Nazi-branded wine on sale in Italy in 2003. Photo: Giuseppe Cacace/Getty Images
An Italian winemaker that sells its product in bottles emblazoned with pictures of Adolf Hitler and Nazi slogans says it plans to discontinue the range following the latest outrage over the branding.Vini Lunardelli, a winery in northeastern Italy, has sold the offensive wine bottles since 1995, as part of a so-called “historical” line of wines, which also features dictators like Francisco Franco and Josef Stalin.
The wines are sold in more than 50 stores across Italy, and can also be ordered direct from the winery’s website, where buyers can customise “collectible” bottles with their choice of images of Hitler, or figures like his wife Eva Braun or leading Nazi Heinrich Himmler, along with Nazi slogans such as Blut und Ehre ("Blood and Honor") and "Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer" (“One people, one realm, one leader”.)While the product can be sold legally in Italy, they’re illegal in countries like Germany or Austria, where there are strict laws against glorifying Nazism or spreading Nazi propaganda. The “Hitler wine” has sporadically made headlines over the years, often after a shocked foreign tourist encounters the product in an Italian store, as Dagmar Millesi, an Austrian doctor did, earlier this month.“The store employee said Germans very much like to buy these wines, and they are clearly the big hit there,” Millesi told Austrian news site Heute. “The saleswoman was even amused at my outrage … nobody is angry about it, no one forbids it … I couldn’t believe it.”The wine has also outraged Jewish groups. “The marketing strategy is disrespectful to all victims of the Nazi regime and their descendants,” Germany’s Jewish Forum for Democracy and Against Antisemitism said in a statement to VICE World News.
The Simon Wiesenthal Centre, which has repeatedly protested against the wine, said the wine was clearly targeted at a market of fascist sympathisers who sought to glorify the crimes of the Third Reich.“When people buy bottles like that, they're going home to toast what Hitler stood for and that’s outrageous,” Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the centre’s director of global social action, told VICE World News.
He said that while the fact there was a market for such an “in-your-face celebration of evil and genocide” was hardly shocking, “that doesn’t make it less depressing.”“Antisemitism, racism, and hatred didn’t die in a bunker with Adolf Hitler, and now here we are in 2022 with people marketing wine with it.”Vini Lunardelli has repeatedly insisted that it is not “political.” Winemaker Andrea Lunardelli told VICE World News via email that he was “absolutely not a Nazi,” and that the Hitler wine was produced for a market that wants to “remember” history, as well as in response to demand from customers.“Unfortunately the most requested label [in the “historical” line] is Hitler – especially by Germans, but also by many British, Nordic, French and Russians,” he said. “But no Italian wants Hitler.”He said the company would discontinue the entire “historical” line of wines from the start of 2023, when he would take over the running of the winemaker from his father, because he did not like the line and was sick of the controversies around the product.
But he insisted that he was shutting down the line because he wanted to, rather than because anyone was making him, and that the offence taken to the product was overblown and unreasonable.“Whoever buys [the Hitler wine] is a collector, or remembers history, or wants nationalism against the current policies of multinationals… not against Jews,” he said.“Besides, Hitler was a teetotaller, so we can even say that alcohol and Hitler are a nice joke.”But the promise of withdrawing the line was little comfort to critics. Shimon Samuels, director for international relations for the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, has been involved in protests against the wine line since it was first launched 27 years ago. He told VICE World News that previous protests had seen the product temporarily removed from shelves, only to return later.“They wouldn’t be doing this if there wasn’t a market for this stuff,” he said.