Art Is History - The Secret Room

Splashed across the newspapers about a week ago was the spectacular story of a treasure trove of Nazi memorabilia found within a hidden room near Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina.


Around 80 objects were found which, due to their quality and apparent supporting evidence, appeared to be remnants of high ranking offices who fled Germany after world war 2. Many sought refuge in South America including Argentina where they hoped to escape international retribution.

Hitler bust
However, those who handle historical artefacts will attest, only certain experts can truly confirm the historical accuracy of such items. Forgeries of popular antiques are a plenty. Some are intentionally sold as replicas for those who have curiosity but lack funds, others are sold with more nefarious intentions. The story that was less quietly reported, as media organisations tend to do, was the possibility that the haul of Nazi paraphernalia was actually a plethora of replicas.

Expert: Media duped by 'fake' Nazi artifacts found in Argentina

Whether the items are original or not is a discussion best left up to the experts in the field. I think the interesting discussion is the vilification of the collector and the general taboo of collecting historical items involved in such a tragedy.

People collect all manner of objects. People collect Bulldogs. People collect Lalique car mascots. People collect every Zelda game in brand new in box condition. People still collect tazos and pogs! Anything with a strong signifier and branding can, and is, collected.

These are Pogs, for those who never endured the craze.

So why are the materials of Nazi Germany separated as untouchable? Is it too hard for people to separate a racist from a genuinely historically curious collector? Of the past century it is probably one of, if not the, most significant events and will continue to be, for possibly millennia - a staggeringly negative event - but still significant. It also doesn’t help that the branding and design evident throughout Nazi Germany is so instantly recognisable. The swastika, a 15,000 year old symbol for good, prosperity and well being tainted indefinitely in western history (not to mention the Chaplin moustache). It’s this strong branding and historical relevance that draws people to collect Nazi propaganda and paraphernalia.

There are certain items that are increasingly frowned upon by the general public when they see people collecting them. Ivory carvings, Nazi paraphernalia or serial killer memorabilia bring forth disgust but ultimately have their place in the antique and collectible market. We shouldn’t shun and hide history that lays bare our fragile place in humanity; sometimes it pays to explore our morbid curiosity if only to ensure history doesn’t repeat itself.

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