Garden gnome’s Nazi salute lands artist and gallery owner in trouble

By Calvin Palmer

A garden gnome with its right arm raised in a Nazi salute has sparked an investigation by prosecutors after it was displayed in an art gallery window in the German city of Nuremberg.

“The investigation is ongoing and people are being interviewed,” Wolfgang Träg a spokesman for the public prosecutors’ office.

Nazi symbolism has been outlawed in Germany since World War Two but Träg said investigators may establish that the gnome is ridiculing the Third Reich.

“It will also depend on what the artist and the owners of the gallery have to say for themselves about the whole thing,” he added.

Gallery owner Erwin Weigl, 67, said: “It is purely an artistic object.Every day the gnome attracts lots of interest from normal people.”

The artist, German-born Ottmar Hörl, 59, has designed numerous exhibitions and projects in public spaces including the large blue euro sculpture in front of the European Central Bank in Frankfurt.

“I was a bit surprised that this gnome has produced a reaction like this,” Hörl said. “Until now everyone has understood it.”

He first designed the Nazi-saluting gnome for an exhibition in Belgium against right-wing extremism.

“Portraying the German master race as garden gnomes was an ironic gesture.”

But a member of the Jewish community, 86-year-old Arno S. Hamburger, called it “utterly tasteless” and “harmful”.

“The joke stops here,” he said.

Nuremberg was the setting for huge Nazi showpiece rallies during the 1930s. After Germany’s defeat in 1945, Nuremberg was chosen for the trials that prosecuted the surviving Nazi leaders for crimes against humanity and supporters of the regime for war crimes.

[Based on reports by Bild and AFP.]

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Filed under Europe, History, News, World War Two

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