With the 60th Anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz two weeks away, Nazis continue to make headlines across Europe. Princes and politicians, in their different ways, are queuing up to associate themselves with Europe´s darkest legacy. Reactions to these people´s antics reveal a lot about ourselves.
Take our old friend Jean-Marie le Pen and young Prince Harry of England. Strange bedfellows, to be sure. But both have been draping themselves in the colours of the Nazis this week. And both have caused explosions of outrage, casting a debris of legal steps and public penance in their wake.
Le Pen said: "If the Germans (ie. during the Occupation of France in WWII) had conducted mass-executions, as is commonly believed, they wouldn´t have needed concentration camps for political prisoners." His interview (in Rivarol) contains much more along the same lines, basically boiling down to the sentiment that the German Occupation wasn´t perfect, but it wasn´t as bad as they say. His statements are a calculated, fart-like emission of contempt aimed at embarrassing the political mainstream and getting his fading party back into the papers. And predictably enough, it worked: Justice Minister Dominique Perben at once announced there would be legal consequences. A welcome PR pay-off, therefore, for an old man´s cunning.
Prince Harry, for his part, wore a hand-made swastika to a fancy-dress party. Provocative, maybe, but not exactly a political statement. Still, it made the front page of the (anti-monarchist) Sun in the UK. A PR disaster for the Royals, the price of a young man´s naivety.
An old man´s cunning, a young man´s naivety. They´re polar opposites, and yet connected. For in this way the living mock the dead.