Nazi imagery vs Stalinist imagery

I’ve always wondered why Stalinist era Soviet imagery is acceptable whereas Nazi imagery is not. In almost every large city in America and Western Europe, there are nightclubs or bars with Soviet themes with Communist posters, artwork and decor. I understand that the neither the patrons nor the owners are actually Communists, or support what the Stalin regime had done. Its done purely for kitsch factor, and for the impressive visual display of the propaganda artwork. Clothing splashed with the visage of Stalin, Mao, Che, etc are also popular, and are never under scrutiny by the politically correct.

However, you will never see a Nazi/SS product with similar intent. I remember there was a Nazi themed nightclub in South Korea, and was fiercely attacked by Western media for “insensitivity”. The Koreans going to this place were not nazis by any stretch of the imagination, and were enjoying the decor and style in much the same way an American partygoer would drink at KGB or whatever Soviet style bar there is.

You could argue that these Koreans were mocking the lives of the people killed under Hitler, but what about all the people who died in the Gulag?

From a strictly artistic point of view, both styles are equally attractive. From a historical point of view, both parties were equally brutal. So why the difference in acceptance? Will nazi memorabilia ever be “kitsch”?

Well, Western Europe, at least, suffered a lot more directly from the Nazis than the Communists.

If I can focus just upon the Korean incident…

As I recall from the News of the Weird blurb I read about the Korean club, as well as this TimeAsia article, one of the more attractive qualities the Nazis had to one clubgoer was, “at least they dressed well.”

It implies an indifference firmly based upon ignorance.

Now, I’m willing to concede that that particularly vacuous point was focused upon while obscuring whatever kitsch factor Nazis have, but this is an example of life imitating comic art. Witness Mel Brooks and his exceedingly bold 1968 film The Producers, in which one of the characters has a very similar comment: “Did you know, I never knew that the Third Reich meant Germany. I mean it’s just drenched with historical goodies like that…”

I can’t explain my own cognitive disassociation between the Nazis and the Stalinists, but somehow it’s there, and somehow I’m excusing it in part because I feel I’m modestly acquainted with the evil that men do. If you want to stand me up as a real life straw man, I should add that somewhere around here I have a Hitler propaganda poster trading card, some Soviet spyglasses, and just a couple of weeks ago I slept in Stonewall Jackson’s bedroom.

All I can say is that somehow I find a way to excuse all of it as humor, and deign to not express some of that macabre humor in improper company. Not an excuse. Just a statement.

IMO what differentiates Stalin from the Nazis is that the Nazis made the holocaust virtually an integral part of the law. Stalin’s behavior was to deny a crime was being committed. Add to that that there was not a claim of a “master race” coming from Stalin.

Today there is yet another difference: even in Russia the old communist symbols are not banned, in Germany and other European nations, the Nazis and symbols are.

Curious note: the Nazi swastika is not exactly in the way the swastika was represented since time immemorial: Hitler turned the symbol 45 degrees:

The revolutionary themes and symbols of the soviets have a different origin and context.

IMO only the usage of the image of Stalin could qualify as being at the same level of the swastika; after all, he engineered the famine -for example- in Ukraine.

I’m a fervent anti-Communist and anti-Fascist. (Skip debate on whether Nazism was really a form of fascism or not, please.)

I’m of the opinion that they were equally evil, though in slightly different ways. (The Nazis were more openly evil, the Communists less so, which more insidious and perverse.)

At the same time as this intellectual appraisal, I’ll admit that Nazi stuff evokes a more visceral reaction that Communist stuff. I’d be willing to be that this is true for most Westerners whose friends/families didn’t directly suffer from Communism.

The Nazis, in some horrific sense, broke our cherries to mass slaughter. We saw images of Nazi genocide before we had pictures and films of other genocides. Yes, there were many slaughters in the USSR before the Nazi slaughters, but there was a sort of ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy between the Western media and the USSR. Yes, we have horrific skull-piles from Cambodia (and Rwanda, which is ethnic slaughter than class slaughter), but as in most fields of endeavor, we give disproportionate attention to the pioneers.

During WWII, it was in the interest of the West to turn a blind eye to the Communist crimes. Enemy of our enemy is our friend and all that. After WWII, paradoxically, it was also in the West’s interests to not concentrate on Communist atrocities, so as to not increase the risk of the Cold War turning hot.

The West, or at least the USA, has a much larger/vocal Jewish community than it does a Ukrainian, Russian, Chinese, or Cambodian population. Jews in the West have quite properly kept the memory of the Holocaust alive, in both High Culture settings and in movies, TV, etc. Further evidence in this regard is that the Nazis turned their bloodthirsty efforts on Gypsies too, but Gypsies aren’t exactly a numerous and vocal group in the West, so we more or less ignore that.

There are other, more minor factors, like the fact that the Nazis and their archives were captured and the monsters tried in the immediate aftermath of their crimes. If the situation had been reversed, with the USSR collapsing in 1946 and the Nazis lasting till 1990, the lack of immediacy, the death of monsters, and the lack of evidence would have made the Nazis appear less evil and the Soviets more so.

