Not my best decision, I realise now.

imageBack in the day before I had children I spent my money on antiquities- Egyptian mummy beads and Roman pots and arrow heads and neolithic axes and all that good stuff.

These days, not so much.

But last week, my attention was drawn to the fact that the local auction place had uncut rubies up for sale (because my 8 year old has developed a little obsession with gemstones) and when I hopped on the website and saw that there were lots such as ‘Ancient and Medieval coins and artefacts’ and ‘Indian arrow heads’ and that sort of shenanigans I placed a few absentee bids.

One of the things that I bid on, sight unseen, was described as ‘Nazi medal’ and I placed a bid of $50 on it without really thinking much apart from ‘how the hell did that get here to Tasmania’ and ‘better here with me that with someone who would glorify it’.

And it wasn’t until I won it and picked it up yesterday that I realised that I’ve got a fucking Nazi medal in my house and I’m pretty uncomfortable with it.

I’ve forced myself to learn about the Holocaust so that I can teach it with passion and conviction to my students and yes, I cry in front of my Grade 10 class every year at some stage in the proceedings so I do consider myself quite knowledgeable of the period, but in a ‘I wish I didn’t know these things but they need to be remembered’ type of way. And in hind-site the thought of actually spending money on something ‘Nazi’ is gruesome but I was thinking more ‘piece of history, however unpleasant’ and not ‘symbol of actual evil in my house’.

So I need advice. What should I do with it? Should it just go in my collection as a powerful lesson for my boys when they are older, to accompany the stories that I already tell them about the Holocaust or should it be disposed of? What is your take on what should be done with Nazi memorabilia?

(Incidentally, it’s a War Merit Cross with Swords)

18 thoughts on “Not my best decision, I realise now.

  1. I think mostly that things are, just that, things. The only attributes they have are those that we bestow upon them; therefore, it is just going to depend how the medal makes you feel. It in itself can be neither bad or good. Doesn’t help you very much does it. Sorry.

    • That’s true to an extent- ‘things’ are repositories of our emotions. I feel pretty uncomfortable about it but that could be because I’m a big baby without enough to worry about at the moment.

  2. Never let a teaching opportunity slip by!

    Napoleon said, “A soldier will fight long and hard for a bit of colored ribbon.”

    Why might this be so?

    Well, you can use medals and ribbons in your teaching to explore the power of symbols and consider the attraction we have to owning them. This connects to many other considerations for critical thinking.

    Is the merit of this medal – awarded under a Nazi regime – any different in public recognition of merit than, say, the Order of Canada or The Distinguished Service Medal or The Legion of Merit? Why or why not?

    Is service to a community or nation any different in principle based on the kind of government or legal system that community or country uses? What about heroism? What about killing?

    Why should we care about the meaning of awarded symbols?

    Should we question our desire to achieve these kinds of awards?

    What’s more important: to serve/compete/achieve for the action itself or for the results? Are the results any greater or lesser depending on receiving ‘a bit of colored ribbon’? (Does it take a gold medal to ‘win’ an Olympic event or is achieving a personal best equivalent? Discuss.)

    Anyway, Eva, lots of opportunities here.

    I have a picture of the founders of a famous Canadian military unit that includes a family member. I display this picture and have had many interesting conversations with guests inquiring about it than any other piece of ‘art’ I display (I also collect Lincoln material and pictures). What I find so interesting is how much I have learned over many years from people commenting about it In other words, interesting memorabilia is a great way to jump start some really interesting conversations… if the memorabilia is understood to be meaningful for what it represents rather than just what it is.

    • These questions are so good (I actually said that out loud because it’s 6am here and I’m chatty while having my coffee. THEY ARE GREAT QUESTIONS! I said).
      Owning it doesn’t mean that I endorse any of the atrocities (because it’s hard to see a swastika and not have some feelings) but if I have some ‘go-to’ discussion points on hand then I can use it for discussion and awareness.

  3. In the vintage watch store I used to work at, we had a pocket watch that was given to a high ranking Nazi officer, and bore all the fancy engravings of the SS. It was wonderfully detailed watch and a great time piece, but knowing that it was given to a Nazi office made me feel unsettled for sure. I understand the dilemma!

    • I place a lot of importance on ‘things’, I guess that why I collect them (I’m horribly sentimental) so I think ‘unsettled’ is an excellent description.

  4. Buy a few more WWII medals — e.g., Soviet, Japanese, British, Australian, American (you can probably get all of them for not much more chisel than the Nazi one) — and bring them to class during the Holocaust unit, and discuss how, to their citizens, the Axis felt “normal” just like the Allies felt normal to us.

    Bear in mind, of course, that Hitler would have been the Napoleon of Germany except for the “minor embarrassment” of the slaughter of millions of Jews and ethnics. How, for example, would Germans today look upon their Fuhrer if he hadn’t gotten so worked up about the Jews?

    … Otherwise, it might be better to sell it. Eventually your kids will stumble onto the medal and wonder why you needed to purchase an heroic emblem from so evil a movement. (Hey, you might make a profit on eBay.)

  5. I think your students and kids will find the medal fascinating because it’s a concrete thing that was created around an enormously terrifying time in our world. I don’t think that by owning it and showing it to people you’re glorifying anything at all, or celebrating evil. I think you’re showing them a piece of terrible, fascinating, hopefully never to be repeated history.

    I’ve seen Nazi medals and watches in an antique shop in Sorell and I found myself examining them for a long time, contemplating where they came from, who wore them, the role they played in that period, the impact it had on so many people, etc. It wasn’t morbid fascination, it was reflection and emotion and a touch of fear.

    So I say keep that medal and show it to your students.

  6. Hey, I’m all good with preaching about the importance of using it to as a thing to reflect upon etc but KEEP THAT THING AWAY FROM ME!

  7. Haha that’s just funny. I bought a Nazi military training tape back in the day and still have it. I don’t think much about the bad side about it. I like to collect things and buying the tape was something I couldn’t say no to. I also have a Nazi pocket knife that was given to all soldiers. Save it, teach your kids about it and make sure you don’t show it to your Jew friends parents 😀

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