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October 23, 2019
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Czech producer of items with portraits of totalitarians adds war criminals, contemporary figures to product line

13.8.2019 7:54
An example of the product line of the
An example of the product line of the "Our Troops" (Naše vojsko) publishing house in the Czech Republic. (2019) (PHOTO: e-shop nakladatelství Naše vojsko).

Customer demand for the coffee mugs featuring portraits of Nazi war criminals produced by the Naše vojsko ("Our Troops") publishing house is, by all indications, so great that the product line has just been expanded - in addition to already-popular mugs featuring Heydrich and Hitler, there are now new mugs featuring Eichmann, Goebbels, Göring and Himmler. When asked about the product line by journalists, Naše vojsko director and owner Emerich Drtina reiterates the same phrase every time - that "the offer of products through our e-shop is influenced by customer demand" and that what are being sold are "collector's items".

Portrait of a mass murderer for CZK 299 [EUR 12]

Each mug costs CZK 299 [EUR 12] and the publishing house, which calls the mugs "collector's editions", has innovated the line by, for example, centering photographs of Hitler or Stalin against the red and white background of a traditional Easter egg. The company has attempted to cover itself legally by declaring on the e-shop's website that "in the case of specific individuals, this is not about the promotion of any ideology, nor is it about breaking the laws of the Czech Republic."

Elsewhere the e-shop claims that "The Naše vojsko publishing house holds all the victims of the Second World War in esteem, as well as those who fought against Nazism and any other malignant ideologies, whether on the front lines of the war or in the domestic resistance." This new series of mugs (and other objects) featuring not just Nazi war criminals, but also the Soviet mass murderer Stalin, is also being offered by the company thanks to the fact that last August the Czech Police shelved an investigation into the product line and declared it not illegal.

Buy a mug with a pardoned contract killer on it

"It has not been demonstrated in this matter that the impetus or motivation for publishing these morally controversial imprints on coffee mugs and t-shirts is anything other than profit pursued within the framework of economic activity," news server iRozhlas quoted police spokesperson Jan Daněk as saying last year. Police shelved the case, saying that "in the Czech legal code, a general ban on the depiction or public presentation of any persons or symbols has not been codified in any way whatsoever."

In an interview for hlidacipes.org, this approach was criticized by the director of the Jewish Museum in Prague, Leo Pavlát, who said:  "The law on this is generally worded and does not discuss whether the promotion of Nazism is happening through words, images, or coffee mugs. This is just how they are lying their way out of this problem."

The publishing house focuses on issuing publications about historical, military and technical subjects and was founded in 1945 by the Czechoslovak Defense Ministry. It was administered by the ministry until 1996.

In the year 2000, Drtina became the owner of the company. (It's possible to buy a white mug with his likeness on it as well, by the way).

The "collector's item" line has gradually been expanded to include a new, contemporary circle of people. Those interested can buy mugs depicting, for example, the spokesperson for Czech President Zeman, Jiří Ovčáček; the entrepreneur and moderator on the cable television channel TV Barrandov, Jaromír Soukup; the present-day Communist MP and Communist-era police officer Zdeněk Ondráček; the convicted-of-murder-and-then-pardoned Jiří Kajínek; or an ashtray with a picture of Zeman.

This article was written for the Institute for Independent Journalism in the Czech Republic, an independent, nonprofit organization and registered institute involved in publishing information, journalism and news reporting. Its analyses, articles and data outputs are offered to all equally for use under certain conditions.

hlidacipes.org, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Nazism, nacisté, nacistické symboly, Válka



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