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CustomBricks possibly in trouble for Nazi customs

CCCCCC UKMember Posts: 18,896
This has just popped up on my BBC newsfeed ...
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-42325455

A German father is campaigning online to stop Lego-style toy Nazi soldiers being sold on Amazon.

Manuel Hegel's petition says the toys "represent officers, soldiers etc of the Waffen-SS and thereby trivialise National Socialism".

The toys are sold by a German firm, CustomBricks, and Lego says they do not comply with Lego's own values.

A Lego statement said the Danish toy firm "does not in any way sponsor or endorse the product - on the contrary".


This could be an interesting ride, especially for other German soldier custom parts sold through ebay and bricklink. I wonder if those sellers will have to stop German buyers seeing their items.



Comments

  • HuwHuw Brickset Towers, Hampshire, UKAdministrator Posts: 6,701
    It's the sort of thing that might prompt LEGO to clamp down on custom printers to the detriment of everyone involved.
    pharmjoddatsunrobbieFizyxkiki180703davetheoxygenmancatwrangler
  • CCCCCC UKMember Posts: 18,896
    I'm not sure how they'd do it, without cutting off supply completely which is surely impossible. And even then there are loads of custom parts like brickwarriors and brickarms they frequently get called LEGO. And that is before all the non-LEGO "LEGO compatible" minifigures on ebay.
    pharmjod
  • plasmodiumplasmodium UKMember Posts: 1,939
    It's tricky, isn't it. Because on the one hand you've got more-or-less harmless dioramatists (is that a word?) who want to create accurate-looking WWII MOCs. And I don't see a particular reason why they shouldn't be allowed to do so - surely Airfix and other similar kits have historical "bad guy" models/kits?

    But then you've also got the minority of nutters for whom this is a legitimation of Nazism and an opportunity to show support by buying/displaying merchandise.

    And somewhere in between is the average buyer who just buys (maybe for their kids) without looking closely enough to see that they are Nazis (or that they are customs/clones).

    Honestly, as a history student I'm not 100% sure the 'trivialisation' of National Socialism is entirely the fault of the toys. I'd be inclined to see it as a broader societal issue which (particularly in Germany, as I understand it) makes the Nazi past basically 'taboo' and thus fetishises it (ie, makes it more attractive because it is forbidden). I think the answer really is a more open and rigorous examination of the past in the education system which would stop people from innocently becoming 'accidental Nazis' like the guy from the petition is afraid of and which would take away the attraction to the illicit that they currently hold. But that's my history student opinion!

    In reality, should Nazi figures be available? Maybe, but it should be very clear that they are not official Lego (I think Lego's attitude of avoiding history/politics is perfectly reasonable - ignoring Indiana Jones for the time being!), nor should they be marketed as toys - the problem therein being that they already are toys by very nature of being Lego!

    Hopefully this will be worked through in a way which benefits Europe's relationship with the past (I genuinely mean this - how we relate to the past is important in terms of our national identities and public perceptions swing national and international policy decisions) without negatively affecting the 'legitimate'* custom sellers.

    *I know that's contentious, but as far as I'm concerned, clearly labelled customs which do not replicate Lego's own lines and products are fine, but outright clones aren't.
    pharmjodgmonkey76eggshenSandmancatwrangler
  • datsunrobbiedatsunrobbie West Haven , CTMember Posts: 1,569
    One of the surest ways to increase demand for a thing is to try to make it unavailable. 

    Growing up in the US in the 70's, I built a lot of plastic model kits from Airfix, Tamiya, Hasegawa, Monogram, Revell, etc. There were kits for planes, ships, and armor for both Axis and Allies. Only building one side would have been pretty boring compared to building both and making dioramas.
  • CCCCCC UKMember Posts: 18,896
    One of the surest ways to increase demand for a thing is to try to make it unavailable. 

    Growing up in the US in the 70's, I built a lot of plastic model kits from Airfix, Tamiya, Hasegawa, Monogram, Revell, etc. There were kits for planes, ships, and armor for both Axis and Allies. Only building one side would have been pretty boring compared to building both and making dioramas.
    Similar here in the UK. Even though they are toys, I never really thought that plastic soldiers necessarily trivialise war and are partially educational as you consider history (at some level) while playing with them. Just like costumes for re-enactments in appropriate situations are more educational than the dress-up-as-a-nazi fancy dress costumes and the like. I also agree with the statement by plasmodium about more openness. I understand Germany trying to distance itself from the Nazi-era and stop the rebirth by banning the use of old symbols, but this does make such items sought after, almost venerated and to be kept hidden relics and at what stage does it become airbrushing of history rather than rememberance.
    AndyPoldatsunrobbiecatwrangler
  • Toc13Toc13 Member Posts: 1,080
    I think it's only a problem because they are German-based & they do have laws there restricting such things.
    If they weren't or didn't sell them there, then there's no problem
  • alaskaguyalaskaguy Member Posts: 335
    How about this? If you are against something, don’t buy it?  Strange concept I know.

