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Shaw: A Moorhead store is selling Nazi memorabilia. It's legal, but is it right?

“I don’t like it. It’s not right,” World War II veteran Vern Otterson said. “We were fighting against the Nazis. They were horrible. Why should anyone be running around selling Nazi stuff?”

German helmet on the belt of a soldier of the Second World War
Part of the German uniforms of WWII. Nazi memorabilia from similar uniforms are being sold at the Moorhead Antique Mall.
Artsiom Malashenko / Getty Images / iStockphoto
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MOORHEAD — It’s perfectly legal, and yet, it’s upsetting. Nazi memorabilia are on sale at the Moorhead Antique Mall. You can buy swastika flags, the insignia of the notorious SS, German Army helmets and German Army weapons, among other things.

I asked the apparent owner of the store if The Forum could publish photos of the exhibit, but she declined. Still, it’s easy to find similar-looking items on the internet.

The store has every right to sell these items, but it’s disturbing that someone is making money off memorabilia from one of the most murderous, barbaric and evil regimes in history.

The Nazis murdered more than 16 million people. Seven of them were related to Dina Butcher, of Bismarck. They were her grandmother, three aunts, an uncle and two cousins. They were exterminated in the gas chambers at Auschwitz. Butcher’s father amazingly survived the torture at the monstrous Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp in Germany, where 100,000 inmates were murdered.

“I’m appalled that these items are being sold,“ Butcher said. “We lost so many military people, and so many innocent people suffered from people wearing this stuff. This is a lack of sensitivity for people who remember the horrors from this. … These symbols represent the horrors inflicted when liars, narcissistic madmen and amoral grifters win elections.”

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Butcher is also troubled by people who purchase these items at the store.

“I am more concerned about the people who would be buying this Nazi paraphernalia,“ Butcher said. “The people buying them are likely not to even understand or remember the horrors to which this collection relates.”

“It’s awful to sell these items to celebrate and commemorate the vicious atrocities committed against Jews, Roma, gays and the disabled, among other groups,“ said Steve Hunegs, Executive Director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas. “Eighty years after the war, we strive to honor their memories.”

The apparent store owner told me the Nazi items are in space leased to vendors, and they can do what they want. I asked her if she had any problems with the Nazi memorabilia being sold in her store. She said she would not answer any more questions and declined to provide her name.

Nazi patches and a pin with a swastika.
Patches with Nazi and SS symbols and a pin, similar to items being sold at the Moorhead Antique Mall.
Shutterstock

“This exhibit is an insult to the memory of our World War II veterans who defended our country against these people,” Hunegs said.

He’s right. Those veterans saved the world.

About 419,000 Americans were killed in World War II, and another 672,000 were wounded. That’s roughly 1.1 million American casualties. That’s more than the entire combined population of North Dakota and St. Paul.

One of the wounded was Vern Otterson, 96, of Fargo. He was a medic and military police officer and took part in the horrific Battle of the Bulge.

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“Almost every day, I saw people get shot by the Nazis,” he said. “I cry when I think about it. A lot of them didn’t make it. It was terrible. War is hell.”

Otterson is very upset that the Nazi merchandise is for sale around here.

“I don’t like it. It’s not right,” he said. “We were fighting against the Nazis. They were horrible. Why should anyone be running around selling Nazi stuff?”

Runyon Peterson, of Dilworth, fought against the Nazis as part of legendary General George Patton’s 3rd Army. He was also among the soldiers who liberated the gruesome Buchenwald and Dachau concentration camps. Peterson died in 2006.

“I don’t think they should sell that stuff,” said Wayne Peterson, of West Fargo, who is Runyon’s son. “That stuff should have been buried and put away a long time ago. It represents atrocities.”

There are places that these items should be on public display. Those places include museums, documentary films and history books. However, this is merchandise that belonged to people who killed and tortured Americans and innocent civilians. Making a profit off it is blood money.

As Wayne Peterson said, “My father would be very upset about this, because he fought against all of this.”

Opinion by Jim Shaw
InForum columnist Jim Shaw is a former WDAY TV reporter and former KVRR TV news director.
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