Jan 27 2010
Tough T-Shirt truths on holocaust memorial day, January 27th
At the age of 18, I spent a year working as a language assistant in Berchtesgaden in Bavaria, West Germany. There was nothing then in the bookstores or on the news stands about the Nazi complex at Obersalzberg just 3kms away.
It was mentioned now and again but I don’t remember trying to talk about it to anyone, in 1975 it felt kind of taboo. It’s different now. 5 years later I visited Buchenwald concentration camp, 8kms from Weimar famous for Goethe and Schiller and Bauhaus, and for the first time in my life was directly confronted with the horrors of the Nazi regime.
We had an official 4 hour visit with a group and I even found myself returning the following day to take it all in on my own and in my own time, such was the impact it made on me. It was later that year in July that I came back to England by train and ferry from the Hook of Holland to Harwich. On the Harwich to London train I remember seeing somebody wearing a Hitler’s European tour T-Shirt, very similar to this one.
The writing on the T Shirt was:
- September 1939 Poland
- April 1940 Norway
- May 1940 Luxembourg
- May 1940 Holland
- May 1940 Belgium
- June 1940 France
- September 1940 England Cancelled
- April 1941 Yugoslavia
- May 1941 Greece
- June 1941 Crete
- August 1942 Russia Cancelled
- July 1945 Berlin Bunker.
I remember being totally shocked at seeing a guy wearing this T-shirt and couldn’t believe that it was not illegal in Britain to wear a T-Shirt like that, particulary after studying fascism and the denazification of Germany for the previous 6 months in Rostock on the Baltic coast in the German Democratic Republic. A few years later I read about one instance when a person wearing the “Adolf Hitler European Tour” T-shirt was asked to leave by Michael Stipe at one of REM’s European concerts. I wonder if any other rock singers have asked people to remove T-Shirts at their concerts:) In fact you can still buy the T-Shirt at a “Buy Offensive T-Shirts” website where you can also find the following comments:
good old hitler
I so want this!
that made me laugh so hard i almost pissed myself. i wouldnt wear it in case i got punched but if i saw someone wearing it i’d have to shake their hand
it’s great u should have more of the hardcore offensive t-shirts
that is disgusting why would u sell such a t-shirt?
this is the best t shirt i have ever had. It’s taken me so long to find a new 1 so i have orderd 2 it is so fun. but it upsets a few people but who cares they should read it first. lol glad to get a new 1 many thanks
WOW! I’ve been looking for a hitler t shirt, cos I’ve been wondering if anybody still did them, y’know to shock. And this is AWESOME!!!! I want one, it’s brill. I also want one of hitler pretending to be marilyn monroe. It came to me and now i want one.
i think its a great t-shirt and anyone who has the time to complain about it needs to get a life! i`ll be buying one asap and wearing it down the pub!
around the world.
controversial but not vulgar. witty yet risky…. i like it.
So cool, would love being able to wear it, but I’m afraid people might think I’m a neo-nazi. They might not get close enough, have time or interest in reading the whole thing and might just see the picture of Hitler and his name, so I think i’ll skip this one
25 years later I was in a small town in Hungary near Lake Balaton and just outside the railway station there was a kiosk full of books like this in the window, glamourising famous Nazi figures and turning them into adventure stories.
I found myself similarly shocked by this. On Holocaust memorial day, today, I wondered if anyone else felt that things like this should be banned at all. In the late seventies, I went on many anti-fascist demonstrations and discussed over and over again whether these things should be banned or not, friends of mine always used to say if you ban it, it will only go underground.
We need to be able to study these things and therefore to have access to Nazi writings, Ian Kershaw has done some fantastic scholarly work on the whole phenomenon, but there is a time and place for everything, isn’t there? The windows of a news stand in a small Hungarian town in a country where anti-semitism is far from dead might not be the appropriate place. I feel that we, as educators, have a responsibility to discuss these issues in classrooms across the curriculum and that this should go hand in hand with banning any Nazi activity in whatever form it takes. I have since visited Auschwitz 3 times, Dachau, and Sachsenhausen 3 times and feel the same as I did on that train from Harwich to London 30 years ago. What do you think?
Finally, on a human rights and English language teaching course in Sinaia in Romania in 2003 we discussed ways in which to use this famous quote below, attibuted to Pastor Niemoller, himself imprisoned first in Sachsenhausen and then Dachau. It is one I still use and one I always remember on Holocaust Memorial Day. This date, January 27th, was chosen as it is the anniversary of the day in 1945 on which the Soviet Army liberated the largest Nazi concentration camp – Auschwitz-Birkenau.
First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out–
because I was not a communist;
Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out–
because I was not a socialist;
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out–
because I was not a trade unionist;
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out–
because I was not a Jew;
Then they came for me–
and there was no one left to speak out for me.
This is another version of it which I had on the wall of my bedroom when I was at university.
and which you can now get as a T-Shirt too. I know which T-Shirt I prefer!