    I don’t think replacing the Nazi brand of fascism with the Liberal brand of fascism is much of an improvement.
    dmcc0datsunrobbieakunthitapharmjodbgl_84TheBigLegoski
  • AndyPolAndyPol UKMember Posts: 374
    COBI make some very good models/toys of WW2 tanks and planes (awful minifigures IMO) and when recently building their Heinkel, I noticed the stickers and printed bricks contain all the right emblems, except the Swastika. In fact, all their German models avoid all Nazi emblems and still keep them authentic.

    I'm not sure that any toys should ever include such emblems, and I would be very concerned why anyone would want to MOC a Nazi scene or model anyway?

    Interestingly, COBI very often supply models with Polish and Russian stickers to allow the purchaser to decide on the emblems, presumably because of the sensitivities of that part of the world, but that's another story....
  • CCCCCC UKMember Posts: 18,896
    AndyPol said:

    I'm not sure that any toys should ever include such emblems, and I would be very concerned why anyone would want to MOC a Nazi scene or model anyway?

    Probably because that is what interests them. There are some brilliant ones on Eurobricks such as these...

    https://www.eurobricks.com/forum/index.php?/forums/topic/85369-lego-wwii-diorama-moc/



    https://www.eurobricks.com/forum/index.php?/forums/topic/119463-moc-bastogne-1944/


    I don't see much difference in doing a WW2 scene compared to, for example, an English civil war scene, an American civil war scene, a Roman battle, a Spartan battle, etc.

    datsunrobbieTheFewgmonkey76kiki180703TheBigLegoskiMegtheCat
  • AndyPolAndyPol UKMember Posts: 374
    CCC said:

    I don't see much difference in doing a WW2 scene compared to, for example, an English civil war scene, an American civil war scene, a Roman battle, a Spartan battle, etc.

    Nothing wrong in a WW2 scene at all, depicting Allies vs Axis or any other period of history, I'm just suggesting that Nazi emblems are maybe a step too far for what is (despite us AFOLs arguing different) still a toy? German soldiers fine, Nazi soldiers maybe not?
  • datsunrobbiedatsunrobbie West Haven , CTMember Posts: 1,569
    Now I'm feeling inspired to do a Blues Brothers MOC. 
  • AndyPolAndyPol UKMember Posts: 374
    edited December 2017
    I've just double checked the insignia that the BBC have shown photos of and both emblems on the helmets are in fact Wehrmacht and not Waffen SS. The eagle insignia on the Wehrmacht would have had a swastika underneath it, which (if the images are from Custom Bricks) it does not have.

    Therefore I would argue that the report is suggesting that a German Wehrmacht soldier is the same as a German Waffen SS soldier, which of course is not true as far as I understand, especially as I have a relative that was forced into the German Army late in the war and ended up fighting for the Allies and he definately wasn't a Nazi!

  • pharmjodpharmjod 1,170 miles to Wall Drug, USAMember Posts: 2,912
    Now I'm feeling inspired to do a Blues Brothers MOC. 
    Illinois Nazis have their own special emblem
    SumoLegogmonkey76datsunrobbiemadforLEGO
  • LyichirLyichir United StatesMember Posts: 864
    edited December 2017
    Honestly these kinds of customs make me uneasy. It's always hard for me to tell whether someone who buys this sort of thing is merely a history buff or someone whose interest in that particular part of history is less wholesome. And it's not always just one or the other—sometimes the line between recreating scenes of war and glorifying it is extremely blurry. Nowhere is this more frightening than at Lego conventions in my home state of Virginia, where racism is still alive and well and neo-Confederates and neo-Nazis have started experiencing a resurgence... you never know what sort of people will come in as public attendees, let alone as registered exhibitors.

    Unfortunately, military subjects like these often seem to make up the vast bulk of customized items, due to the large vacuum left by Lego's own opposition to depicting realistic and modern weapons of war. It's a big part of why I have little interest in a lot of custom items, since so much of it represents subjects I'd rather keep separate from my Lego hobby.
    Aanchirplasmodiumcatwrangler
  • SumoLegoSumoLego New YorkMember Posts: 13,071
    edited December 2017
    Um, unless the distinction here is with SS-specific designs and insignias featuring swastikas, we're just going to ignore the entire Indiana Jones theme?
    FowlerBricksplasmodiumdmcc0
  • alaskaguyalaskaguy Member Posts: 335
    edited December 2017
    Lyichir said:
    ...someone whose interest in that particular part of history is less wholesome. And it's not always just one or the other—sometimes the line between recreating scenes of war and glorifying it is extremely blurry.
    Well so what if it is?  The last thing the humanity needs is thought police determining which ideas are allowed to be expressed and which must be suppressed.  Let the Nazi lovers proclaim themselves. Much better to have them out in the open so you know who they are, rather than brewing up trouble out of sight.
    Lyichir said:
    It's a big part of why I have little interest in a lot of custom items, since so much of it represents subjects I'd rather keep separate from my Lego hobby.
    Just because you do doesn't mean everyone else should have to. Here is a CLASSIC EXAMPLE of how "well-intended" censorship and attempted prior restraint on expression is just total BS:



