Mein Chianti? American Lawyer Triggers Controversy Over Sale Of Hitler Wine In Italy

It appears the fight over Lebensraum is now being waged over liquor store shelf space. An American couple has triggered a free speech controversy in Italy after complaining about the sale of wine with the image of Hitler on the label or other labels for “Mein Kampf” wine or wine with the motto “Ein volk, ein Reich, ein Fuhrer” (one people, one empire, one Fuhrer). Michael Hirsch, a lawyer from Philadelphia, complained about the sale of such items. In Italy, prosecutors are looking into the matter for possible criminal charges. The question is whether the producer should have a right to supply such bottles and customers should have the right to buy such bottles.

I certainly agree with Hirsch (whose wife’s family has holocaust survivors) that the sale of these bottles are offensive and I also agree with the decision to complain to the local supermarket for carrying such offensive items. I would have done the same thing in complaining to the establishment.

However, it is not clear when Hirsch went to the media whether he was demanding action by the government even though such products are lawful in the United States. Indeed, I recently represented a vodka manufacturer which successfully challenged a bar on sales due to the alleged offensive nature of its label.

The media coverage led Andrea Riccardi, the Italian integration minister, to issue a statement “to reassure our American friends who visit our country that our Constitution and our culture rejects racism, anti-Semitism and Nazi fascism.” For her part, Prosecutor Mario Giulio Schinaia said that she is looking into possible criminal charges.

We have previously discussed limitations on free speech in countries like Germany following World War II — crimes that include any Nazi symbols or material that have led to arrests for things like ringtones. Obviously, critics of the wine are concerned with more than a few skinheads getting blitzkrieged on Hitler schnapps. It is hard to believe that the wine is being bought simply as a novelty by most of these customers and is part of a resurgence of fascist political groups in Europe, particularly in countries like Germany, France, and Greece.

I have been a long critic of such laws as doing little but forcing speech underground and making martyrs out of fascists who simply alter symbols slightly to get around the restrictions. I continue to maintain that, even in countries with fascist histories like Italy and Germany, the only solution to bad speech is more speech. Censorship historically has done little to change minds. People have a basic right to express their political viewpoints and to associate with like-minded people in the political realm.

The wine controversy comes at a time when some legislators are seeking to decriminalize the creation of fascist parties in Italy.

The stories on the wine controversy quote prosecutors as citing a crime in Italy for “apologising for fascism.” This curiously worded law is the barrier not only to free speech but to the creation of political parties. By “apologising,” the Italians appear to mean something closer to “defending” or “advocating.” As a civil libertarian, I have considerable concerns with such content-based regulation of speech. While I share the concern over the resurgence of fascism, I tend to gravitate toward greater than less free speech in such cases. Moreover, the wine controversy shows how far such limitations can extend. It could include parody or artistic expression as well as political speech.

Notably, Austria recently dropped a criminal probe and allowed Hitler wine to be sold in that country. His decision could lead to some interesting conflicts with teeshirts featuring the wine but showing Hitler in circumvention of national laws. For those seeking to limit speech, the danger of liquor lebensraum is that it could spread to an array of consumer items glorifying the Third Reich.

One producer is Roland Marte, 48, who produces an array of Hitler bottles including schnapps. He has described the line as “Nostalgic bottles from a former historical great.”

The fact that an American couple triggered this debate is ironic since these wines would be entirely protected in the United States. Once again, it is not clear that the Hirsch’s did anything other than raise awareness of an obnoxious product. However, prosecutors should not be involved in such matters in my view.

What do you think?

Source: Telegraph

70 thoughts on “Mein Chianti? American Lawyer Triggers Controversy Over Sale Of Hitler Wine In Italy”

  1. Who said anything about Bush being the only closet Nazi enabler?

    No one.

    Also, don’t mistake an attack on the Bush Crime family as partisan, ARE, or as an endorsement of the Kennedy Crime family. Just like both major parties, I think both of those families suck. Wealthy doesn’t equate to having good character or fitness for leadership.

