What is it about Adolf Hitler that causes businesses in foreign countries to use his name to market their products?
First it was “Fuhrerwein” being sold in northern Italy, now it’s a Hitler clothing store — complete with a circular swastiska dotting the “i” — that has opened in a city in western India. The owner says that he didn’t know that Hitler was the name of a Nazi dictator who gave the order to kill millions of innocent Jews. Instead, he claims, “Hitler” was just a nickname given to the “very strict” grandfather of a friend. Really? And the very strict grandpa dotted the “i” with a swastika? Give me a break!
It turns out that Hitler is popular in certain parts of India, because he is viewed as giving “dignity and prestige” to Germany. Apparently Indian schoolbooks don’t teach people that he was a mass murderer whose bloody dictatorial reign made Germany a pariah state that, even now, 70 years later, is still trying to to live down the inexplicable horror of the Nazi years.
But hey . . . if using the name Hitler and the swastika brings curious people into the store and results in a few purchases that might not have occurred otherwise, what’s the harm of trading on the name of one of history’s most evil figures?
Although we sometimes might think so, America doesn’t have an exclusive franchise on nuts and their weird activities. You can find evidence of the loony element in humanity across the globe.
Consider the fact that, in northern Italy, a winery makes and sells vintages with labels featuring Hitler on the label. A couple from America found the wine being sold in a grocery store in Garda, Italy and reported it to the authorities. Local prosecutors reacting to the report have opened an inquiry, but one prosecutor noted that the only possible crime that could have been committed through the sale of “Fuhrerwein” was the crime of “apologizing for fascism” — because Italy made “apologizing for fascism” a crime in 1952.
So, a winery bottles and distributes what is undoubtedly their worst vintage in bottles with Hitler’s pictures, no doubt hoping that they can sell the swill to fascist sympathizers or tourists who will buy the bottles and take them home to show friends as odd curiosities. The grocery store owner, for his part, says he views the wine as some kind of historical artifact and stocks it, even though he doesn’t sell much, so that people will remember the bad things that Hitler did. Sure! The wine probably is stored in the “dictators and genocidal maniacs” aisle of the store, near the Mao Zedong popcorn and the Josef Stalin laundry detergent.
And, perhaps strangest of all, we learn that Italy made apologizing for fascism a crime in 1952. Perhaps if it weren’t illegal to remember the horrors that were produced by fascist ideology, and express regret and ask forgiveness for them, Italians would have a better understanding of the idiocy and offensiveness of peddling consumer products with Hitler’s image in the first place.