Why Would Anyone Collect Nazi Memorabilia ?
By Ben Marks
When we started inviting people to post items from their collections on Show & Tell, we knew that sooner or later we’d be faced with a Nazi swastika. At first, we simply followed the lead of eBayand deleted anything with a Nazi swastika on it that was not a coin or a stamp. But then we noticed that the handful of people who were uploading these World War II medals, helmets, and badges appeared to be sincere militaria collectors, not neo-Nazis trying to sneak an offensive image onto our site.
The problem, of course, with anything bearing a Nazi swastika, regardless of its historical value, is that most people find the symbol offensive. It was the banner of Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich, which was responsible for the slaughter of some six million Jews, millions of ethnic Serbs and Poles, and hundreds of thousands of gypsies, people with disabilities, and homosexuals. Of the countries the Nazis attacked, the Soviet Union lost almost 20 percent of its population or 23 million souls, roughly three million of whom perished in prisoner-of-war camps.
But for collectors like Kevin Mackey, Nazi memorabilia, particularly those bearing the swastika, are unambiguous reminders of this suffering. Though upsetting to many, Mackey believes these pieces have a place in any discussion of World War II. “To obliterate the symbols of Nazi Germany,” he says, “would be to obliterate that period from our knowledge, and to forget what took place. We need to be aware of what caused Nazi Germany, what happened, and how much horror came to this world because of it.”