Monday, October 25

VALLEY OF THE NAZI DOLLS

Retailers and hobby shops that sell historical Nazi dolls, marketed to adult collectors, are under fire from the Jewish community. These figures are like G.I. Joe, but cost around $90, and feature accurate reproductions of their appearance on the battlefield.

But taste can't be legislated. Moreover, one person's atrocity is another kid's war game. The much-respected Jewish periodical Commentary points out America's genocidal exploits against its Native population. And while Canada's record was far less murderous, the results were the same. That never stoped kids from playing Cowboys and Indians, did it?

What is the real problem with these Nazi dolls? A blatant death camp scene is one thing--but historical models, model airplanes and dioramas featuring Allied Forces against the Germans or Japanese are standard hobby shop fare. The uniforms and equipment are reproduced with an exactness to an unbelievably arcane degree: spring 1944 camouflage Yugoslavia, etc.

The whole teapot tempest arose when an 80-year-old Holocaust survivor came across a Totenkopf SS doll, representing a combat division that fought the Allies in Normandy. He was offended.

I'm offended by many things too. But I'm not trying to tell others what to do, what to buy, and what to sell.

Were the Native Americans offended by Western movies? What about publishing? Hundreds of titles are released concerning Hitler and the Third Reich every year. Does that make every bookstore owner a Nazi? What about the A&E network? If it wasn't for interest in Hitler, they wouldn't have any programming. It seems every other show on the channel has Adolf Hitler as its star.

Publishers know that any book with a Swastika on the cover will sell. Just look at Philip Roth's latest novel, The Plot Against America.

New York intellectual Susan Sontag once wrote an essay called "Fascinating Fascism" where she talks about the iconography of tyrannical power and its application to sexual fetishism.

Black leather Gestapo-wear, indeed: "Please whip me Ilsa, She-Wolf of the S.S., I've been so very bad."

While I applaud Holocaust survivors everywhere, enough of this politically correct over-sensitivity. Do blacks protest Civil War dolls and reenactments? Remember, the good side won that war too.

Why not buy a Nazi doll and assume representational revenge by making an "Abu Ghraib" scene. Pull their pants down. Take a picture, even.

Far more insidious is the real incitement and de-sensitizing aspects of computer games like Grand Theft Auto. Now there's a social problem. Many Jewish kids, unfortunately, play that game too. Bad taste is an equal opportunity player.

We live in a world of questionable taste. We live in a world with exaggerated cultural narrative representations of darkness and evil where Nazi-esque images, like Captain America's nemesis "The Red Skull", literally take on comic book dimensions.

So, perhaps we arrive at not just "insensitivity", but the nature of identification.

God himself would be a castrated angel without the horns and goathead below him. For the Devil is the contrast required to appreciate the victors.

I maintain the real devil is the ignorance that would seek to ban historical representations and of those who hold that their own approaches to catastrophic historical events be viscerally understood by others. That's just not going to happen. Jewish grandkids of Holocaust survivors can be historically impudent, too.

If you're not an Armenian, you may not be aware of the Turks. Should you be? Of course. In the abstract, at least.

It's in the abstract, away from the real smell of cordite and death camps and blood, where we return.

Nazi dolls--like books, war movies and model tanks--stimulate discussion of these awful days past, and of the great wins and sacrifices made for civilization, including the Holocaust.

If all we did 50 years ago was beat a bunch of pansies, what kind of victory would it have been?

[NOTE: The pictured figure of Erwin Rommel is sold at the Silver Snail on Queen St. W. Wasn't he killed by Hitler, too?]