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Subject: Why wargamers are Nazis - a sadly true story about a customs rss

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Wolfgang Kunz
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Hi, I am a wargamer and since yesterday I am suspected as being a Nazi. How this can be you might ask, since I am a "normal" citizen, have a job working from 6 to 6, not much affiliated with politics and even less with Nazis.

Well it all began with a game and the German customs office…

I was so stupid in ordering "Wacht am Rhein II" by Decision Games thru an American Internet Store. OK – first fault – the game was much cheaper there but I should support German Stores. Amazingly enough the game did not arrive as fast as usual but I got a letter that I have to go to the customs – office to pick it up.

Which I did (second fault). Arriving there I greeted the woman friendly and in a good mood – happily awaiting my game. She was as most German bureaucrats are, not overly enthusiastic and friendly. After explaining to her, why the invoice is in English and NOT in German she asked me, what's in the box. The box was opened before but, being friendly, I told her: A boardgame. I thought it would be overly complicated to explain to her, what a CoSim is and, basically it is a boardgame – has a (paper)board and tiles.

She asked me to open the package which I did. "Wacht am Rhein" came out, nicely packed and shrinked. A second woman arrived.

How can I say this politely? Her tone was, well, as in this American B-movies where the Germans are portrait and speak as someone expect them to speak. You know what I mean.
WHAT'S THAT?
A boardgame.
OPEN IT.

(I did). Looking at her I said: "This is no Nazi Stuff – it's just a boardgame". Thank God it has lots of pieces because you could see that this was too much for her and she couldn't identify the symbols on the chits. I showed her the rulebook (which is – thank God again –) in English, so this was also too much for her. You could see how frustrated she was not to find Hitler's mustache or Nazi Propaganda or anything else in this box.

I was told to wait outside, because they had to do some paperwork but I should leave "the game" inside. So I waited for 15 minutes and then was called in, had to pay a small fee (tax) and was sent away.

Even if this sounds ironical to you it was the first time in my life where I felt helpless – not being able to reasonably argue about a topic. If she had inspected the SS-counter on the back of the box I would have not be able to take the game home. And also the tone: No "Would you please open the box… May I have a look…" but exactly as I would have expected it from someone she suspected me to be.

I have an order of ASL on the run. What to do? Should I file a complaint about the way I was treated there and risk, that my next package will not be delivered to me? Have other wargamers experienced the same with the German customs office? I know that some German stores sell this game and it was shown in Essen – so where is the problem?

A hint to all the game – producers: Please avoid Nazi symbols (Nazi cross, SS-badge) or anything else on your box if you want to sell your game in Germany. And please avoid names like the one above and maybe call it: Some people waiting for others on a big river – game". We have a strange way in dealing with our history. Make a nice smiley on the box (make it removable so it does not looks silly) so everyone will be happy.

I find it very strange when you hear, that the police tells you in a TV – interview that they are no longer able to deal effectivly with illegal drugs in our land and on the other side a normal wargamer gets interrogated for nearly 30 minutes (in a strange "tone") and then is allowed to go because – "sadly" – they could not hold anything against him.

Absurd? Maybe – but sadly true.

Any comments…?
 
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Robert Wesley
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Re: Why wargamers are Nazis - a sadly true story about a cus
soblue Sure, I'd 'seen' this before and even in something as 'innocuous' as a "model kit" packaging! ANYTHING having to 'do' with NAZI symbology or the like, ist VERBOTEN! and "nicht rauchen" to 'das boot'! Hell, the 'Town Fathers' of "Wurzburg" proclaimed a GAME as "für dich, NICHT!" as it had 'NUKULAR' devastation in that of the same name! Man, talk about having a '.fuel-rod.'
stuck UP their BUTTS!
'

 
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Leo Zappa
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Wow - the "anti-Nazi" officals sound very "Nazi-like" in their behavior! I guess it's less about an allegiance to a particular political party and more about some people's pathetic need to conform to whatever authority happens to be in power at the time. I can picture some of these "anti-Nazi" officals being the first to sign up for their Nazi party membership if the Nazi party actually came back into power! Sad and frightening at the same time.

Maybe when wargame companies ship their games to Germany, they should come in an unmarked shoe box!
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Jeff Lee
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In 2004 The Australian Design Group was apparently not aware of German law and could not show off 7 Ages at Essen. German customs not only confisgated the 7 Ages game, but all the other games the Australian group had brought as well. I think it was all sorted out in the end with help and intervention from game industry people who had heard about the problem. However, it was a big loss to the ADG as far as the Essen show. Too bad since they have some pretty good games.

All that mess because of a few tiny nazi symbols om game components.

That surely was a customs nightmare as well.
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Wolfgang Kunz
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Re: Why wargamers are Nazis - a sadly true story about a cus
@ Leo: I fear the same.

