Who Collects Nazi Memorabilia?

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  • Democratic Judge, Republican Judge. Nonpartisan Judge?
  • When the Defense Dept. Runs a School
  • Triangle Fire Victims: Many Were Jewish


To the Editor:

Re “What Kind of Person Spends $1,000 on an SS Bowl?,” by Menachem Kaiser (Opinion guest essay, Oct. 1):

Objects by themselves have no meaning. Context — the story the thing tells — transforms an object into an “artifact.” Trading in Nazi memorabilia is trading in Nazi history and ideology, an ideology of hate and violence whose foundational tenet was (and is) antisemitism. That ideology became state policy and led to genocide.

Pretending that these objects are just “collectibles” like Beanie Babies or “Star Wars” lightsabers dehumanizes the victims and glorifies the perpetrators. Hiding behind the Constitution does not make this practice less morally reprehensible.

Ruth Bergman
Farmington Hills, Mich.

To the Editor:

As the former executive director of the Buffalo Holocaust Resource Center, I am well aware of the thirst for Nazi paraphernalia in Western New York. Area antique marts often sell Nazi Lugers, swastika flags and used Nazi pearl-handled knives.

Many U.S. veterans of World War II from Western New York returned home with spoils of war, and some family members brought in horrific concentration camp liberation photos and Nazi flags found in the attic after their parents died.

While Menachem Kaiser focuses on the private sale of Nazi paraphernalia, he does not mention recent state laws banning public display or sale of hate symbols. For example, in 2021 New York State passed S.4615-A/A.5402-A, prohibiting fire districts, volunteer fire departments, police departments and school districts from selling or displaying swastikas, nooses and Confederate flags.

Although the state cannot legislate private sales of these items, the law is meant to deter commerce for symbols of hate. Hopefully more states will pass legislation banning display and sale of hate symbols on public lands.

Mara Koven-Gelman

To the Editor:

When it comes to Nazi memorabilia, the issue is that many who crave it do so because they aspire to being Nazis themselves. Nazism is not dead, and perhaps will never be.

In some ways, since those who see themselves as Nazis still live among us, perhaps it is safer to keep the symbols of Nazism squarely in front of us as well, as reminders that history does not swallow everything. Let the current-day Nazis let us know who they are so that we may remain vigilant against them.

Bruce Neuman
Water Mill, N.Y.

Democratic Judge, Republican Judge. Nonpartisan Judge?

Credit…Illustration by Sam Whitney/The New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “Democrats Need to Replace Judges Much Faster,” by Erwin Chemerinsky (Opinion guest essay, Oct. 13):

It is sad but true that federal judges and justices appear more and more to be defined by the party of the president who nominated them.

But this tough fact confirms why public opinion has become so distrusting of our judicial system: Judges and justices who are intended to be objective are in fact revealed to be partisan in their ideologies. And the number of split judicial decisions and appellate reversals merely accentuates that there is no one, clear legal conclusion, but legal opinions on both sides of each case.

It also doesn’t help to read how many federal judges and justices serve into their late 80s and early 90s. Without succumbing to ageism by suggesting that such ancient ones are unfit, it is still a weakness in our society for those in positions of authority to hold onto their office so long that it deprives the next generation — likely having a more current understanding of complex issues that evolve over the decades — of a chance to step into positions of judgment.

James Berkman
Plymouth, Vt.
The writer left the law to be a secondary school teacher and administrator.

To the Editor:

Erwin Chemerinsky, the dean of one of the nation’s leading law faculties (Berkeley), advocates the further politicization of the federal judiciary — for shame!

This kind of blatant partisanship erodes the core values of the judicial ideal: justice as divorced from pure politics as is humanly possible.

Yes, the Republicans are equally guilty of the charge, but two wrongs do not make a right.

We must continue to search for a better — read bipartisan or nonpartisan — way of doing business before it truly is too late.

Howard Charles Yourow
New York

When the Defense Dept. Runs a School

The Defense Department’s schools have a key advantage: Families have housing and access to health care through the military.Credit…Kendrick Brinson for The New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “Military Gets Solid Grades on Education” (front page, Oct. 12):

I have worked in education and social policy research for nearly three decades. Often we are asked some version of “What works to improve student outcomes?”

Your article about U.S. Defense Department schools offers a powerful answer: Meet families’ basic needs.

As it notes, “Families have access to housing and health care through the military, and at least one parent has a job.”

While there are many school-based policies, practices and programs that make a difference for students, the size of their impact is usually modest. We have to stop expecting schools to solve problems that are firmly rooted in economic inequality and structural racism. If we had a real social safety net, schools across the country would be better positioned to succeed.

Chelsea Farley
Gardiner, N.Y.

To the Editor:

The Defense Department also receives high marks on early childhood care and education — by recognizing their value to both children and working parents, and then by adequately funding them.

Is it possible that at least part of the success of military schools may be due to the attention paid to the early years?

Meredith Gary
The writer is co-director of the Downtown Little School in New York, a preschool for children ages 2 to 5.

Triangle Fire Victims: Many Were Jewish

Among the hundreds gathered as a memorial to the victims of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire was unveiled was Serphin Maltese, whose grandmother and two aunts died in the fire.Credit…Lexi Parra for The New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “Victims of the Triangle Fire Get a Striking New Memorial” (news article, Oct. 16):

The article about the unveiling of a memorial to the victims of the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist fire, while quite moving, left out a vital element of the history.

It said “most of the victims were young immigrant women from Eastern Europe and Italy who worked as many as 84 hours a week for as little as $7.” However, a large number were Jewish, a fact that defined them even more than their region of origin.

The omission of this fact leaves readers without a vital aspect of the tragedy. More broadly, failing to mention the Jewishness of these victims misses an opportunity to educate readers about the fact that most Jewish immigrants at that time were poor and had to work in brutal conditions.

Jewishness was far more than their religion. Rather than being a private matter of faith, it was at the core of their identity, and fundamentally affected their position in American society and the economy. Merely saying where they were from does not tell their story.

Ian Reifowitz
New York
The writer is a SUNY distinguished professor, department of historical studies, SUNY-Empire State University.

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