Suzanne Fields

The fights over copyright infringements, particularly on the Internet, are getting ever more petty. Now a British magazine is crying infringement because a British blogger dredged up a 65-year-old article describing Hitler as a gentleman squire living in stylish surroundings in the Bavarian Alps. This one is worth your attention even if you don't blog.

Simon Waldman, director of digital publishing for the Guardian Newspapers, found a glossy three-page spread in a back number of "Homes & Gardens" magazine describing a visit to Hitler's mountain retreat in November 1938. That was the month of Kristallnacht, the night of broken glass, the beginning of Hitler's pogrom against Jews. Waldman posted it on his Web site for its historical interest.

The editor of Homes & Gardens magazine, more from mortification than from a desire to protect his magazine's commercial interests, cried "copyright infringement" and demanded that the pages be removed from the Net. The Guardian, bereft of the press freedoms we take for granted here, reluctantly complied, noting that "they should be widely available for as many people as possible to learn from them."

That may be what Homes & Gardens was afraid of, because the pages expose the way fashion and style can be manipulated to make a political point. Hitler was depicted as a glamorous figure who "delights in the society of brilliant foreigners, especially painters, singers and musicians." The bloke with the ridiculous mustache was depicted strolling with guests through wood and dale, a kindly, rustic old gentleman innocently enjoying time away from the city at his "bright and airy chalet."

Fashion holds up a mirror to its times and sometimes these mirrors are as distorted as those in an amusement-park fun house. They can be playful and innocent or dreadfully obtuse. Some of us can hear echoes of the editor's obtuseness in the way some people are oblivious today to the terrorist's threat to the West.

Readers of that musty long-past day learned that Hitler was able to replace a humble shack because "his famous book, 'Mein Kampf' ('My Struggle') became a best-seller of astonishing power (4,500,000 copies of it have sold)."

There was no recognition of the book's astonishing muck and hate, with descriptions of the Jewish people as "the spider (that) was beginning to suck the blood out of the people's pores." Nor does it tell how Hitler wrote that the state "must not let itself be confused by the drivel about so-called 'freedom of the press'"

Suzanne Fields

Suzanne Fields is currently working on a book that will revisit John Milton's 'Paradise Lost.'

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