@ Jeff: Yep, they will clean / conform you - if you want or not. We had some odd thoughts about a new "non-discriminating law" (as if we had none - it is in our "Grundgesetz") that would bring you to the point of madness. If you would post an apartment as "for rent" and two persons would show up the one who didn't get the apartment was able to sue you because you discriminated him / her. Due to the fact that you normally can rent an appartment only to one of the two persons this law is totally mad. And not only can they sue you but you ! have to proof that you did not discriminate him /her.

The first time that I saw a law that was turned upside down - you are guilty per sé until you prove your innocence. Gladly they droped the law - there seems to be some politicians with a brain around...

And it's not that you choose what you want to play - they choose it for you. Snakes and Ladders is just not as dangerous as a CoSim.

 
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Li'l Ronnie Post
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Wow.. that is uncomfortably strange.

I found myself on the receiving end of some weird & hostile gazes and even a comment from one doofus for reading a biography of Manfred Richtofen while in a hospital waiting room today (it's a Maltese Cross folks, not a swastika...) - but your story is chilling. Hope the black helicopters don't take you away Wolfgang!
 
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Re: Why wargamers are Nazis - a sadly true story about a cus
All I can say is that similar things have happened in the US for similar reasons. The long and the short is that folks want to head off trouble and, when government is the watchdog, the zealousness and laxity in the guard can be surprisingly compounded depending on the rules and laws they are following in a particular case.

AS examples: There was a story related to BGG several months ago about a guy who ordered a game from an online retailer. As I understand, the contents of the package were listed on the outside so the receiver would know what it was. The box had the words "Pass the Bomb"-- the name for a game here on the Geek. The receiver had a lot of explaining to do for the US Post Office with a bomb disposal team waiting in the wings if they didn't like the explaination. Things got sorted out and the guy got his game, but it was an understandable, if easily avoided error.

Another European gamer noted that the SS runes on the box top for an old copy of Squad Leader he purchased were carefully markered out when they received it. I suppose it's possible the sender was thinking ahead or a customs official took it upon himself to make things easy for everyone after examining the contents.

Wacht Am Rhein was printed by SPI almost thirty years ago during a time when printing swastikas (like in Sgt. Rock comics or in model kits) or seeing them on TV (on dozens of old TV shows and late night movies) was not a big deal in the US. I don't when the corner was turned that such things became "Voldemort"-- but it was-- and now we follow Europe's model for it's if-and-when application

To that end, most game US companies have done a good job of avoiding using the runes and the swastika in their materials. (They certainly aren't necessary to play the games.) Typically, the unwritten rule these days is to create box covers and materials showing Allied soldiers and to obscure markings on any German ones. Also, to show German soldiers in soft caps and early war uniforms rather than in stahlhelms and camoflauge smocks. Even tanks and planes (Allied and Axis) are sometimes shown in a cartoony guise. Memoir '44 (note even the name!) is a case in point.

 
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Werner Stangl
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Re: Why wargamers are Nazis - a sadly true story about a cus
Alphawolf wrote:
@ Leo: I fear the same.
And not only can they sue you but you ! have to proof that you did not discriminate him /her.



Inverted "burden of proof" (?) is one of the most sick modern developments in law, and it's most often discussed in discrimination and gender contexts. Guilty by default, that's sick.
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Re: Why wargamers are Nazis - a sadly true story about a cus
I was born in W. Germany and only lived there for a year before coming back (my parents) to America. It would be weird living there but no matter which country people live in I guess you just acclimate and adjust to which peculiar laws exist. I remember in RTCW (Return to Castle Wolfenstein) that had a map pack that had authentic flags and symbols which were banned in Germany. Well on one side of the token Germany does strongly enforce the past and on the other side Japan doesn't even acknowledge certain war events in their schools history books.

America has it's own weird things too. Like when I moved back from Japan with my Japanese wife. We tried to get an apartment but couldn't because she needed a social security #. I explained she didn't have one. Unaccetable they said. Ok so I got to get here one and Social Security Office says she needs a California driver's license or California I.D. first. Go to DMV to get California I.D. and said she needs a social security card first. Ok son of a bee. Go back to Social Security Office and demand a SS# for my wife and have to argue how she can't get an CA I.D. without a SS#. Finally apartment approves me based on myself (credit checked, etc.) Then over a year later the apartment manager asks who the girl is I'm living with and how long has she been living with me in my apartment. I explain she's my wife which took months to get a SS#. Since they had no record they thought I was living in sin.

Also I used to go to Mexico way back in the day (TJ or Tijuana) to be precise in a '79 Ugly Brown Honda Accord and every single time I was asked to go to the 2nd checkpoint to search the car for drugs. As soon as I bought a more modern car I think I made it through 95% of the time without getting sent to the 2nd checkpoint. Why did the 2nd checkpoint suck the big one so much? Easy the search took about 2 to 3 mins but each and every time I had to wait over an hour for them to come by. 30 mins sounds like it wasn't too bad for a board game after all.
 
