Friday, April 22, 2005

Nazis, Board Games & Kicking Benedict

There's been a lot of press coverage of Benedict XVI, of course, in recent days, but one thing that disgusts me is the fixation on his membership of the Hitler Youth. The fact that it is spoken about in the Indie, Times and the Guardian as a secret shame is slightly immature.

Germany's biggest obstacle to overcoming its Nazi past is the continuation of Nazification in a legal industry of guilt and repression, where Fascism is treated as a powerful secret that must be suppressed in order to prevent Germans being reinfected with it again. The presumptions behind those laws banning swastikas and copies of Mein Kampf are truly ridiculous.

A recent example in my own hobby reinforces this point: one board games company, the Australian Design Group, took its latest product, 7 Ages, to the Essen fair in Germany last October. It featured a small swastika logo alongside the epoch-defining images of human history in small images around the box's cover. (Since removed from later printings). On seeing it, German customs officers siezed the entire consignment and the individuals involved now suffer stiff penalties for their accidental infringement of the law.

Germany has quite evidently outgrown its past, and could well do with the final and most important stage of de-Nazification: trusting Germans with their own history, by removing these fundamentally illiberal and patronising laws. The British media's obssession with a young boy's involevemnt in the Hitler Youth, and the implicit presentation of it as a scandal, is quite pathetic. Let's grow up, and hope Germany's anti-Nazi laws grow up too.