Are there really that many communist themed clubs and bars? I find that difficult to believe.

The commies were just as bad as the nazis, Stalin made Hitler look like an amateur strictly from a body count perspective. Both ideologies should be shunned on human decency alone.

HayekHeyst, I would add one more item to your list. Communism enjoyed a longer period of fashionability in the West. It was (and is in some circles) fashionable amongst intellectuals. While facism enjoyed some similar adherents here, it was never as widespread, and never as fashionable amongst the intellectual elite (whoever they are).

They are us.

And let us not forget Walt Disney and Henry Ford.

I’m not sure you and I are the intellectual elite, at least I hope not. :wink:

I realize that Hitler had his supporters in america as well. And I admit my memory of this little chapter of history is probably lacking. But it seems to me that the communists enjoyed a much longer period and a broader apeal of fashionability.

Personally, I am more intrigued by the possibility that much of Hitler’s eugenics he adopted from laws here. But that’s just me.

Although I don’t know about this for sure, living a couple of blocks from “The People’s Republik”, I would easily believe it.

I have another guess. Separate from the idea of Stalinist or Nazi government, it’s a bit easier to identify with people who lived under Stalin than people who lived under Hitler. I never saw the animated film Anistasia, but didn’t it take place in Stalinist Russia? Don’t you think that an animated film in Nazi Germany would definitely have a different feel (I’m assuming, again, not having seen it)?

While I don’t consider every person who lived in Nazi Germany evil, I tend to have an image in my mind of citizens in the Communist regime as being wholly separate from their government, as much as the citizens in 1984. Oppressed and opposed. Those posters of Stalin are not to commemorate supporting Stalin, but because that’s what the era’s hoi polloi would have had to live with.

It is quite simple: Many are willing to casually overlook the fact that the various Communist regimes have killed more civilians than did Nazi Germany. Why do they overlook that fact? Because communism and communist regimes enjoy a sort of ‘esteemed status’ among self-described intellectuals and leftists. From the Duranty series for the New York Times (given a Pulitzer, that I believe was never revoked), to the modern day support for Castro and various Marxist uprisings (heck, look at the romanticized view of Che Guevara that is portrayed), the modern Western Left has a near-endless capacity for glossing over the past and current atrocities of Leftist extremists. And their were a whole heckuva lot of them. I can only think of one Nazi regime that went a bit apeshit; How many communist regimes did the same, or worse?

It’s only because we never went to real war against Russia. Sure we had the cold war and there was some political demonization occurring, but never a life and death, wartime propaganda. A death blow propaganda, to make them a defeated country, as Germany. We owe a lot of our prejudices to military Psyops lingering from our Grandparents era. Another 50 years and Nazi Chic will be the"in" thing.

Gotta disagree. Tacky as they sometimes were (I’m looking at YOU, Hermann Göring!), Nazi clothes at least fit and were of good quality with good color sense, though it’s hard to mess up black, white, and feld grau. Soviet clothes were dreadful in color, fit, style, and quality.**

Most Nazi artifacts were instant kitsch. We’ll have to wait for them to become inoffensive kitsch. I see that some Blacks are collecting pickaninny dolls and other artifacts of America’s racist past, thereby negating some of their power. Maybe that will happen with Nazi artifacts.

Naziism has existing adherents who are really creepy, so that will slow the mellowing of attitudes towards their stuff. Commies, on the other hand, well, the bad ones are dead and all that’s left are cranky old people who can be laughed at safely. Were there a revival of the scarier Soviets I can see those bars changing their decor.

I’ve heard that the Nazis brought in a Berlin operatic costume designer to help with the SS uniforms. I’ve no idea if that’s true–one of these things you hear at a loud and drunk party.

The clunky Soviet fashions were clearly a precursor to LL Bean and grunge. A sort of anti-fashion, as opposed to the ‘glam’ of the Nazis.

The Stalinist purges didn’t capture the imagination the way the Nazi death-camps did.

Also, the Nazis openly persecuted various ethnic groups, which we really, really frown on in today’s society. Stalin focused on political dissidents (well, anyone who was inconvenient, really).

And frankly, it’s a lot easier for Jewish advocacy groups to keep the Holocaust in the public memory than for anyone to keep the Gulag in people’s awareness.

Net result: Nazis are pure evil, while Stalinist Communists are charmingly evil reminders of other days. Go figure.

Making excuses for Stalin is morally equivilant to Holocaust denial.

But BroCad, has anybody in this thread done that?

Because the Nazis tried to wipe out the Jews. The Nazis lost.

Anastasia was in Leninist Russia, I believe, or at the very beginning of Stalinist Russia, but since they left St. Petersburg very early on for France, it’s hard to say.

Plus, as much I as I love the movie, it was not historically accurate, so I wouldn’t use that as an example.

I would think that Nazi kitsch is automatically associated with the Holocaust, while Soviet kitsch would not automatically be associated with Stalin’s purges. There was a lot more to the Soviet Union than that historical period, whereas the Nazis just had WWII. So a lot of Soviet themes might bring to mind the 80’s and Gorby.