When is a Swastika not a Swastika (one more rant)

(warning – no comics content whatsoever)


My eldest son is 11 years old and fascinated by machinery. He was thrilled when he “inherited” his uncle’s old Fleischmann HO railtrack, and he was particularly impressed by the locomotive that’s pictured above, which is almost a foot long and looks as cool as a steam loc can. Indeed, the aesthetic qualities of this streamlined machine from the thirties can hardly be denied. It would not be out of place in a steampunk movie, if you ask me.

However, there is a problem. This is a model of a German locomotive that was in operation in the nineteen thirties, i.e. slap bang in the middle of the Nazi regime, when everything but the kitchen sink (or quite possible, including the kitchen sink) was adorned by the Swastika, Nazi symbol of choice. After the Second World War, Germany introduced an absolute ban on the use of the Swastika, and this ban is enforced today (even when the symbol is used in an explicitly anti-fascist context, as this article from Der Spiegel explains).

And so, the Fleischmann people were faced with a dilemma : they pride themselves on very realistic models on a particularly small scale, but at the same time they really don’t want a run-in with the law or, even worse, be branded as neo-nazi’s. What to do, what to do ?

Luckily, HO scale is so small that you need a magnifying glass to actually notice small details. And so, they modified the arms adorning the locomotive and the tender, replacing the actual Swastika with what can only be described as some sort of carpet beater, as shown below.


(on the tender)


(on the locomotive)

The point to this all ? I don’t think there is any, since I don’t expect that, by using the image of a commonplace utensil, the Fleischmann people meant to imply a socio-historical criticism of the acceptance of Nazi excesses by the German public at large. Let’s just leave it at this : there’s no limit to the human talent for hypocrisy…

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