Censorship

The Gnome in the Garden of Good and Evil

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Prosecutors in Nuremberg are trying to decide whether a golden garden gnome making a stiff right-armed salute runs afoul of Germany's ban on Nazi symbols and gestures. Evidently it all hinges on intent: Did the artist who created the gnome, Ottmar Hoerl, mean to honor the Nazis or mock them? Hoerl thinks the meaning is obvious "when one portrays the master race as a garden gnome," adding, "In 1942 I would have been murdered by the Nazis for this work." The authorities are not so sure:

A spokesman for the Nuremberg public prosecutor's office, Wolfgang Traeg, said "we're checking to see if garden gnomes fall into the same clear category as posters that show the swastika crossed out".

He said the aim was to establish whether the artist and the gallery owner had intended the gnome as an endorsement of the Third Reich or as a rejection of Nazi ideology.

Mr Traeg referred to a previous case: a swastika which had been graffitied onto a wall. No prosecution was brought because the picture featured a fist smashing the Nazi symbol.

To play it safe, Hoerl should start kicking over all the Nazi gnomes.

[Thanks to Eric Jon Magnuson for the tip.]

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  1. I think they should torture the artist until he tells them what was in his heart of hearts when he conceived the work. If it turns out that he was thinking bad thoughts about Nazis, then they should stop torturing him and let him go.

  2. Mac: (going through Pop-Pop’s box) This is unbelievable!

    Charlie: I know that! I know that! There are, like, so many medals in there, dude. This guy was probably, like, King Nazi.

  3. If I were the artist, I’d just say that the gnome was a Roman centurion.

  4. Mr Traeg referred to a previous case: a swastika which had been graffitied onto a wall. No prosecution was brought because the picture featured a fist smashing the Nazi symbol.

    Destroy Fascism

    They are pretty strict about that stuff in Germany. Also in Italy. My Grandfather traveled to Italy to meet his distant relatives. His business card had on it Il Duce d’Abbruzzi. The literal translation is The Duke of Abruzzi. Nonetheless they were not amused.

  5. How do you amuse an Italian?

  6. uh oh

  7. How do you amuse an Italian?

    Drink a cappuccino in the morning. Or put sugar in your tomato sauce. Well, it’ll either amuse or enrage.

  8. Maybe the gnome is simply calling a strike.
    Why does Germany hate baseball?

  9. Maybe the German government should poll the neo-Nazi skinhead community to find out whether they’re flattered or insulted by the statue. In the absence of an equivalent to the First Amendment, it makes as much sense as any other approach.

  10. Because their greasy little sausage fingers can’t throw a baseball for shit.

    That’s what Grammy Kurtz told me.

  11. You know, whether than oppress everyone with these tortuous restrictions on speech, why don’t they go do something to make up for their past? Like invade Iran or something?

  12. In all seriousness, does anyone know if there’s a time limit to Germany’s uber-ironic anti-nazi laws?

    100 years maybe? I mean how long does freedom of speech get punished in the name of justice?

  13. Until the French are satisfied.

  14. It’s hard to anticipate the artist’s intentions. Being German, he waits until the end of the sentence to say the verb.

  15. How do you amuse an Italian?

    Tell him tomatoes come from America.

    Tell him Pizza was invented in New York City.
    (this one really gets them)

  16. Until the French are satisfied.

    Well shit.

    Poor Germans.

  17. Oh crap. Is the Travelocity gnome is a Nazi?

  18. The nazi gnome kind of puts a new spin on the concept of “untermensch.”

  19. I heard the Grays were Nazis, but the gnomes?

    Someone should investigate the Keebler elves. After all, they have unsupervised ovens and seem to be monoracial. Also, all male.

    Maybe that’s why they bake so much.

  20. I’m still trying to figure out what it is, exactly, that modern day Germans — or modern day US Democrats for that matter — don’t like about Nazism aside from the final solution thing.

  21. You’ll never roam alone!

  22. Draco,

    Their lack of diversity?

  23. Pro Libertate,

    Hey, the Waffen SS took volunteers from virtually every country in Europe (and some beyond), including Walloons, Indians and Cossacks! So they had the diversity thing covered too.

