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Return of the Third Reich on Net

Of late the Fuehrer is making a comeback of sorts. And it's happening in cyberspace.

india Updated: Oct 18, 2003 12:01 IST

Of late the Fuehrer is making a comeback of sorts. And it's happening in cyberspace.

Recently, an article written in 1938 in Homes & Gardens about Hitler's Bavarian mountain retreat was serendipitously dug out and put on the web. Simon Waldman, who is the director of digital publishing for Guardian Newspapers, sighted this article in a back issue of H&G and decided to put it on his personal blog at www.blogs.com/words.

Overnight, it became a major hit and traffic burgeoned. Later, Waldman complied with the magazine's request to prevent unauthorised reproduction of its material and expunged the article.

The story doesn't end here. A Holocaust revisionist historian, David Irving, who has been researching on Hitler and believes the Holocaust never happened, resurrected the article on the web. You can check it out at: www.fpp.co.uk//Hitler/house/Homes_and_Gardens_Nov1938.

The article depicts Hitler in flattering terms and praises him as a highly multi-faceted and talented person who was an architect, decorator and raconteur.

Despite repeated protests by the international community, Irving refuses to pull it off his website. He told Wired, "If I suspect that an attempt is being made to suppress an awkward item... I would hold out as long as I could."

In the U.S, this incident has raised an interesting debate about the right to information under the First Amendment. Hitler has been in fashion on the Internet for a long time. Even today, he figures in the top 50 searches in most search queries.

Two of the most popular websites on Hitler are www.hitler.org and www.historyplace.com/worldwar2/riseofhitler. The former houses the Hitler Historical Museum and is dedicated to his writings, speeches, art and posters. The site claims to be politically neutral. While at the latter, 24 chapters delineate the rise of Adolf Hitler from an unknown commodity to the dictator of Germany.

While Hitler remains one of the perennial favourites of die-hard surfers, the whole episode in question raises issues of morality and copyright infringement. And the amazing reach of Internet.

On that, let me give Waldman the final word. On his blog, he suggests, "I don't know...for a couple of years I blog away in a quiet little backwater of the blogosphere, barely registering among the Technorati, writing on all matter of things to a daily audience barely big enough to fill a minibus. Then all I do is scan in a few old magazine pages and put them up...and before you know it...global media exposure."

Such is the power of this great equalising and empowering medium.

Carry on surfing!