Fellow modelers, we need to have a talk. Because…what the actual fuck?
What’s the deal with this hobby’s fascination with German crap?
A 109 here, a Panther there, I get it. In moderation, German subjects can be a nutritious part of a well-balanced modeling diet. But I frequently see it going beyond interest to fascination and, yes, fetishization of the tools and weapons and personalities of Nazi Germany.
Running the Numbers
It’s not just modelers. Manufacturers can’t get enough of Nazi subjects either – presumably because we buy the shit out of them. There’s an old saying in the tech industry that “nobody ever gets fired for buying IBM”. In modeling, I can’t help but wonder if there’s a similar saying about kitting 109s and Tigers.
Recently, Dragon announced 16 new armor releases. Fully 15 of them were German. Now…Dragon’s obsession with German subjects is legitimately troubling, but they’re far from alone.
To see how ridiculously slanted this hobby is toward German stuff, I took a quick look using Scale Hobbyist’s handy filtering system to isolate subjects by period and country. Is their stock exhaustive? No. But it’s rather thorough, so I’m going to go ahead and proclaim it a good representation.
Looking at all World War II aircraft, across all scales, we’ve got just over 1500 kits. 28% of them are German. The United States comes in second, with 25%.
The United States fielded a far more diverse fleet of aircraft during the war.
Consider fighters. Germany had the Bf 109, Fw 190, and Me 262. I’d fold the Ta 152 in with the Fw 190, and would consider adding late war stuff like the He 162 and Do 335. Still, three main fighter types. The US, meanwhile, had the P-38, P-39, P-40, P-47, P-51, F4F Wildcat, F6F Hellcat and the F4U Corsair. And each of these aircraft had at least two major variants (for example, the P-47D Razorback and Bubbletop, P-47M, and P-47N) and multiple block variants within each “letter” variant. That’s three heavily fielded fighter types to eight, and we’re not even touching bombers, scouts, seaplanes, transports and so on. But there are more German kits.
I think it’s fair to say that the Luftwaffe is over-represented relative to other countries.
In armor, it’s even worse. Of the 1090 World War II 1/35 kits Scale Hobbyist stocks, 56% of them are German (just 14% are Russian, just 12% American…).
I realize Germany fielded a pretty staggering variety of armored stuff during the War. Among tanks alone we go from the Panzer I to the Tiger and King Tiger, with all kinds of variants of each. Compared to the (relatively) limited variety of the Allies. But still. 56%???
Part of me is tempted to do an audit of forum and blog WIP projects, but 1) that sounds really tedious and 2) the massive over-representation of German subjects probably injects some kind of selection bias.
Heart of Darkness
So…what explains the fascination? The manufacturers have some responsibility, but they’re also picking subjects based on what will sell. Kitty Hawk’s planned 1/32 F-11 Tiger was recently shelved because investors felt it wouldn’t sell. So even with the more esoteric choices…money talks.
And modelers buy and build a ton of German shit.
I’m sure there’s a small minority of modelers out there who are Holocaust denier types and think the Nazis were just peachy, but I’m going to guess that that’s not the case for most. And if it is, come on, who’s going to own to that in this day and age?
Here are some of the more common
reasons justifications rationalizations I’ve seen:
Because history. To me, this is a chickenshit dodge. I certainly don’t think we should flinch away from building any German subjects, but keeping the history alive or celebrating the history or whatever involves ranging all over the field. If you build mostly or exclusively German subjects, well, that’s not an interest in capital-H History. That’s an interest in German history.
Because engineering. I hear this one a lot. Germans just made the best shit. And while I’ll grant they made a lot of interesting innovations and rolled out some gamechangers like the Me 262, this one just isn’t true. For all the engineering brilliance that went into the Tiger, it was a fickle maintenance hog. The Sherman and T-34 may not have been a 1:1 match, but they were easier to produce and easier to keep in the field. The P-51 was a feat of engineering that surpassed any German piston-engined fighter.
Because they look cool. Another common refrain. And one I’ll certainly grant – zee Germans certainly had an eye for design for interesting camoflage schemes. But this is like…really shallow. I’d buy it from a 12-year-old kid, but grown-ass men (let’s face it…most of us are) don’t get into pissing matches over the landing bay bulges on a 109’s wings because they think they look cool. They don’t crawl up your ass about the presence or not of a pistol port on a tank turret because the tank just looks cool. There’s something deeper going on.
Let’s Make a Distinction
I’m not talking about those who build the occasional 109 or Panzer III or whatever. Nothing wrong with a balanced approach to modeling (though I do have a personal rule after my Panzer IV – nothing from SS divisions).
I’m talking about those who only (or overwhelmingly) build German subjects. Who move from Fw 190 to Bf 109 to Bf 110 to Ho 229 to Ju 87, or those who just build Panzers over and over and over.
Or who take completely unrelated kits – gundams and Star Wars walkers and dragons and shit – and put German crosses and swastikas on them. What is that about?
“Well I build German subjects because…”
Look. I’m not saying anyone’s a Hitler-loving neo-Nazi. Well, not explicitly.
I’m saying that the massive over-representation of German subjects in the hobby creeps me the fuck out. And it makes me worry about those who circle that drain regularly.
One of my big things in modeling lately is…I guess I would call it mindfulness. Paying attention to what the hell you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Why do you pre-shade panel lines? Why do you chip the fuck out of modern armor? To me, modeling is a journey, and the road to improvement starts with asking why, and experimenting when I can’t find a good answer.
I can’t help but wonder if something similar is the case for Nazi-philes. Why are 75% of the kits in your display cabinet wearing swastikas?
Where do you stand?
Well? Where do you stand? Does a too-enthusiastic interest in German stuff creep you out, too? Do you have a good rationalization for why you build panzer after panzer after panzer?
Sound off in the comments or over on Facebook.
*PERSONAL NOTE TIME
This is something that has been nagging at me and my own modeling journey for something like four years now. Ever since I built a Panzer IV Ausf. G that I realized way too far into the process was actually attached to an SS division that committed some nasty atrocities on the Eastern Front. Of course, the entire Eastern Front was one big atrocity, but still. It bothered me.
Since then, I’ve built several more German subjects, but only two representing things in actual service with the Nazis – a Panzer III and Revell’s Bf 109G-6. The others have depicted subjects either out of service – an Me 262 abandoned at an airfield outside Innsbruck, another a prototype capture by the US at Messerschmitt’s home airfield, and a Bf 109G-10 flown to an American-occupied airbase – or in foreign service – in the case of an Italian Bf 109G-4 and a Swiss Bf 109G-6.
To me, representing German subjects in this light is more palatable as it shows (in the case of “fled” aircraft) a rejection of the regime, (in the case of abandoned aircraft) the fall of the regime, or (in the case of foreign service) sidesteps the regime entirely.