go to civil war museums, or collectors circles and question why they have relics of the confederacy. So, there's something at play here beyond ideology. As for the guy who wrote that article, taking care of and preserving these pieces of history isn't "preparing for" the return of fascism nearly as much as destroying or letting crumble to dust any traces that this ever happened, would allow people to forget and return to it one day. This is my inclination to the hobby. In my hands I hold a reminder of what humanity is capable of, both in terms of evil, and in terms of the courage and sacrifice of those who captured and brought these relics home. I choose not to pretend this past is some distant mythology that happened in another time, on another shore, but rather face it and accept it, and seek to ensure that anyone who comes in contact with my relics is tangibly reminded of our responsibility to honor the men and women who came before us and preserved our God given right to liberty, and to take up that cause again if ever the challenge should arise.
I have a son, and I look forward to the day he's old enough for me to bring all my stuff out and explain to him what it means. I'll tell him about his great great uncle that fought in Europe, and show him the camera he brought back that he took from a fallen German soldier. I'll show him the pictures I have of German soldiers at tables and posing for pictures, and the difference between the soldier that fought for Germany, and the Nazi's that propagated evil and murdered millions. I'll tell him about how important winning this war was, and how much we owe countless soldiers from nations across the world, and why we remember them every year during veterans and memorial day. And he'll hold pieces of this era in his hands and know it was very real.
At least for me, I take this "hobby" seriously, whereas I suspect those who are offended, are so less because of the items or that you have them, but the fact you're putting them in a situation where they have to face the fact it really happened, many of whom have family that were affected in some way directly by the war. Some embrace this, others don't. In time, we'll find people more open to this I'm sure. It may still just be too soon.
06-16-2014 05:00 PM
Allow me a few observations on some of Mr. Davidson's musings.
It is wholly unacceptable to combine the acts of "collecting" and "adorning onself with" such artifacts in this manner, effectively implying a connection between these activities or even equating them.
Does it matter whether adults wish to collect, or even adorn themselves with, objects associated with the Nazi regime?
Do I wish to collect and own items from the WWII-/Third Reich era? Yes. Have I ever felt a secret, dark wish to wear them? Of course not!
"Must" they? Why? What do I have to do with the likes of this person?
These days, the far right prefer not to wear uniforms in public. Those jackboots would tend to give the wrong impression – or rather, the correct impression. Yet any discussion of the rights or wrongs of collecting Nazi memorabilia must begin in the context of the rise of the politics of people like Nick Griffin.
No, of course not.
Such an interest tends to be justified on either historical or aesthetic grounds. Garlasco has defended himself on the former, saying he and others “collect war paraphernalia because we want to learn from the past”. One could learn from, say, Ian Kershaw’s biography of Hitler, but it is not clear what can be learned from close proximity to a uniform or a medal, since historical knowledge is not transferred by osmosis.
Staring blankly at, say, a 1939-issue Iron Cross for a few hours will not gain one any historical knowledge. But, to stay with that random example, for any truly serious collector, an interest in the Iron Cross will automatically result in a wish to learn more about its long history, the wars in which it was awarded, the award requirements, the lives of its recipients etc. etc. In this way, the items can be starting points and stepping stones towards a deeper and broader understanding.
Also, contact with an actual physical remnant of history can help to make it all that more real and tangible. Looking over the Forum Romanum from the Capitol Hill a few weeks back during my holiday in Rome did not teach me anything new about ancient Roman history, but it certainly was an emotionally and intellectually inspiring experience nonetheless.
Mr. Davidson, however, seems to perceive some insurmountable boundary between the physical and intellectual world and/or see a contradiction between collecting and studying.
Granted, simpletons will not be able to separate surface from content, symbols from meaning, and aesthetics from message. I will be the first to admit that the sheer cleverness of Nazi imagery and propaganda in particular still possesses an inherent danger to impress the naive and uneducated.
Nor is aesthetic appreciation a valid argument. Bryan Ferry was criticised recently for expressing admiration for the cinema of Leni Riefenstahl and the architecture of Albert Speer.
I, however, claim for myself to be perfectly able to separate them, and am sure that I am not the only one with this skill.
One can appreciate the craftwork that went into, say, a tailor-made uniform (even if it is an SS one), a high-grade decoration or a damascus sword without endorsing the ideology of the men who wore them.
I know I shouldn't do this, but nonetheless allow me to take this verbatim and carry that thought to its logical consequences: Should we then eradicate all physical remnants of the Third Reich? Even raze the concentration camp memorial sites? Of course nobody in their right mind demands that, and I will not be so arrogant and ignorant as to equate a private collection with a concentration camp memorial, but nonetheless: These memorials are a good example that preserving artifacts of an evil period can serve a very noble and valuable cause, namely education and understanding.
But as George Orwell wrote: “The first thing that we ask of a wall is that it shall stand up. If it stands up, it is a good wall, and the question of what purpose it serves is separable from that. And yet even the best wall in the world deserves to be pulled down if it surrounds a concentration camp.
I will not argue with that last observation. Yes, this is moral imbecility.
The urge behind the fascination with Nazi memorabilia is, I suspiect, the thrill of transgression, of admiring that which is almost universally despised. This impulse led, during the 1970s, to several leading punks wearing swastikas as a shock tactic. This was, and is, a form of moral imbecility.
