Another item about history and Hitler

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

Apropos the post about the collector who collects historical items, including Hitler-related ones, here's an item from the Oregon Commission on Judicial Fitness and Disability earlier this month:

[At a] hearing before the Commission on Judicial Fitness and Disability on the Formal Complaint filed against the Honorable Vance Day, Marion County Circuit Court Judge, … the Commission will receive evidence regarding the following allegations, among others, against Judge Day that he violated the Oregon Code of Judicial Conduct and the Oregon Constitution (I) by submitting a false statement to the Commission, in connection with an investigation of complaints about him, that he was grabbed by the shoulders from behind without warning while attending his son's soccer game; (2) by falsely claiming that he did not know that a veteran in Vetera 's Court, over which he presided, had a felony conviction; (3) by permitting that veteran to handle firearms when the judge lacked authority to waive the statutory prohibition against a felon having or handling a firearm; (4) by hanging a picture of Hitler in the Marion County Courthouse; (5) by collecting money from lawyers, some of whom appeared before him in court, to sponsor veteran-related wall hangings in the courthouse hallways; and (6) by screening, or having his staff screen, wedding applicants to ensure that they were not same-sex applicants, which he refused to marry before he discontinued presiding over weddings.

Some of the allegations may be correct, and some may merit various kinds of discipline. But the Hitler allegation takes things badly out of context, it seems to me; as an article by Justin Wm. Moyer here at The Post notes, here is what the display actually was (photo via KGW):

Via KGW:

And the judge's explanation thus seems quite plausible:

[This was] a historical collage … focused on a certain doctor during World War Two. A doctor named Ken Vollmar, who was a combat regimental surgeon who won the Bronze Star on D-Day. He had an old painting of Hitler, which we put in the very back of a framing piece and we put a whole bunch of American memorabilia over it. And the purpose of the art was to remind people that a young vibrant democracy, can overcome a fascist nation. That was the purpose of the art work ….

Hitler, I will happily stipulate, was a very bad man. Courthouses shouldn't have pictures that put him in a place of honor. Private individuals are free to put Hitler in a place of honor, but we would rightly condemn them. But not every picture of Hitler, or display of Hitler-related historical items, is a sign of an attempt to praise Hitler; often it's an attempt to depict or represent some aspect of history. Simply labeling it as the judge's "hanging a picture of Hitler," without explaining the context, seems hardly fair or candid.