CST Blog

Nazism in Public Places and "No, no, no"

15 August 2012

Two Nazi-themed controversies in recent days pose interesting questions about taste, art and freedom of speech. 

The first controversy at least has the advantage of being original - an Adolf Hitler crazy golf hole in Blackpool that shouts "No, no, no" and raises its arm in Nazi salute when you strike the ball through his midriff.

The second controversy is distinctly unoriginal - people dressing up in Nazi uniforms as part of World War 2 re-enactment groups. It is one of those things that arises year in, year out and this one concerns the Yanks festival in Saddleworth, Oldham, shown below. (There does not, however, seem to have been a repeat of what happened elsewhere this June, when a Jewish couple were asked to don yellow stars and pose as refugees.) 

Should this be illegal? Driving through town in a Nazi uniform, with a swastika pennant and an SS numberplate (as opposed to a 'mere' Wehrmacht army plate)? 

Should glorification of Nazism be a crime, similar to how the glorification of terrorism has been legislated against in recent years...and what actions would this driver, or the parade organisers, need to take in order to face (or avoid) prosecution? 

Is the man in the above picture perpetrating incitement to racial hatred and violence...does he fantasise about rounding up Jews for slaughter, or does he merely like to embarrass his kids and shock the neighbours?

Sadly, we do not know if the Nazi fancy dress enthusiast has made the one hour drive over to Blackpool in order to play the Adolf Hitler crazy golf hole. 


There will be many differing reactions to the above image. Some will be outraged, other reactions will range from hilarity to regarding it as ridiculous or utterly trivial.    

To put it in context, this is not a crazy golf course by a windswept promenade, featuring miniature concrete windmills, ramps and little humps with maddening holes stuck in the middle of them. It is actually part of an art installation at an Arts Council funded Adventureland Golf exhibition at the Grundy Art Gallery. (The full story may be read here.) Different holes are desgined by different artists and "holes range from statements on politics and life and death, to cheeky and fun challenges, making this very much a crazy golf course with a difference".

Furthermore, the artists behind the Hitler hole, Jake and Dinos Chapman clearly do not mean this to be anything other than an anti-Nazi statement. Their previous work includes "Hell", a vast diorama, with over 30,000 small model figures, many in Nazi uniform, engaged in acts of gross cruelty. (See here for one of numerous extreme examples that you may find disturbing.) 

Nevertheless, for all the cleverness that the crazy golf-themed art exhibition may well have on display, I am still disturbed by this picture of the Hitler hole in action: 

Who knows, perhaps the fact that the statue exclaims "No, no, no" whilst raising its arm to salute a successful shot is sufficient to teach these girls that Hitler is no laughing matter. Either that, or this anti-Hitler agitprop is too clever for its own good: but still, wouldn't it be fitting if the middle aged men who parade in Nazi uniforms were compelled to shout "No! No! No!", every time they passed a member of the public.

(Suggested related reading - the market for Nazi memorabilia; the Marc Garlasco controversy; and Hitler wine on sale in Italy. See here for photo of overweight men on East Lancs Railway dressed up as Hermann Goering.)

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