However, once again, and with no basis in reality, "collectors" and "wearers" - or at least their motivations - are indirectly equated. Never mind the fact that your typical 1970s-era Punk was not a militaria collector and vice versa, or the fact that this is actually a good example for how flat the automatic connection between the possession of an artifact and the implied identification with its political meaning often falls upon closer examination... Precisely: Punks wore swastikas as a shock tactic and not because they identified with Nazi ideology.
Again, a serious collector will not do that. He will regard the aesthetics and craftsmanship while still bearing the history of their period of origin in mind.
Certain words and symbols are now inescapably associated with the Nazis and the Holocaust – they are not free-floating signifiers to be given any meaning we choose; nor can they be pulled from the context of Hitler’s Germany and treated as examples of, say, 1930s costume design..
The issue is different from those surrounding the colonial looting of cultural relics from the global South, or the collection of artefacts linked to New World slavery. The former is an ongoing injustice and the latter in poor taste, but these are arguments about history. Fascism is different; it survives, and the fact it now comes dressed in a suit and a tie means we have to treat anything which threatens to trivialise its horrific past with extreme caution.
Again, it is implied, with an air of aloofness, that no collector acknowledges and/or has the slightest interest in the political context of Third Reich era artifacts...
Reducing Nazi memorabilia to a set of collectable objects with no political content normalises them, and to normalise fascism is to prepare for its return. At best, it is naive; at worst it is the cultural equivalent of the political argument that treats contemporary fascist organisations as conventional, if right-wing political parties, rather than as the inheritors of Auschwitz they truly are."
Finally, I will admit that there really are people with wholly unacceptable, even despicable political views in this hobby.
I will also admit that there are those who collect for thoroughly shallow reasons, be they a superficial fascination or simple financial interest.
Perhaps I am even a bit naive there and the percentage of those who fall into one of these categories is a lot higher than I suspect.
However, what I will never, ever, accept is the implication that this applies to all collectors.
Isn't there not likewise a strand of elitism at play here also by those that collect Nazi era memorabilia when they say anyone that disagrees with ethics or morality of those that collect such memorabilia cannot think for themselves, are "spoon-fed-read-it-on-the-internet" dullards or are incapable or not intelligent enough etc to understand why a collector collects Nazi memorabilia?
I collect, therefore I am.
Nothing in science can explain how consciousness arose from matter.
I don't collect "Nazi Memorabilia"...I collect historic "German Military Artifacts"... My Jewish friend has no problem with it (she's posed wearing my Stahlhelm), nor do my African-American friends and neighbors, as they know me better than that...
I have been interested in ww2 and the occupiers ever since I was a little boy finding pieces of a downed JU-52 in the local river, collecting small springs from German MG belts down at the local beach, being told stories of how my Grandfather (mother's side) was ordered out to help cover up the moored battleship Tirpitz, my Grandmother passing out potatoes to starving German soldiers at the end of the war, my other Grandfather fighting the Germans in Narvik back in 1940 etc. etc.
Pardon me but I feel justifying my passion and interest for history and fascination with historical artifacts under the heaviest of scrutiny to be beneath me and the subject at hand --- implying that someone's actually a Nazi really does take some nerve... I'll tell you that much.
And anyone who does not understand the desire to collect TR items (or whatever else of a similar nature) is obviously an idiot etc.....
I am not sure that some of the comments (see above) add anything to this discussion as they are surely as biased and blinkered as the comments they seek to deride.
There have been a lot of very good points raised in this thread, which considering it is a subject that has been raised many times before has come as something of a surprise but if certain members cannot stick to the subject in hand and refrain from denigrating any with a different view, it might regrettably become time to close it. Name calling and the use of stereotypes etc does not make your point of view correct, all it does is make your argument look weak and flawed.
its just an opinion.
Greetings, Slados! Have you considered enlisting in our Gold Club as a Full Member? With 3 years and over 1000 Posts under your belt, you're certainly well-qualified and we'd appreciate having you!!
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Elitism could be read into such comments, but at the same time, the people making them are the ones being indirectly attacked by articles like the above. No one would be faulted for asking a collector why he collects Nazi memorabilia; the problem arises when assumptions and accusations are made at the expense of someone's character. It's the same way that metal detector hobbyists are called looters and grave robbers, regardless of whether or not they're guilty of such actions. It all comes from the cultural elites in academia who believe that they are uniquely qualified to handle such items, or decide who can.
Edit: To clarify, I'd like to know if the author of the above article advocates destroying such items. If not, then he must be in favor of their placement in a museum or other like environment, where they can be looked after by other, similarly 'qualified' individuals. This is the elitism to which I refer: the belief that these items should be owned, just not by you.
As regards the elitism of academics and others, for a long time the naughty items from Pompeii were only allowed to be seen by such people as the masses could not understand them or appreciate them and would only see them as pornography, or so the elites thought.
It is rather strange though that as time passes TR items seem to become less acceptable to the public, as not long after the war they were quite commonly displayed. If TR collectors did come out of the closet so to speak, I wonder if that would make collecting them more palatable to the "normal" people, probably not.
its just an opinion.