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Remember the public outcry in June, when a teenager from Alabama took a selfie in the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp and posted it on Twitter? Or the swastika ring for sale by a third-party vendor at Sears but that was removed after multiple complaints? This year has seen its share of seemingly ridiculous headlines that might make some of us wonder whether Nazi symbols have entered mainstream culture. While there is no question that some of these incidents are seriously worrisome (such as the poster depicting the “Arbeit macht frei” [“Work makes (you) free”] sign from the Dachau concentration camp, sold at Wal-Mart’s online store, again by an independent seller), there were plenty of others in cases where the right reaction is much more difficult to figure out.
Just think of the photo from a press conference in Israel last July that shows Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, with the German chancellor, Angela Merkel. Netanyahu’s finger casts a shadow on Merkel’s upper lip, making it appear as if she had a toothbrush mustache just like, yes, you guessed it, another German leader: Adolf Hitler. Sort of funny, right? Or maybe a bit unfair to Merkel, the first German chancellor to visit Dachau? Are we allowed to laugh about Hitler memes?

There is a growing cultural desire to laugh at Nazis. According to Gavriel D. Rosenfeld, a history professor at Fairfield University and author of the forthcoming book “Hi Hitler! How the Nazi Past Is Being Normalized in Contemporary Culture,” this makes sense: On the one hand, laughing at Hitler, Nazis and perhaps even the Holocaust renders the perpetrators and the atrocities they committed more tangible and makes them appear less omnipotent; on the other hand, however, it trivializes the horrors the regime committed.
Here are some “Nazi moments” that made headlines in the past year — and some thoughts on how to treat them.
Are We Being Paranoid?
If you thought that spotting a Hitler mustache on Merkel’s upper lip was a stretch, you might be shocked to find out where else people have seen Nazi symbolism. And this odd pastime has been around for a while: In 2013, a Michael Graves stainless steel tea kettle from J.C. Penney Co. was sold out in hours after posts pointing out a resemblance to Adolf Hitler’s mustache and side-parting hair went viral online. And more Nazi symbols were spotted this year. But were they actually there? There are people out there who are on the lookout for seeing Hitler at unexpected places, and they post their findings online. It can turn into a competition for the most creative application (consider the website dedicated to “Things That Look Like Hitler,” which has been around since March 2011) and, of course, attention and clicks.
Exactly how upset should we be about such news stories? “It’s a no-win situation,” historian Gavriel D. Rosenfeld said. It might be good to point them out so that Nazi symbols don’t slip into the mainstream — and then “before long, you’ll be in a place you don’t want to be,” said Rosenfeld. But there is the danger of crying wolf — so choose the focus of your anger wisely.
A Cozy Holocaust Shirt
The blue and white stripes were horizontal rather than vertical, and the yellow star had “Sheriff” written on it. Nevertheless, the resemblance of the kids’ shirt by Zara to the garb worn by prisoners in Nazi concentration camps was too much for many. After widespread protests online, the Spanish clothing company apologized, saying it was inspired by the sheriff’s star in classic Western films. In August the company pulled the shirt from its collection. That was not the first time Zara had come under fire: In 2007 it removed a handbag depicting a swastika from its collection.

Read more: http://forward.com/articles/211117/the-year-hitler-broke-the-internet/?p=all#ixzz3MHGwAXve