In my previous post, I mentioned that I photographed an edged weapons collection for a friend. I talked previously about one of his American possessions, but the real meat of his collection consists of several pieces of WWII German regalia.
My friend certainly does not have any sympathies with the Nazi movement. He collects these items because they are pieces of history, because they are interesting, and because they are, frankly, quite beautiful objects, despite being tinged with what we now equate with evil.
I recall the scene in American Beauty where the teen girl flips a delicate piece of dinnerware to find a swastika printed on the back.
Nazis are now the perfect villains, to the point where they are now cliché. Their goal is now almost universally reviled, and yet they looked so damned good while doing unspeakable things to millions of people. That’s incredibly cinematic. In a film, you can kill as many Nazis as you like, because it’s easy to forget that Nazis were real (tragically misguided) human beings who happen to look good while they die like flies. Quentin Tarantino bucked history and murdered Hitler himself in a tremendously gory fashion, and audiences cheered in the theater. This is the sort of thing that the term “zeitgeist” was made for.
Items like these beautiful daggers are reminders of the seductive image control that helped lure an entire country of people to become monsters. It’s no mystery to me why my friend collects such things.