  2. The Germans made the same mistake of thinking that if you can see them and let them organize without a problem, they can be controlled. They found out differently. You cannot allow them to organize without massive opposition on all fronts. There should be conseequences for being a Nazi or fascist.

    As for Prescott Bush being a Nazi, that is simply a slander since he was NOT the principal behind the bank he was supposedly in charge of, he was a flunky for HIS BOSS, Averell Harriman. THAT was the guy who called the shots in the firm, NOT Bush. So if Bush was a Nazi, then Harriman was a bigger one. Of course, Harriam was an FDR supporter, so there is no mention of that. Also, Joe Kennedy was as much a Nazi if not more so than Bush. Bush was not advocating and saying Hitler was the wave of the future, and was not an anti-Semite as Kennedy was. Joe Kennedy was a long time supporter of Joe McCarthy and supported him to the bitter end. So let’s tell the whole truth, not just partisan snipets. So as I am finding out RFK was as bad as his father in all of those areas. Talk about some snakes!

    1. Arthur,
      Being a flunky for NAZI’s is the equivalent of being one. Prescott Bush was a Senator during this time. He was also among those who proposeded a coup to unseat Roosevelt in 1933. As for Joe Kenney and his boys I don’t hold any great faith in them either. However, while as a Jew I have an obvious hatred of fascism, I don’t believe they should be repressed until they step outside the law. If those who govern are allowed to repress any view they deem dangerous, then we all are in deep trouble.

  3. Blouise,

    W=^..^ was channeling her inner guerrilla fighter . . .

    Lt. Aldo Raine: [to Utivitch] Ask him what he is gonna do with his uniform when he gets home.
    Pvt. Butz: [through an interperter] Not only do I intend to take off my uniform, I intend to burn it.
    Lt. Aldo Raine: Nah, see, we don’t like that. We like our Nazis in uniform. That way we can spot ’em just like that. We’re gonna give you a little something you cant take off.

    Nazis are like cockroaches. The ones you can see are bad enough, but it’s the ones you can’t see that have the greatest chance for reproduction. Consider the difference between an open advocate like Joseph Goebbels and an enabler from the shadows like Prescott Bush.

    1. Gene,
      Probably my all-time favorite movie and Aldo is my all time favorite “gentile”.

  4. lotta,

    If you check out their website, they have 4 employees … I don’t know if the son, Andrea Lunardelli (the brain child behind the Historical Series), is included in that count, but he does get all the credit for developing the Hitler series.

    I particularly liked Woosty’s comment: “… leave the label alone. Let it be. It is appropriate to have flags so that we know the enemy”

    As for Michael Hirsch, the lawyer from Philadelphia who complained thus calling our attention to the exploits of Andrea Lunardelli … good on you, brother.

  5. The question front and center is whether a country like Germany or Italy which each elected and were ruled by nazi dictators who conducted genocide of millions can be trusted to not return to their nazi ways. The conclusion reached in 1945 was that their people were infected with something which went beyond being deluded by some dictator like Hitler or Mussolini. The conclusion was that there was some genetic defectin the German mind, the Italian mind, that needed to be cordoned off. Laws were needed then to cordon off the promotion and glorification of race and ethic hate. Free speech is something that some animals are not capable of exercising. They dont let a dog bark Fire in a croweded theatre in America. They should not let the Germans or Italians resurrect their God Hitler now in the year 2012. One of the commenters above ranted that this American who complained is just some itchinbay jew. Many Americans died, lost limbs, lost fathers, mothers. sons, because the Germans and Italians went off the reservation reserved for human beings and committed themselves to genocide. We have a right to itchinbay when the nazis rear their ugly uttbays. I would use the real words but the censor here in America on this blog wont let me. I even have to spell my own dog name in pig latin to post it on this blog. If you complainers dont like censorship then start your complaining right here about this blog. Forget not— Hitler was elected to office. Never again. You can buy his wine with his name on it in America but it is not wise to let the Germans or Italians to hoist his memory. Try buying Five Wives Vodka in Utah though.

