I went to the Deutsches Panzer Museum (German Tank Museum) on Sunday. It was interesting. There were lots of a Tanks from the Third Reich and a few American (a Sherman Tank nicknamed “Battling Bitch”. Yeah that’s right) and Russian ones as well. My favorites were 2 Swedish models (Uh-huh huh huh. He said 2 Swedish models. Cool). Somehow the streamlined curves and dark grey body made them look more modern, huge, and menacingly bad-ass than the others. Actually they kind of resembled Humvees that were 4x as big.
The smell in the halls in which the tanks were on display smelled like my grandma’s garage. At various points in time my uncles stored/abandoned perpetually oil-leaking autos in her garage and I instantly remembered the smell of motor oil on concrete when I walked into the exhibit hall.
Also very interesting was an exhibit of German military pistols, revolvers, machine guns. There was also a collection of German military uniforms and medals, including those of various ranks from the Third Reich. This was especially interesting because of the way old Nazi memorabilia is handled in present day Germany. As one can well imagine, anything having to do with Nazi Germany can be a touchy subject. Most remnants of nazism have been destroyed or gotten rid of although I know a few people that still have medals their grandfathers received in the war.
Now, as far as I know, it is not illegal to possess old military/nazi memorabilia. Some people I know said it might be illegal just to own a flag with the swastika on it, but they weren’t sure. It may be illegal to sell it. I’m not sure. I think it depends on who you sell it to. In any case Ebay wants no part of it. Once again I am not a expert in the matter. It is definitely illegal to display a nazi flag in a public place without it being in some sort of historical/educational context. For example do not fly the nazi flag out in front of your house. Obviously illegal. However, displaying the flag in the context of a German military history exhibit is generally okay. Showing Leni Riefenstahl’s “Triumph Des Willens” just for the sake of showing it, is probably not a good idea. Approaching the film from a media/cinematic point of view is probably okay (but sometimes still controversial). Most serious students of media or film has seen it. The cinematography was really quite groundbreaking for the time.
So when I walked into the exhibit and saw all of the Nazi uniforms along with a huge Wehrmacht flag with a swastika on it, it was kind of weird and creepy. There were medals and certificates awarded and signed by “Der Führer”. There was also the field uniform of Rommel. It was kind of like the creepy scene in Indiana Jones when he is in Berlin at the book burning with all the nazis around except I wasn’t in uniform myself and I didn’t get der Führer’s autograph.
Then of course the museum experience led to the usual retrospective inner reflection about how in the hell could something like that happen and how can we prevent it from happening again.