A babygrow emblazoned with the slogan “I love Htlr” was one of the more egregious items Simon Knittel came across when he started delving into the murky world of Nazi merchandise.
Knittel, executive creative director of the German advertising agency Jung von Matt, decided to take the bull by the horns and apply his creative mind to come up with a practical solution to the proliferation of far-right merchandise carrying Nazi slogans, but with their vowels removed to keep them within Germany’s postwar laws.
Found on everything from boxer shorts to beer mugs, T-shirts to cushions, hoodies to spectacle cases, the slogans are part of a booming online industry that anti-fascist campaigners say helps bolster the growing scene’s coffers and identity, as well as emboldening its members.
Htlr, vowels removed to disguise the word Hitler, which would make it illegal, is just one of many examples of abbreviations including VTR LND for Vaterland (fatherland) and HKNKRZ for Hakenkreuz, the German word for swastika.
“Nazis are innovative,” Knittel says. “And my role in this job is to solve problems creatively.” So he linked up with an anti-fascist initiative, Laut gegen Nazis (Loud against Nazis, LGN), and a Hamburg law firm, to put a dent in the neo-Nazis’ business model via the trademark office. Their campaign is called Rights Against the Right.