Thursday, October 08, 2009

Aftermarket Tabus

Last week I finished the first Second World War Luftwaffe model (as opposed to the post war and current Luftwaffe which is an entirely different entity) I have made in close to twenty years. It's a Stuka, finished as it might have looked serving on the Russian front in the winter of 1944. Like all Luftwaffe aircraft of the era, it has a Swastika (or more correctly a Hakenkreuz) on the tail fin.

I'll admit to being a lot more cognisant now of the meaning and history behind that symbol than I was in the eighties when I last applied it to a model. Sure when you are a kid you understand that the Nazi's were the bad guys, and probably not very nice people, but true appreciation of the evil and horror committed in the service of that insignia (for those who didn't experience it directly at least) only comes with the insight of adulthood.

It's sad in a way, that an ancient symbol adopted by peoples all over the world was utterly corrupted (in the west at least), possibly forever. Wikipedia has a good potted history of the swastika (link) and its long history. Such is the taint now associated with it that many if the images in the article are unintentionally jarring.
The tabu surrounding the Hakenkreuz in particular is often encountered in the modelling world. The swastika is conspicuously absent from kits made or marketed in Europe (public exhibition of the design is apparently actually illegal in Germany). It either disappears from the boxart as below (should be on the tail fin):

Or is discreetly blacked out:

It's an open question as to whether or not censorship in this way actually draws attention to that which is being obscured (it does for me at any rate).

For many manufacturers the swastika is also omitted from the decal sheet as well, hence the production of specialist aftermarket sheets like the one at the top of the post to fill the gap in the market. To finish the Stuka accurately I needed to pick one up. While a necessity, I found a sheet full of Hakenkreuz a little creepy to behold.

I haven't done a lot of modelling of Luftwaffe aircraft from that era, mostly because I am not as interested in them as I am in other types, but also because I wasn't quite comfortable recreating those subjects knowing what they were used in aid of. I'm revisiting them now since I am building again some of the kits I made as a kid, for nostalgic then and now reasons.

For example, I first built this kit of the Stuka in 1984 or so. See if you can spot the difference:

As a genre, aircraft of the Axis powers form a huge part of the available kits (a larger proportion I would wager than those of comparable Allied aircraft). I can understand why a large number of kits of Japanese World War Two aircraft are out there, since the industry's biggest players (and biggest market) are Japanese, but I don't fully understand the hobby's fascination with the hardware of a not only defeated, but demonstrably evil power. There is even a sub-genre known as "Luft '46" dealing exclusively with the designs planned by the Reich toward the end of the war, most of which were never built or flown.

I find it weird, even for a hobby notable for its more than occasional eccentricity.

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