Friday, April 19, 2024 -
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Gnominally speaking

A story that came our way this week — “Nazi-saluting gnomes being probed” — conjured images far stranger than we cared to contemplate, yet we felt compelled to do precisely that.

A German art professor, one Ottmar Horl, has made an exhibit of gold-painted gnomes — diminutive forest creatures of Teutonic folklore, famously popular as lawn and garden ornaments — entitled “Dance with the Devil.”

The problem is that they all give the infamous Nazi salute. While Horl claims this to be fully in line with his satirical artistic objectives, it also is against the law in modern Germany. Prosecutors are currently debating whether to prosecute the display of these arm-raising gnomes.

Tempted though we may be, we will resist all temptation to make light of what, on the surface, might appear to be a ridiculous situation.

Nor do we wish to jump to conclusions, fully aware that Germany has extremely valid reasons for banning the salute and a wide variety of other symbols and images associated with the Nazi era. Still, Horl has a valid point himself. By creating gnomes which mimic Nazi militaristic gestures, the artist is clearly not glorifying Nazism, but poking fun at it. His gnomes are not honoring Hitler but defanging him — demystifying the great propagandistic lie that Hitler surrounded himself with. That’s a noble task, and one that the little folks from the woods seem only too happy to perform. Let them do it, we say.

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