Flipping through the headlines yesterday, one stopped me in my tracks, “Hitler Themed Wine for Sale in Supermarkets Sparks Outrage“.
I just couldn’t process it. This is Adolf Hitler, the leader of Germany’s Nazi Party, probably one of the most powerful dictators of the 20th century. The man responsible for starting World War II, anti-Semitism, and the murder of 6 million Jews and others during the Holocaust. This man is now jauntily perched on front label of a wine bottle on a grocery shelf. I wondered if this was real.
Apparently so. The wine is from a winery in northeastern Italy, Vini Lunardelli. From its “Historical Series.” The collection includes dictators from Napoleon to Hitler to Stalin. The wines are sold in more than 50 stores across Italy and can also be ordered directly from the winery’s website, where buyers can customize bottles with their choice of images of Hitler, or figures like his wife Eva Braun or well-known Nazi Heinrich Himmler, along with Nazi slogans. And gets worse. This wine has been produced since 1995, yes 1995.
I have so much outrage. As someone who puts being a good human above all else. As someone who is of half Ukrainian descent who is watching this current war with a heavy heart and sees some of the same dictator decisions driving destruction.
A fellow wine journalist John M. Fodera, the owner & publisher of Tuscan Vines, echoed my outrage and he shared with me some very personal, powerful experiences below:
On September 1, 1939, evil incarnate was unleased across the Polish frontier. Although this scourge was manifesting for nearly a decade, the unprovoked, unwarranted and cold-blooded invasion of Poland would finally put the world on notice. Hell on earth was imminent. However horrible, however despicable and grotesque, this history must be remembered. Remembered, not glorified.
Remember like this…
Before my wife and I were married, she hired an Au Pair to help take care of her two young children. The young woman, who I’ll call Simone, was placed by a reputable agency. She was 19 years old at the time and grew up in what was once West Germany. One evening, they were together watching a special about Hitler and the Nazis on the History Channel. Simone asked incredulously, “Why are they saying so many terrible things about Hitler?” My wife’s mind stopped in full force. “What do you mean?” came her surprised reply. “Well, Hitler ended the German Depression, he built our industry, the Autobahn and made sure everyone had a car.” (Volkswagen means “People’s Car”) Simone simply didn’t know. She hadn’t been taught. The German curriculum in her schools just ignored the rest of the story. She learned a lot that night and so did we. This was in 2006.
Images of Hitler and Nazism are banned in Germany and Austria. This has long been a National Law. So, when I learned that many of the buyers of this wine were Germans crossing the border into Italy, I shook my head. Were they all millennials and post millennials like Simone that haven’t been taught? Maybe they’ve forgotten or chosen to forget? They need to remember, not glorify.
Remember like this…
In 1986, I was all of 18 years old on a school sponsored Easter recess trip to France and Germany. Besides being excited to be with my friends in a land where there was no drinking age, I was also excited that we’d be seeing some WWII history along the way. One of the sights we visited was the Struthof Concentration Camp in the Alsatian mountains near the border of France and Germany.
As we were taking the tour, the guide brought us into a large room with marble floors that had drains interspersed throughout. There were several marble tables in the room; to me they looked like odd operating room tables whose sides were tilted toward the center like a flatter “V”. The heads of the tables were raised 6” higher than the feet, which also contained a drain. This allowed the blood to flow freely off the tables.
Our guide told us this was the vivisection room; a place where the Nazi’s used to perform procedures on prisoners without anesthesia to judge pain tolerance. While we all began squirming uncomfortably, an older woman began screaming violently and shaking uncontrollably. If she was speaking a language, its origins were unknown to me; but it must have been German or French. She was helped out of the room by a few attendants. Later that night we learned that she had been on one of those tables. Her psychiatrist had returned with her to chase the demons away. Demons that tortured her for 43 years. And Struthof, although heinous, was very, very small in comparison to other death camps.
Remember like this… (John, I have relatives in WWI as well)
My family are older, and I was born later to my parents. My grandfathers fought in WWI. My father and all my uncles fought in WWII. My father lied about his age to join the Navy. Fortunately, they all returned home; but they carried their share of physical and emotional scars with them. They would be disgusted to see this. They always encouraged me to remember history, to learn from it, to cherish freedom and never forget. They wouldn’t like this. I don’t like this. They’d find it despicable and depraved.
Ironically, these bottles aren’t available in Germany or Austria, where there are laws against spreading Nazi propaganda. But they can be found in neighboring countries and according to the website, the series accounts for nearly half of their wine production.
Today, I was happy to read in an article in Vice.com that Winemaker Andrea Lunardelli told VICE World News via email that that he would be stopping production of these wines next year.
That happiness was short-lived he said it was produced for a market that wants to “remember” history, as well as in response to demand from customers. He further dropped my faith in humanity with his last response, “Besides, Hitler was a teetotaler, so we can even say that alcohol and Hitler are a nice joke.”
Ending with a quote summing this situation up. “All propaganda has to be popular and has to accommodate itself to the least intelligent of those it seeks to reach,” Adolf Hitler.