This holiday season, Macy’s is hawking gaudy jewelry like every other year. This year, however, the jewelry is emblazoned with Nazi symbolism.
One ad Macy’s is running frequently features the jewelry collection by designer Effy Hamatian. While Hamatian loves to talk about his panther design, one design prominently featured in the 30-second ad is the Iron Cross — a military decoration that Nazi Germany gave to its senior officers during World War II (you can see the Iron Cross on a bracelet at the six-second mark of the ad below):
The Iron Cross is also featured on a necklace for men that is currently for sale on Macy’s website. The description on Macy’s website calls it a “Celtic Cross,” although the actual Celtic Cross — which has straight edges — looks nothing like the Iron Cross with curved edges featured in Macy’s Effy collection. Effy Hamatian also designs jewelry with easily recognized symbols, like the Star of David and the Christian cross, which suggests that the Iron Cross that Macy’s is selling was specifically designed by Hamatian to look like the German military decoration.
While the Iron Cross is best known for its use during World War II, it was first used by the Prussian Army in the 19th century. Germany originally made it a military decoration during World War I, although Adolf Hitler repurposed it for use in the German army that occupied much of Europe during the 1930s and 1940s. Hermann Göring, who was President of the Reichstag during Hitler’s reign, was awarded the Iron Cross for his service in Germany’s air force during World War I.
While Germany still uses a version of the Iron Cross on military aircraft, an intense national outcry broke out when the German government briefly floated a proposal in 2008 to bring back the award for servicemen and women in Afghanistan. The London Telegraph reported that, for many Germans, the Iron Cross still “carried the ‘burden’ of association with Nazi atrocities.”
“Adolf Hitler claimed it was the happiest day of his life when he received the familiar black and silver cross and, although banned as a medal for the past 63 years, any Second World War film would be unthinkable without the decoration appearing on the tunic of some jackbooted general,” The Independent wrote in 2008, in its coverage of the passionate public debate about the reintroduction of the controversial award:
Rainer Arnold, a leading Social Democrat, dismissed bringing back the cross. “Given the legacy of Hitler and the Second World War, the medal is too burdened by the past for it to be reintroduced,” he said.
In an America where neo-Nazis are openly recruiting college students, engaging in acts of street violence that kill and maim left-wing protesters, and celebrating the President of the United States’ decision to be morally ambiguous about the rise of neo-Nazi groups, a national department store running ads with Nazi symbolism could be seen by many potential Macy’s customers as highly offensive and in poor taste.
As of this writing, Macy’s has not yet responded to Grit Post’s requests for comment. This article will be updated to include a response from Macy’s, should the company give a statement on Nazi symbolism in its jewelry collection.
Carl Gibson is a politics contributor for Grit Post. His work has previously been published in The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Houston Chronicle, Al-Jazeera America, and NPR, among others. Follow him on Twitter @crgibs or send him an email at carl at gritpost dot com.