Photo illustration by Alex Cook
Since its inauguration in 1956, the Eurovision song contest has been the biggest, cheesiest pop-music event in Europe, showcasing schmaltzy, sometimes bizarre entertainers and launching the careers of such culturally base phenomena as ABBA, Celine Dion, and RiverDance. This March, however, Europe’s version of American Idol featured a few unexpected guests: Nazis. Or, more accurately, drummers wearing Nazi regalia.
A performance by Denmark’s Eurovision entry, singer Emmelie de Forest’s “Only Teardrops,” featured drummers in Waffen-SS outfits that were reportedly grabbed by a costumer who was unaware that they were worn by the propagators of one of mankind’s worst atrocities. (They were made for a TV show about Nazis.) Luckily, DR, the network broadcasting the performance, realized the mistake and made the last-minute decision to blur the arm stripes that would have made the origin of the outfits clear. Everyone involved has since apologized for the blunder, chalking it up to an unfortunate oversight.
Even Danish left-wing radicals seem pretty relaxed about the gaffe. “It was human error,” said René Karpantschof, a sociologist and former member of BZ, a militant Danish squatter movement. “It’s quite clear that the artists used these costumes by accident and that no political agenda was involved… Danes are very sensitive people, but it depends on who the actors are. Hugo Boss designed very handsome SS uniforms. The artists must have seen the uniforms and thought, Wow they look nice… But I don’t know how they didn’t notice the band on the sleeve.”
Silas Adler, co-founder and creative director of Danish menswear label Soulland said that the reason for the lack of outrage could be that the Third Reich is ancient history. “Nazi symbolism is just as powerful today, but newer generations don’t associate the symbols with history as much.” He added that, for some young people, Nazi iconography isn’t always linked to events that happened long before they were born.
“For a lot of people, history is just a couple of sentences on Wikipedia,” Silas continued. “In general, military clothing is something that has always been in the fashion loop. I guess people are drawn to its tightness.”
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