  6. Mike, wit all due respect, your link (regarding the refusal for a moment of silence) was very informative and I recall the events as they happened. It seems to me though that the Olympics and IOC has always been a political organization and it has been turned into little more than a business. It may have always been so or not, I don’t know but it’s so blatant and aggressive that even someone like me that doesn’t go out of their way to be informed about the Olympics can see it.

    In that regard, the last thing this billion(s) dollar business wants is to spend even a minute with something that would halt the relentlessly scripted psychological environment that has been established. Pure business can be as ruthless and heartless as racism. Pure business can have a racist effect and work hand in glove with racism for no reason greater than a few more bucks. I wouldn’t underestimate the weight or effect of the business angle.

  7. Excellent background Blouise, apparently their motivated by money and the desire for publicity. It’s perverse, and not in a good way.

  8. You missed that old standby Papa Doc Rum, pete, but that’s an easy enough omission to make with it being disappeared and all. It doesn’t take up a lot of shelf space, but it’s wicked hard to find.

  9. hitler whines. stalin vodka, comes in a steel bottle. mussolini wine, hang it upside down and throw rocks at it.

    bush beer, goes good with pretzels.

  10. It is interesting to me Mike of the company using Adolf’s image to sell their wine yet he personally despised alcohol.

    How about a Carrie Nation Gewürztraminer?

    1. Darren,
      I’d forgotten he was a teetotaller. Another small irony. One of my own, given my sensibilities, is the only wines I like are German, particularly Reislings.

  11. *Mike Spindell

    Bigotry is always marketable and always finds a market.. Lunardelli uses it to sell wine in Italy and Chick Fil A’s Cathy uses it to sell chicken in the USA.

  12. Americans… Always complaining about free speech.

    Why would they go to another country to complain about something that offended them?

  13. Here in Sweden……heard that before?

    Our much loved author of childrens’ books (Pippi longstockings) Astrid Lindgren showed us how to handle skinheads and immigrant haters (on the personal level).

    She clapped one ón his shaved head and said, in effect:
    So, so. don’t be so skin-headsy. Be a nice boy.

    They managed to get into parliament in the last election.

    Stamping out stupidity? Only education will do it.

  14. Blouise,
    I am insulted that the great American historical figure, Ronald Reagan does not have his face on the label of that Italian wine!

  15. My general understanding of the anti-Nazi laws of Europe is that iconography and publications are banned but this is not prohibited when used in education or in some historical contexts.

    When I was in Berlin about five years ago I saw in a public square, several vendors having fold up tables who were hocking curios from the past. One of them had postage stamps from the Nazi days which had a profile shot of Adolf’s head and a swastika.

    Knowing of this ban I found it surprising he was allowed to sell this. But there was nothing secret about what he was doing so he obviously did not meet any resistance from the Politzei.

    Now this is in Germany as opposed to Italy but I suppose the prosecutor in this case might be stretching things a bit to address Italy’s reputation and not the label.

    As for iconography and this booze being purchased by Neo-Nazis. I know that many of them like Doc Marten boots so should we ban Doc Martens because skinheads like them?

  16. randyjet:

    property is legal unless you know otherwise and even then it is in someones possession, that is why we have laws.

    The KKK are a bunch of nasty little minds running around pretending to be human beings, any cop who would encourage them should give up his badge and his membership in the human race.

    1. Actually, under Italian law this is not legal and the same is true in Germany. In many places I can think of, such laws serve a good purpose in its time and place. The question is how long and how strictly such laws should be enforced. I think that citizen action is more appropriate and serves a better purpose than having the state do it. I would be opposed to cops going into the store and arresting the owner. It serves justice and the community better if citizens do it and the cops ignore the action. Right after WWII, it would be right for the cops to arrest the owner and put him in prison. Now I think it is not needed and less severe measures are appropriate.