    Highlights:
    • The work features Lego renderings of crematoria and barracks as well as scenes depicting skeletal prisoners being beaten by guards. A 1997 report in The Times stated that the creations were so disturbing that the Lego Group tried to persuade Libera to withdraw them from public view.
    • The artwork caused additional controversy when Libera was invited to participate in the 1997 Venice Biennale, but was asked by Polish officials to not show the Lego pieces.
    • When Polish artist Zbigniew Libera created a faux Lego concentration camp toy set in 1996, he drew widespread criticism from people who believed he was making light of the Holocaust.
    • Since then, his death-camp toys have been shown in museums and galleries around the world, including New York's Jewish Museum in the 2002 exhibition "Mirroring Evil."
    • The museum described the pieces as "one of the most important works of contemporary Polish art."

    http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/culturemonster/2012/01/lego-concentration-camp-warsaw-museum.html

    Legos are more than "just a toy".  They are a perfectly acceptable medium for producing art, as several on here have commented in other threads (people complaining about others ripping off their art/MOCs). They should be treated as such.  Coloured pencils can be used to draw Nazi emblems too - you don't see governments around the world trying to get them banned or confiscating them.

    Here is another example of censorship going off the rails - catering to those who might "offended" by what someone does with their Legos:

    http://fortune.com/2016/01/13/lego-bulk-buying-policy/

    Lego announced Wednesday it’s reversing a conversational policy it had in place.

    Previously, the company asked customers buying its toy bricks in bulk what they were using them for, although that will no longer be the case, the BBC reported.

    The reason for the change has to do with Chinese artist and political dissident, Ai Weiwei, who accused Lego of censorship in October when the company wouldn’t sell bricks to him for an art project. He ultimately ended up using fake bricks and made Lego’s refusal public.

    But the company said Wednesday it didn’t want to implement guidelines that “could result in misunderstandings or be perceived as inconsistent,” according to a statement published on its website.

    The statement continues, “As of January 1st, the LEGO Group no longer asks for the thematic purpose when selling large quantities of LEGO bricks for projects. Instead, the customers will be asked to make it clear—if they intend to display their LEGO creations in public—that the LEGO Group does not support or endorse the specific projects.”







    datsunrobbiekiki180703TheBigLegoskiMegtheCat
  • SumoLegoSumoLego New YorkMember Posts: 13,071
    edited December 2017
    I think it is important to note the difference between government censorship and limitations on free speech, and private entities exercising their discretion.

    If LEGO wanted to be selective about whom they sell bulk product, using a criteria that included the intended subject matter, I would understand.  I much prefer their current position.  It's easier to reiterate that using the product as a medium of expression does not mean the company endorses the work.  I think most people understand the distinction.

    (And I'd be highly critical of anyone that would blame LEGO or find them responsible for pieces of independently produced art.  Much like blaming Krylon for graffiti problems.)
    datsunrobbiebgl_84M_Bossgmonkey76ricecakemonkeyhanger
  • FauchFauch FranceMember Posts: 2,474
    when I was a child, I got a lesson in front of the whole class for drawing a swatiska. we were playing war and it had as much meaning as the emblems on lego flags to me. maybe I should have picked the americans.
  • alaskaguyalaskaguy Member Posts: 335
    edited December 2017
    SumoLego said:
    I think it is important to note the difference between government censorship and limitations on free speech, and private entities exercising their discretion.
    Oh I quite agree.  The point was, in the first case I cited, is that Lego would have NOT provided the Lego that resulted in the creation of what is considered "one of the most important works of contemporary Polish art" had it known what the Legos would have been used for - and the government preventing people from using certain historical symbols is the same damned thing.  The point in the second case is that private entities often use censorship to work against the public interest - and so does the government.

    Not to mention the fact that the swastika was around LONG before the Nazis were. Better to RECLAIM IT than to consign it to the forces of evil.


