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Surely, it’s just history? Having an item of WW 2 German Militaria doesn't make you a Nazi.

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it"

George Santayana

The hysteria over certain WW2 artefacts, even museum reproductions of them, sometimes seems so childish and accusatory.

We have recently seen some media and online auction sites get quite sanctimonious about items of WW2 German militaria.

For online auction sites this is their right, as it is their platform, ‘ their bat and their ball’ so to speak, to offer or refuse space upon their pages as they like. The media however needs to be a bit more balanced and nuanced in the reality of how collecting historical artefacts comes about and is practiced.

It does also beg the question, what good does it do anyone to block those genuinely interested in collecting militaria from acquiring WW2 German items as well?

It’s not as if someone was going to use for example a museum quality replica of Grand Admiral Doenitz’s visor cap (pictured above) to raise a fascist army and seize control of the state now is it?

By all means go after dangerous neo-fascists, but to assume that political motivations are held by innocent collectors is just insulting, offensive and when fingers are pointed at individuals potentially a form of written or verbal defamation. To accuse a legitimate collector of being a racist or neo-Fascist is a very serious and insulting accusation.

Many collectors are actually former military folk with a general or specific interest in military history. At some stage they likely signed on to fight potential real-life extremists with far more at stake than just their keyboard. Some decent collectors of this ilk are quite tired of ill-informed finger wagging in their direction.

Yes, the Third Reich was evil and yes, the genuine glorification of the politics and extremist ideologies of that era needs to be averted, but militaria hobbyists / historians are hardly likely to be gathering en-masse in their little man-caves to plot the rise of the 4th Reich.

Quite the contrary in fact as many militaria enthusiasts are keen historians who know all too well the dangers of forgetting the past as a forerunner to it being repeated by modern extremists.

Items of German WW2 militaria can form perfectly legitimate parts of any general WW2 collection be it in a private or public museum. We have WW2 German items captured by relatives at Tobruk and El Alamein, as do many collectors. It’s part of our military history, and has tangible links to the individuals who fought and defeated the real Nazis. Many such items are veteran bring backs intended as war trophies that symbolise a fallen enemy, not a perpetuation of their defeated ideology.

We also have artefacts of Imperial / WW2 Japan who inflicted untold suffering upon allied POW's and the civilians of the nations they occupied (over 30 million deaths in China alone it is estimated). We actually have close relatives who were Changi veterans, and so does ownership of such things mean that we insult their memory and condone the actions of Imperial Japan? Most certainly not.

A fanatic who chooses to decorate their house as the Reich Chancellery with banners, flaming cauldrons and a bust of Hitler is quite the fringe-dwelling exception, yet I fear it’s for that irrational stereotype that innocent collectors are marginalised. The vast majority study and display their history in a much broader and far more harmless context.

To take action against actual extremist groups, yes of course, but to take action against hobby collectors just seems so pointless and useless.

It appears to be not much more than a fashionable form of activism, as if the sentiment was a genuine one, then why are they not targeting the artefacts of every nation, culture or movement that committed atrocities?

Many millions were killed and persecuted under those banners also. One could argue that in authoritarian nations like China, that they still are. So by this logic ban the sale of anything connected to say Communism, Stalin, Ancient Rome, colonial Belgium or indeed any historical figure, nation or movement responsible for atrocities. That will likely be all nations except perhaps Bhutan, so have at it, there will be a lot of boring empty museums that teach us nothing of human history, civilisation and experience.

As musician Lemmy Kilmister from the band Motorhead, a prolific WW2 and militaria collector, once famously said to a music journalist about collecting historic WW2 artefacts –

"I only collect the stuff. I didn't collect the ideas."

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