Thursday, October 23, 2014

NO black coffee!

In the past we've done a couple of posts about people seeing a resemblance to Hitler in kittens, teapots and houses (Fun with Hitler) and the non-imaginary use of Hitler's name and image in India and Thailand (Hitler Branding), but a recent little faux pas in Switzerland has us dusting off the "Hitler" tag once more.

First of all, what's up with Hitler and coffee?  Back in April a kerfuffle erupted when coffee mugs sold at the Zurbrüggen chain of furniture and housewares stores were found to bear a likeness of Hitler, collaged-in among roses and calligraphy.  Now, this is illegal in Germany, so the question remains:  how did these end up on the shelves?  They were made in China where people don't even know who Hitler is (yes, it is possible).  Someone from the chain probably purchased them without seeing, knowing or caring what was on them.  OK,  but someone else unpacked them and put them on display -- at this point, didn't anyone notice something amiss?  Did they care?  They were on the shelves three days before it came to the store's attention.  Anyway, an apology was issued, gift certificates offered, an investigation opened....

 Forward to October.  Swiss coffee drinkers get a bit of an extra jolt when they see that Hitler is decorating their coffee creamer.  The company that produces the containers was alerted after a startled customer sent an image of the Hitler creamer to a European newspaper.

“I can’t tell you how these labels got past our controls,” a spokesman said. “Usually the labels have pleasant images like trains, landscapes and dogs — nothing polemic that can pose a problem.”  Yeah, our usual völkisch images were subverted!  Some others featured the portrait of Mussolini.

Apparently these creamer lids came from a third party called Karo Shipping, who took the design from a brand of cigars that has been on the market for two years.  Thing is, the creamer company apologized immediately, but the Karo spokesman was surprised at why, given the longevity of the cigars, it's "all of a sudden" such a big deal.

Reminds me of Vini Luardelli, a vineyard that sells a "historical line" of wine with images of Churchill, Che Guevara, Stalin and various Nazi figures, including Hitler (over 30 Nazi-themed labels).  These too have caused outcry and legal troubles, but apparently the line represents 50 percent of the vineyard's sales.

So, it's curious.  People will use anything to sell a product.  The furniture store and creamer guys were horrified, but Karo and Lunardelli don't really care.  Are they pro-fascist?  Maybe.  But they probably just see an opportunity to make a buck.  Is this wrong?  

Can we joke about these things?  When Seinfeld made an episode about catching shit from relatives because he was making out in the cinema -- at a showing of Schindler's List -- was this wrong?  Will Holocaust jokes ever be funny?  Is it stupid to even ask?

I find all of this rather humorous in a sick kind of way, but I understand why people are outraged.  What interests me is that some companies will bend over backwards to apologize for the accidental inclusion of a Hitler image on their products while others will use it intentionally -- and make a decent sum of money doing it.


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