It’s been only two weeks since I quoted Reverend Martin Niemöller’s poem, “First they Came … ,” in response to the recent removal of Confederate monuments in Charlottesville, Virginia. Since that time, there have been additional military monuments removed; a bust of Christopher Columbus destroyed in a Yonkers, NY, park; efforts made to rebrand military bases named after Confederate generals; and even a call to remove Charles A Lindberg’s name from Terminal 1 at the Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport (because of the aviator’s pro-Nazi and anti-Semite stances). Two weeks ago, I implored our hobby to speak up before they “came for us.” But now, it appears we didn’t speak up soon enough.
THE FIRST ACTION TO DIRECTLY AFFECT THE HOBBY
The “Battlefield Show” has been held at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds for a majority of its 30-year existence. This past weekend, the Show’s management sent out a letter to all of its vendors. The letter announced that any artifacts bearing a swastika or SS runes will no longer be permitted at the show.
This is not a “West German” approach where collectors simply put a sticky dot over the offensive symbols. The way the notice is written, if an item has any of the offensively-deemed symbols, they will not be allowed at the venue. Failure to comply will result in expulsion and future exclusion.
In part, the letter reads:
In accordance with paragraph 11 of the Rules of the Minneapolis St. Paul Military Relic and Collectors Show, LLC (the “Show”), it has adopted an Offensive Product and Conduct Policy.
The Show’s Offensive Product and Conduct Policy prohibits any item being displayed or for sale on the premises that promotes hatred, violence, racial, sexual or religious intolerance, or promotes organizations with such views as KKK, Aryan Brotherhood, Neo-Nazis or Nazis, Nazis political groups, SS, White supremacy groups, ethnic supremacy groups, or any group that would meet with the definition of this paragraph.
It goes on to define what is prohibited:
The Show’s Offensive Product and Conduct Policy prohibits any items showing the Third Reich Nazi German Swastika (and/or SS Runic symbol) are prohibited from sale or display at the Show. This includes, but not limited to, flags, banners, armbands, propaganda posters, brown shirts, uniforms, hats, helmets, badges, insignia and photographs of Third Reich Political Individuals. Holocaust items, Concentration Camp uniforms, and WW2 Jewish identification insignia are not permitted.
The letter also bans the wearing of any uniforms or costumes that don’t meet the standard of non-offensiveness:
Individuals wearing WW2 German Uniforms, Nazi Insignia, or any hate group symbols are not permitted in the Show.
And finally, a few more prohibitions are noted:
Klu Klux Klan symbols, KKK relics and memorabilia are not permitted.
Confederate Battle Flags are not permitted at the Show.
Complying with this Policy is a condition of your participation in and attendance at the Show.
THESE ARE ODD TIMES
Historically, people who feel their identity is threatened (by the government, poverty, neighbors, etc.). grasp at elements of society as “offensive.” In the current era of arguments over immigration, “antifas” and “white supremacists” clashing in the streets (this would be a cool Spanish Civil War reenactment if they weren’t using real tear gas, clubs, and rubber bullets!), and the destruction of historical monuments, none of us in the hobby should be too surprised that we are on the list.
Face it, apart from a few folks, most of us acknowledge that Nazis were bad, the Civil War (despite all counter arguments) was about the right to produce cotton in an economy based on slave labor, and that the Soviet Union was responsible for the murder of millions of dissidents. Despite the overwhelmingly horrific history that artifacts represent, we acknowledge that they are the conduits of history and not the source of the ill-will of the eras. Regardless, the masses do not share the insight of historians or collectors. And they aren’t in the frame of mind to sit and listen to “our side” of the stories.
We are going through a volatile time. And despite many peoples’ declaration of it being “their right” or “their responsibility” to wave history in the face of people who see it as something else, there are ways in which we collectors can weather the storm without turning to the streets.
In fact, the Ohio Valley Military Society has made a step toward the peaceful, respectful display and sale of military relics in a policy that they published in their most recent newsletter. It reviews what they consider as rules of standard operation for the MAX Show with plans to implement the same for the Show of Shows and the OVMS Wilmington Shows. It is worth all of us reviewing and considering for other shows in the nation.
Charlottesville, the Swastika, and MAX Show Rules
We are all aware of the tragic events that recently occurred at a riot in Charlottesville, VA. Events such as this can cause a rise in the emotions of the general public against certain symbols, both historic and modern, that can be perceived as emblems of hate. Because of this current heated political climate, the OVMS believes it is a good time to remind our members, dealers, guests and the public of some long standing MAX Show and OVMS rules. These rules will be strictly enforced at Monroeville.
Since the beginning of the MAX Show over 30 years ago, three rules have been in place [regarding]:
- NAZI FLAGS: No original Nazi flag of any kind may be displayed on a pole, rack, cross pole, or by hanging it on a wall. Original Nazi flags may be displayed folded on a table.
- ADOLF HITLER BUSTS: The bust of Adolf Hitler may not be displayed upright and must be laid flat on the table.
- UNIFORMS WITH NAZI ARMBANDS: Nazi political and military uniforms that have as part of their insignia a swastika armband may not be displayed on a mannequin, half mannequin, dummy, and rack, or hung on a wall. They may be displayed flat on a table.
These rules were first established as part of the agreement with the owners of the Monroeville facilities and, even though they may not have been strictly enforced at times, they have never been revoked.
In addition to these MAX Show rules, the OVMS also has several relevant rules.
- NAZI ARMBANDS MAY NOT BE WORN: Participants at all OVMS may not wear uniforms or clothing that displays a Nazi armband. Anyone wearing such a garment will be asked to remove it. If they do not, they well be escorted from the show, including any adjacent property such as the parking lot.
- KU KLUX KLAN MEMORABILIA: The sale, display and wearing of Ku Klux Klan (KKK) memorabilia, both historic and modern, is absolutely prohibited.
- EXTREMIST POLITICAL GROUPS: The emblems, uniforms and propaganda of modern extremist or “hate” groups on both the left and right are forbidden to be sold, displayed or worn at all OVMS shows. This includes, but is not limited to, groups such as the Aryan Nation, the Black Panther Party, neo-Nazis, the Antifa movement, the KKK, the Anarchist movement, white and black supremacists, and any other group the OVMS Board deems not in the interest of the society.
- REPRODUCTION NAZI AND CONFEDERATE FLAGS: Any modern or reproduction Nazi or Confederate battle flags, or patches displaying the same may not be displayed or sold at OVMS shows. Historic, original Confederate flags from the Civil War and their associated veteran organizations such as the United Confederate Veterans and the Sons and Daughters of the Confederacy may be sold and displayed without restriction.
In addition to these rules, the OVMS asks that those attending our shows use common sense and courtesy in their dress. The society supports historical reenactments, living history, and military vehicle collector groups that often dress in historic uniforms. However, for the foreseeable future, we would strongly suggest that you not wear WWII German military uniforms.
Also, please use discretion and do not wear modern clothing, such as caps and t-shirts, which display Nazi and WWII German military emblems.
While we understand that some of these measures may not be popular, the OVMS feels that they are necessary under the current conditions, simply to protect the future of our shows. Your assistance and compliance with these rules will ensure that we can remain at our current show facilities and hotel.
The OVMS has taken important first steps to preserve our rights to assemble and display, sell, and collect military relics, no matter what part of history they represent. While it may be too late for the Battlefield Show to implement similar policies and maintain their long-running residency at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds, it is not too late for other shows.
Battling in the streets is not going to make any points for our hobby. Exercising rational judgment, however, can (hopefully) get us through these difficult times.
Preserve the Memories,
Editor, Military Trader and Military Vehicles Magazine