To possess a relic was to possess power. As Peter Brown shows, at its origins the cult of relics was carefully controlled precisely so as to maintain the aura of the relic and to lead the pilgrim to recognise that distance was an essential component of praesentia....What seems to happen in what French historians have called 'the history of everyday life' is that when certain social practices and assumptions are discarded as false and fantastic the needs they fulfilled remain and, with nothing now to acculturate them, become a source of pain and anxiety and the generators of dangerous dreams and desires.
Nowhere is this more in evidence than in the repulsive trade in Nazi memorabilia which has gone on unabated since the end of the Second World War and the collapse of the Third Reich. Robert Harris, who dug deep into this cesspit when researching for his book on the bizarre episode of the forged Hilter diaries, has come up with some startling figures (at least they startled me). 'It has been estimated', he writes, 'that there are 50,000 collectors of Nazi memorabilia throughout the world, of whom most are Americans, involved in a business which is said to have an annual turnover of $50 million.' In the United States a monthly newsletter, Der Gauleiter, keeps up to five thousand collectors and dealers informed of the latest trade shows and auctions. In Los Angeles one collector amuses himself in private by wearing Ribbentrop's overcoat. In Kansas City another serves drinks from Hitler's punch-bowl. In Chicago a family doctor has installed a concrete vault beneath his house, where he keeps a collection of Nazi weapons. In Arizona a used car salesman drives his family around in the Mercedes which Hitler gave to Eva Braun...
-Gabriel Josipovici, Touch, 94-95
Controversial memorial completed