  24. Stupid Germans. It’s this fascist sentiment that gives rise to people like Hitler.

  25. Enforcing restrictions on speech content is a pain for those who try. Of course we have our own variety of that judicial parlor game with the endless Christmas decorations/Establishment clause battles, where justices base their decisions on the relative religiousness of stars, trees, Santa Clauses, and reindeer.

  26. I lived/studied in southern Germany for a while last year.

    One of the first things my friends (who arrived first) said to me was never to say Hitler or Nazi in public. I never saw the ramifications personally, but it was apparently a very bad thing to do. Like, strangers would approach you with scary German faces. You don’t want to be yelled at by a German. I love the language (except for the bullshit verb-at-end thing) and find it beautiful in its own way, but noises can be made very akin to have a sharpened whisk shoved in one’s throat.

  27. Hoerl must not have anticipated that the Nuremberg prosecutors office would be immune to irony.

  28. Wait, what the hell? Do they mean to say that in Germany, a prosecutor looks at the case, decides whether or not the *spirit* of the law has been violated and doesn’t even bring charges if it doesn’t seem like the accused intended to do anything wrong?

    That’s fucking crazy.

  29. Ya know, as an extended piece of street theater/performance art, I would say this is going extremely well.

  30. ‘m still trying to figure out what it is, exactly, that modern day Germans — or modern day US Democrats for that matter — don’t like about Nazism aside from the final solution thing.

    Hitler attacked Stalin! Before the invasion of Russia, Germany and Italy were the darlings of the elite Left. National Socialism was only one tiny step away from International Socialism. The Nazis had centralized government power directing individuals to act in common for a greater good. But then Germany attacked Russia and suddenly Nazism and Fascism went from being lovable leftist philosophies to evil right wing reactionary forces.

  31. That’s fucking crazy.

    It certainly doesn’t sound very German, at any rate.

  32. Could this possibly get any sillier? It will if I have anything to say about it.

    (Apologies to the people of Oz)

    We represent the Gnazi Gnomes, the Gnazi Gnomes, the Gnazi Gnomes
    And in the name of the Gnazi Gnomes,
    We wish to welcome you to the Fatherland.
    We represent the fascist Smurfs, the fascist Smurfs, the fascist Smurfs
    And in the name of the fascist Smurfs,
    We pledge allegiance to the Fuhrer.
    We pledge allegiance to the Fuhrer, Tra la la la la la la
    He will regenerate Germany.
    Regenerate Germany, regenerate Germany, regenerate Germany.
    So don’t get short with me.
    No longer will we be overlooked
    In our homeland!

  33. Ya know, as an extended piece of street theater/performance art, I would say this is going extremely well.

    Good point. Way to be provocative, Hoerl!

  34. Mike in PA | July 17, 2009, 12:36pm | #

    In all seriousness, does anyone know if there’s a time limit to Germany’s uber-ironic anti-nazi laws?

    100 years maybe? I mean how long does freedom of speech get punished in the name of justice?

    Pro Libertate | July 17, 2009, 12:38pm | #

    Until the French are satisfied.

    Before the French revolution, the Church misused it’s power. Three centuries after the French revolution, France still has laws against the public display of religion. Don’t expect attitudes to change anytime soon.

  35. three centuries two centuries

  36. My Nazi anecdote:

    I lived in Germany for a year in the 80s. One day I waved goodbye to a (German) friend and somehow it came out looking a little Nazi-ish. He just Sieg Heil’ed me back and laughed. I was mortified–he wasn’t in the least.

  37. nice post..
    ___________________
    Britney
    Entertainment at one stop

  38. I’d say it out-sillies even this.

  39. The fact that the German government is reacting to a garden statue with such a paranoid reaction shows that in a sense, Hitler is still winning over them-this time, by fear of not being sufficently politically correct. By the way, Hitler was a practicing Christian, and believed in family and children as well- hey, Germany, have you been looking at those things as well?

  40. Of course, Hitler was a weird, self-contradictory sort of fucker.

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