      When I first moved to Houston, there was a massive amount of KKK terrorism going on. The chief of police, Herman Short opined that having a lot of his cops being members of the KKK was no problem since he thought that they were a fine patriotic organization.

  17. Here’s the link to the winery that “proudly” produces the Hitler labeled wine as part of their “Historical ” wine collection.

    “Founded in Pasian di Prato in 1967, the Wine Company Alessandro Lunardelli, embodies the experience and the ultra centennial tradition of the Lunardelli family in the enological field. Some generations ago, in fact, the Lunardelli Company produced and traded wine in a farm situated in one of the best production areas in Veneto. Alessandro Lunardelli, grew up and trained in the paternal school and after moving to Friuli for family reasons in the year 1968, decided to start his own wine business. For this reason, the 25-year old Alessandro, first rented and then bought one of the most ancient wine cellars in Friuli, where still today the company has its centre. Even if he had quite a large experience, that decision of Alessandro Lunardelli was a great risk.. In fact, he wanted to make sure that also outside the region people knew the many good, but until then hidden, qualities of Friulian wines. Alessandro Lunardelli however did not loose faith and, thanks to his remarkable professional abilities, along with an innate affability and an uncommon tenacity, in a short time he succeeded in starting an activity that, although initially a modest amount of trade, soon came to the 2,.500 hectolitres of wine mark and reached beyond 100,000 bottles produced and traded in the year 1998. The Wine Company Lunardelli initially only traded a few types of loose wine. Slowly however, the owner, Alessandro Lunardelli, established the bases of the current company, searching in the best wine areas of the region for a series of small producers that have allowed him to widen and improve day after day the quality of the offer. Today the company offers to its customers more than 15 types of wine coming from the DOC areas (with certified quality): Aquileia, Collio, Colli Orientali, Friuli – Isonzo and Friuli – Latisana. Since 1987 the company Alessandro Lunardelli has completed a major stage of the business development, thanks to the addition to the company of his son Andrea, who is now in charge of administrative direction and marketing. The first signs of the renewal have been the beginning of the commercialisation of the bottled wine in 1990 and the beginning of the production of the bottles of the Historical Series in 1995. The latter consist of bottles of wine of optimal quality with labels that remind us of the life lives of celebrated personages of Italian and world political history such as Che Guevara, Churcill, Francesco Giuseppe, Gramsci, Hitler, Marx, Mussolini, Napoleon and Sissi. Thanks to this invention, the wine company Alessandro Lunardelli has obtained a lot of attention from the media all over the world both for the originality of the idea and for the quality of the wines. Today approximately half of the bottles of wine produced by the company are dedicated to the to the Historical Series which by now amounts to over 50 different labels, and has become a cult object among the collectors.”

    ” … the wine company Lunardelli has established over the years a privileged relationship with thirty small producers scattered in the best wine areas of the Friuli, which produce wine, only for the Lunardelli Company. Alessandro and Andrea Lunardelli follow and assist the producers-suppliers in every phase of the wine production, from the planting of new vines to the barrelling, making sure that the final product respects the highest qualitative standards. Once produced, the wine is conserved by the producers, on behalf of the Lunardelli Company, in wood barrels or reservoirs of glass-reinforced plastic and cement, until the collaborators of the Company take it to the wine cellar in Pasian di Prato.”

    “The Lunardelli company said it had sold around 20,000 bottles featuring the Hitler labels per year.”

    1. “The Lunardelli company said it had sold around 20,000 bottles featuring the Hitler labels per year.”

      Oh….so it’s not personal…….merely business.

  18. “I ate his liver w/ some fava beans and a nice chianti.” I don’t think Hannibal Lechter would have a problem w/ this vino.

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