Saturday, August 21, 2010

International trauma

Some time ago, there was a page in Helsingin Sanomat -newspaper, that cought my eye - and I bet many others, too. There was a full page article about a sauna competition participants (the same competition which sadly claimed a life of the Russian finalist and put the other one in the hospital for quite a while). The article showed several pictures of men posing in their swimming trunks looking rather serious, they were, after all participants in a sauna world championship. It would have been a nice, humorous page, but up in the header was a small Nazi flag pointing to another article later in the newspaper.

Since we tend to look at the pictures first, no matter how big is the text, the first thing most readers (me included) obtained from that page was the Nazi flag (first, since red is the most striking colour and the flag was on the top) and a bunch of half-naked men trying to look cool. I can't believe that layout was intended, so I must think that someone had a pretty huge lapse at work. Or maybe the editor thought that it's long enough from the WWII for anyone to get annoyed. (Unfortunately, I didn't take a pic of that page and when I thought of it the paper was already in the bin outside.)

I find the whole concept still rather interesting. The amount of emotions the Nazi insignia wakes in a common person like myself is astonishing compared to the fact that I was born 35 years after their time. But in the Western culture, we are constantly being brainwashed to connect everything "Nazi" with "ultimate evil". I don't underestimate the unbelievable pain and suffering of those times and don't try to forget. But I do sometimes find it frustrating how the only two ways one can talk about Nationalsocialism is either loath it as overtly devilish or ridicule it to make it look funny and laughable. Any other point of view is considered to be sympathetic.

And still, there are many aspects that are often overlooked. First of all, of course the feelings anything related to Nazis still awakes in people. That's why editors and designers need to be very careful to think what is the message, like in the Helsingin Sanomat page I mentioned. The other thing is that the Nazis were superb designers who really knew how to put up a captivating show. Albert Speer was of course the most notorious designer, but his products are nowadays often considered rather pompous and revolting - again more out of the collective pressure. (I've been to Berlin for half a dozen times. I don't think Speer's architecture, that few that survived, is really terribly different from anything else that time and just before it.) Of course it was a bit over the top, but when you think of some big modern rock bands performing, it's obvious that people love good shows.

Cathedral of Light
Speer's "Cathedral of Light" in one of the Nuremberg Rallies / Pic from Wikipedia

The Nazis didn't really invent much anything new. They were just very good at using already existing things to their advantage. They were using the same cornu copia the designers are using today - the history and symbolism of humankind. I've seen many times different designs that somewhere in the unconscious mind connects with Nazi design. They have to be subtle, of course, but the impact is striking, because we connect so many feelings with them. Just an eagle with spread wings do bear a small connection with the Nazis - intended or not, wanted or not. The eagle is noble and powerful being, and still used as a symbol of the country in Germany.

ESC in Helsinki 2007
Georgia's Eurovision Song Contest entry in Helsinki 2007

Note: I used to be really interested in the morality issues related to Nazi Germany. I had dozens of books about the subject, even if I sold most of them before moving to New Zealand. I still find the questions regarding it worth thinking about and not just go with the flow chanting "Nazis are bad". Luckily, there are lots of people, who also think the same way. History is never worth forgetting, because people hardly change, after all.


  1. What you wrote about the only officially acceptable opinions and stances on national socialism could've just as well been written by yours truly. I applaud the way you worded it!

    This was an interesting post, and it was enough to make me finally react to one of your writings.
    I've been reading your stuff - feel free to call it "stalking" - quite a while now (as a fellow Finnish Rammstein fan, that's what brought me to your blogs in the 1st place) and I might as well use this opportunity to say you seem like a cool kind of person :)

    (I also have to say your R+ pillows are one of the greatest things I've ever seen made by a fan! As a Schneider fangirl I do approve.)

  2. Haha, thank you for the compliment! :) It's always great to hear from like-minded people, who don't label you as a Nazi the moment you open your mouth about such things... It's understandable that it's still such a painful subject, but it's not the only time in history that that kind of horror has protruded. That's why I find it particularly interesting to talk to Germans and listen to their points of view, because the collective shame is still so deep there. (Compared to e.g. First Americans getting rid of American Indians or the time of Stalin in Russia, etc.)

    Yeah, the pillows are kinda cute, but I don't have too much room for myself since the whole band is residing on my bed... :D I still find it rather fascinating that I was able to finish the whole series! ;)