  • LyichirLyichir United StatesMember Posts: 864
    edited December 2017
    alaskaguy said:
    Lyichir said:
    ...someone whose interest in that particular part of history is less wholesome. And it's not always just one or the other—sometimes the line between recreating scenes of war and glorifying it is extremely blurry.
    Well so what if it is?  The last thing the humanity needs is thought police determining which ideas are allowed to be expressed and which must be suppressed.  Let the Nazi lovers proclaim themselves. Much better to have them out in the open so you know who they are, rather than brewing up trouble out of sight.
    Lyichir said:
    It's a big part of why I have little interest in a lot of custom items, since so much of it represents subjects I'd rather keep separate from my Lego hobby.
    Just because you do doesn't mean everyone else should have to. Here is a CLASSIC EXAMPLE of how "well-intended" censorship and attempted prior restraint on expression is just total BS:



    Highlights:
    • The work features Lego renderings of crematoria and barracks as well as scenes depicting skeletal prisoners being beaten by guards. A 1997 report in The Times stated that the creations were so disturbing that the Lego Group tried to persuade Libera to withdraw them from public view.
    • The artwork caused additional controversy when Libera was invited to participate in the 1997 Venice Biennale, but was asked by Polish officials to not show the Lego pieces.
    • When Polish artist Zbigniew Libera created a faux Lego concentration camp toy set in 1996, he drew widespread criticism from people who believed he was making light of the Holocaust.
    • Since then, his death-camp toys have been shown in museums and galleries around the world, including New York's Jewish Museum in the 2002 exhibition "Mirroring Evil."
    • The museum described the pieces as "one of the most important works of contemporary Polish art."

    http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/culturemonster/2012/01/lego-concentration-camp-warsaw-museum.html

    Legos are more than "just a toy".  They are a perfectly acceptable medium for producing art, as several on here have commented in other threads (people complaining about others ripping off their art/MOCs). They should be treated as such.  Coloured pencils can be used to draw Nazi emblems too - you don't see governments around the world trying to get them banned or confiscating them.

    Here is another example of censorship going off the rails - catering to those who might "offended" by what someone does with their Legos:

    http://fortune.com/2016/01/13/lego-bulk-buying-policy/

    Lego announced Wednesday it’s reversing a conversational policy it had in place.

    Previously, the company asked customers buying its toy bricks in bulk what they were using them for, although that will no longer be the case, the BBC reported.

    The reason for the change has to do with Chinese artist and political dissident, Ai Weiwei, who accused Lego of censorship in October when the company wouldn’t sell bricks to him for an art project. He ultimately ended up using fake bricks and made Lego’s refusal public.

    But the company said Wednesday it didn’t want to implement guidelines that “could result in misunderstandings or be perceived as inconsistent,” according to a statement published on its website.

    The statement continues, “As of January 1st, the LEGO Group no longer asks for the thematic purpose when selling large quantities of LEGO bricks for projects. Instead, the customers will be asked to make it clear—if they intend to display their LEGO creations in public—that the LEGO Group does not support or endorse the specific projects.”








    First of all, I literally never suggested any sort of censorship. I was merely expressing an opinion about how the presence of these sorts of items in the community is alienating and discomforting.

    My point about how these products make me uneasy is that "Nazi-lovers" don't always "proclaim themselves". For every out-and-proud Nazi there are probably at least 10 who might sympathize with Nazi ideology in private while publically couching that interest in "socially acceptable" displays like a passion for WW2 history. This is, again, coming from someone who grew up in the heart of the Confederacy, where a great deal of armchair "historians" preach Lost Cause revisionism that downplays the role of slavery, in the same way as some Nazi sympathizers downplay the Holocaust while talking up Nazi Germany for military might. At conventions, it's often hard to tell what a builder's motivations are. Are they just an enthusiast of history or military technology? Are they celebrating Allied victory, or is it something more sinister? The answers aren't always obvious, and rightfully or wrongfully, it generally makes me want to give the military tables and the people who sit there a pretty wide berth.

    And as for the sellers, I have to wonder... do they ever have second thoughts about what they're selling and how it will be used? Or are they just happy to provide a product regardless of their audience? I know where Lego stands on it, and the artwork you shared is a perfect example. The issue with it goes beyond the subject matter and the product used to create it—it is labeled and described in such a way as to make it sound like Lego was actively ENDORSING that use of their product, not merely selling bricks independently of the artist's intention. There's a reason that even now that Lego has taken a more laissez-faire approach to bulk purchases by artists, their policies about the use of their logo in fan-created models has NOT been relaxed.
    AanchirFizyxcatwrangler
  • madforLEGOmadforLEGO Chicagoland USMember Posts: 9,782
    pharmjod said:
    Now I'm feeling inspired to do a Blues Brothers MOC. 
    Illinois Nazis have their own special emblem
    I hate Illinois Nazis
    MynattFizyxgmonkey76Aanchir
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