'Nazi gnomes' spark scandal in Germany

Art gallery owner comes under investigation for displaying garden figurines giving Hitler salute.

nazi gnome 248 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
nazi gnome 248 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Not your garden-variety Nazi scandal, a display featuring golden gnomes giving the Hitler salute has fomented furor in the German city of Nuremberg, where an art gallery owner has come under investigation for displaying the controversial figurines in the gallery's display window. According to a report in the German newspaper Spiegel, the public prosecutor in Nuremberg launched the probe following an anonymous letter of complaint. Wolfgang Träg, a spokesman for the prosecution, told the German DPA news agency that displaying Nazi symbols was banned under the German constitution, unless the display adopted an unequivocally critical stance towards the National Socialist Party and its actions. "We are currently deciding whether the case of the garden gnomes is as clear cut as placards with crossed-out swastikas," Träg was quoted as saying. Art professor Ottmar Hörl, who created the exhibition, told DPA he was shocked at the reaction to his work. "I am completely stunned," he said, "in 1942 it would have been the Nazis massacring me because of this piece." He added that "presenting the master race as garden gnomes" was clearly satire. The prosecutor's office is currently allowing Hörl time to respond to the uproar, and according to the Spiegel report, both him and the gallery owner could ultimately be sentenced for their connection to the provocative display. Earlier this year, Hörl, president of the Nuremberg Academy of Fine Arts since 2005, displayed 700 of the Nazi garden figures in Italy and the Belgian city of Gent, where they were reportedly seen by over 40,000 people. According to the Spiegel report, there were no official complaints registered in either country over the exhibition, entitled "Dance with the Devil," which was even said to have garnered positive reactions from the Jewish community.