Monday, November 2, 2009

Nazi Merchandise

Why would anyone go to Oktoberfest on November 1st? In my case, there were several reasons. Because my parents couldn't afford to take us far away, we went to ethnic festivals instead of traveling. My girlfriend had good memories of Oktoberfest with the San Diego German American Society in El Cajon. We thought it would be a fun place to take two of her sons to teach them about other parts of the world. We have taken them to other festivals, including a Dutch one earlier in the year. Also, having studied and listened to Dutch, I wanted to see what I could understand in German. I have understood some when it has come up in movies. Finally, I wanted to do a video slideshow and post it directly on this blog. That way, I could work out the bugs before posting the Dutch festival. As you can see, there is no video.

Even at this late date, Germans are often linked with Nazism. The GF went to Oktoberfest in El Cajon some years back with Czechs, who were in search of a Central European vibe. After too much beer, they started saying the hosts were, "A bunch of Nazis," and got thrown out. She remembers having a nice time, in spite of her friends' mouthing off.

We went to Old World in Huntington Beach, a tacky 1950s stucco development designed to look vaguely like Europe. It's run down now. Think of Solvang without maintenance.

Anyway, there was a German market with all sorts of products for homesick expats and immigrants. People spoke the language. As we walked around waiting for 2:00, when our free admission would be good, we went to other shops.

The other shops stopped me in my tracks. At one of them, I saw a CD with a bunch of old German World War II songs about bombing England, among other things. There were also t-shirts with Luftwaffe aircraft. One shop had a black shirt with an eagle, an iron cross, and a circle with a 90 degree cross hatch over it that didn't quite make a swastika that said, "It's about loyalty."

After that, I felt like a deer in the headlights, walking around aimlessly. I couldn't go inside, but I didn't leave right away either. Everyone looked so nice. Many people had Dachshunds they brought with them for sausage dog races later in the day. I didn't see any tattooed dimwits in gang regalia.

But still, it was their place. They couldn't have been unaware of what was in their stores. These items were on display, not hidden.

There was also a German American Community Church. While we walked around, I saw the pastor, an older German man, whose name was on the door. Later, the congregation started filing in. Most of them reflected the neighborhood demographics. They were mainly Mexican and Asian.

I doubt I'll ever go back, but if I do, I'll ask the pastor what's going on. Why do the shops sell Nazi stuff? How did he get a multi-racial congregation in a complex with shops selling what would be illegal in Germany?

Many Germans were born after the Nazi period, and most don't want to hear about such things. The stereotypes can be painful. I'm still shocked to have seen it being celebrated so openly.

We never went inside. After about 15 minutes of walking around, we left.

1 comment:

  1. The Germans in El Cajon weren't Nazis at all. My friends just had too much to drink and their own old resentments kicked in. The Germans were very forgiving though. They kicked them out for the night but told them to come back the next day, which they did.

    It was a different vibe in Huntington Beach. Too many Germans have had to live with the stigma of being called Nazis, that if they didn't support that view, they wouldn't have put up with the shops selling that trash.

    All of a sudden, Oktoberfest, (especially the warmed over November 1st version) didn't seem like it would be festive.