Adolf Hitler wine in Italy sparks investigation

Posted Aug 12, 2012 by Layne Weiss
Italian prosecutors have launched an investigation into how bottles with Adolf's Hitler face have landed on store shelves. The prosecutors learned of the "Hitler" wine from Jewish American tourists, Matthew and Cindy Hirsch.
Screengrab of website advertising Hitler wine
According to the Drinks Business, the couple was "horrified" by the bottles, which they found at a supermarket in the northern Italian town of Garda near Verona. One features Hitler performing the Nazi salute. Another says the words "Mein Kampf," which means "My struggle" in German, and a third has Hitler posing with Pope John Paul II.
The bottles were especially offensive to Matthew's wife Cindy whose aunt and grandparents died in Auschwitz. Her father is a Holocaust survivor.
"It is very shocking and startling to us," Michael Hirsch, a lawyer from Philadelphia, told The Daily Telegraph. "It makes you wonder about the sympathies of the local people. Hirsch also noted that he and his wife immediately thought of Neo-Nazism upon seeing the bottles.
According to the JTA, Michael and Cindy questioned the store clerk about the bottles, and he responded that their only purpose was sort of like a history lesson of important world figures. He reportedly said selling wine bottles with Hitler's face was really no different than selling ones with Che Guevara's face.
"I was shocked," Cindy Hirsch told The Telegraph. "It is not only an affront to Jews, even if my husband and I are Jewish. It is an affront to humanity as a whole."
The bottles are part of the "Historical Line" of the Lunardelli winery, which has been around since the mid-90s. Other controversial figures featured on the line's wine labels include Italian dictator Benito Mussolini and Josef Stalin. Some labels also feature Britian's World War II leader, Winston Churchill.
"The only crime that could be currently attributable to this is that of apologizing for fascism," prosecutor Mario Giulio Schinala told ANSA News Agency. "At this point, though, it would be opportune to invent the crime of human stupidity."
In 1952, Italy made apologizing for fascism a crime.
"I want to reassure our American friends that our Constitution and our culture rejects racism, anti-Semitism and Nazi fascism," Italian integration minister Andrea Riccardi told The Telegraph. "This offends the memory of millions of people and risks compromising the image of Italy abroad."
According to ANSA, the mayor of the town where the wine is being sold said he would do whatever possible to ensure to the bottles are taken off the shelves. Prosecutors have also said they are considering confiscating the bottles.
Earlier this year, Austrian police abandoned a similar investigation into the sale of Schnapps with Hitler's face on the label.
Similar to Lunardelli's "Historical Line," an Austrian website sold spirits in "nostalgic bottles of former historical greats."
As with the case in Italy, people began complaining about the bottles "glorifying the Nazi era."
Promoting or glorifying anything related to the Third Reich is prohibited in Austria, the Daily Mail reports.
However, the prosecution chose to end the investigation because they could not prove that the 48 year old man selling the bottles had intended to glorify the Nazi era.
Prosecution official Heinz Rusch said the east Austrian man known simply as "Roland M" was "motivated by profit, and not by ideology."
Either way, "Roland M" stopped selling the bottles as soon as he learned of the legal action against him.