Instructor leads discussion on use of Nazi imagery in popular culture

Author: BHSU Communications/Tuesday, February 17, 2015/Categories: 2015








           Dr. Tom Arnold, instructor of history at BHSU, invites the public to attend a Geek Speak discussion on the use of Nazis in popular culture Thursday, Feb. 26 at 4 p.m. in Jonas Hall 110 on the BHSU campus.  Arnold questions if creating fictional Nazis causes us to overlook the evil accomplished during the Holocaust.   



Seventy years following the end of World War II Nazis have become all-purpose villains in popular culture, according to BHSU instructor of history Dr. Tom Arnold.  Arnold invites the community to explore this topic during a discussion, "Butchers, Buffoons, and &lsquoBasterds&rsquo:  Nazis in Popular Culture" Thursday, Feb. 26 at 4 p.m. in Jonas Hall 110.  The discussion is part of the Geek Speak Lecture Series.

"Nazis are the go-to image for evil.  People use Nazis in popular culture to get people&rsquos attention and stir up controversy," said Arnold.  "But Nazism is not just a symbol.  It&rsquos very easy to sit back and say &lsquoI could never do what a Nazi did.&rsquo  But under different circumstances, you might," said Arnold.

According to Arnold, we tend to think of Nazis as either cold and calculating or crazy and fanatical.  Arnold also points to several recent examples of Nazi imagery including the Seinfeld sitcom&rsquos "Soup Nazi" berating customers, the Urban Dictionary&rsquos usage of "Grammar Nazis" referring to those who constantly correct grammar and spelling mistakes, and last week&rsquos criticism of retail clothing chain Urban Outfitter&rsquos sale of a garment similar to concentration camp clothing.

"By creating fictional Nazis, do we overlook the evil real Nazis did?" asks Arnold.  "If we just think of Nazis in terms of those evil or comical caricatures, we&rsquore going to forget the fact that most Nazis were normal people just doing their job," said Arnold.   

During the discussion Arnold will provide background, images and videos of the use of Nazis in popular culture followed by a dialogue with the audience about whether or not the images are harmful and the sentiment they provoke.

"We&rsquore getting to a point in history where most World War II Holocaust survivors are dying.  All we&rsquoll have left is what they've written and their images," said Arnold.  "I want to see what this generation thinks.  Have whatever opinion you want, but look at the facts first.  Weight the evidence, think critically, and then decide what you think."  

The Geek Speak lecture series, sponsored by the BHSU University Honors program, features academic discussion and topics not normally discussed in the traditional classroom.  The goal of the weekly lectures is to expose students to diversity within the disciplines.

For more information on Geek Speak, contact Dr. Courtney Huse-Wika, assistant professor of English and director of University Honors at or 605-642-6918.

Upcoming Geek Speak topics include:

March 5: Dr. Chris Hahn and Professor Kelly Kirk: ""All That Is Good Is STILL Nasty: The Continuing Funkification of the Nation Part I: Funk and Urban Culture in the 1970s"

March 19: Dr. William Cockrell: "On Gender and Gaming"

March 26: Dr. David Cremean: "Breaking Bad and the Inexhaustibility of Extreme Metaphor"

April 9: Dr. Dan May: "&ltInsert Relevant Song Title Here&gt:  The Rise and Fall of American Alternative Rock"

April 16: Dr. Aris Karagiorgakis: "The Truth is in Here: Why 12 Million Americans Believe Lizard People Run the Country (and other "crazy" conspiracies)"

April 23: John Ginther: "On Game of Thrones"

April 30: Dr. Dave Berberick: "On the History of Heavy Metal"

May 5 and May 7: The Defense (Capstone defense for University Honors seniors)

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