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Wolfgang Kunz
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Re: Why wargamers are Nazis - a sadly true story about a cus
The whole thing wouldn't bug me so much if not some weirdos decide (or however they name it) if I get my 120 $+ investment or not based on their opinion of "whatever".

And what kind of possibility do I have to get the game if this one lady (very frustrated looking) thought that it was a tool or handbook to start a war with France again? At least I could have tried to go to court to use the "legal powers" to get A GAME !!! back.

Looks to me I have one right: To get kicked in the lower part of my back gulp
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Re: Why wargamers are Nazis - a sadly true story about a cus
Another good reason to reprint Up Front with a nice friendly Joe on the cover.
Seriously, this is not good what has happened to you. I wonder if you would be equally interrogated for buying a copy of Shirer's Rise and Fall of the Third Reich from Amazon US?
 
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Wolfgang,
I wish you well and agree that this is scary stuff. In the UK, the Labour party (Tony Blair's mob) is trying to get rid of trial by jury for some offences and enforce ID cards (although they say it will be voluntary). The world has well and truly been turned upside down due to the fear of terrorism and the political correctness brigade. I'm surprised wargaming hasn't been outlawed altogether.
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Re: Why wargamers are Nazis - a sadly true story about a cus
mrivera wrote:
Wolfgang,
I wish you well and agree that this is scary stuff. In the UK, the Labour party (Tony Blair's mob) is trying to get rid of trial by jury for some offences and enforce ID cards (although they say it will be voluntary). The world has well and truly been turned upside down due to the fear of terrorism and the political correctness brigade. I'm surprised wargaming hasn't been outlawed altogether.


What's got "getting rid of trial by jury" to do with response to fear of terrorism and political correctness? I fail to see the connection. Getting rid of trial by a jury of laymen seems to me a natural, fair and logical thing to do to improve a law system, and to make sure that freedom and equal rights and fair trials are better garanteed. I don't see why it should lead to a restriction of freedom or enforce political correctness (as enforcement of ID cards does).
 
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Michael Graf
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Re: Why wargamers are Nazis - a sadly true story about a cus
Alphawolf wrote:
The whole thing wouldn't bug me so much if not some weirdos decide (or however they name it) if I get my 120 $+ investment or not based on their opinion of "whatever".

And what kind of possibility do I have to get the game if this one lady (very frustrated looking) thought that it was a tool or handbook to start a war with France again? At least I could have tried to go to court to use the "legal powers" to get A GAME !!! back.


Why don't you calm down for a start?

(1) The reason your parcel ended up at customs was, I guess, unpaid VAT on imports (Einfuhrumsatzssteuer). There's nothing wrong with that -- we all have to pay our taxes.

(2) Yes, they *do* have the right to open the parcels to check that the invoice matches the contents.

(3) While "Die Wacht am Rhein" (the song, http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Die_Wacht_am_Rhein_%28Lied%29) is no more jingoistic and nationalistic than other songs from that era (which is to say, very), it was used extensively in anti-French propaganda, first during the Kaiserreich, then by Nazis, culminating in its use as the code name for the Ardennenoffensive/Battle of the Bulge. It hasn't been used much since, except by neo-nazis and revisionists.

Therefor, "Wacht am Rhein" is a loaded phrase. It would make me think of neo-nazi propaganda, too.

(4) Importing neo-nazi propaganda is illegal (§ 130 StGB (Volksverhetzung), and possibly §§ 86 (Verbreiten von Propagandamitteln verfassungswidriger Organisationen) and 86a (Verwenden von Kennzeichen verfassungswidriger Organisationen) StGB).

Now put yourself into the shoes of that customs official. She has just opened a box to make sure invoice matches contents, and stumbled upon something that (judging from the box) looks suspiciously like neo-nazi propaganda -- and yes, there have been propaganda board games. Would you demand a closer look and call in colleagues, or would you ignore what might be a crime in progress?

She did (IMO) the right thing and resolved the matter; you paid your taxes and got your game. There's nothing weird about that. The system worked.

Michael
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Wolfgang Kunz
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Re: Why wargamers are Nazis - a sadly true story about a cus
Michael, I have to disagree with you for the following reasons:

1)VAT is not the problem. I pay it usually at the local post office or when I receive the package. But to go to the "Customs office" located 25 km away from me was new.

2) I also have no problems with opening the package. I still find it interesting that while they opened it, they taped it and then let me open it again. Why not keep it open? But well, maybe there is a law for this too.

3) It was the whole situation that upsets me. Even if I were a Nazi there is NO REASON not to be at least polite in any way. The whole "talk", if you would name it so, was a gentle tone from my side and a VERY militaristic tone from the other side.

4) Reason: Why is a small counter a problem for our land? OK, I know this is an absurd question.

5) Throu an English book distributor (no special militaristic store or a small hidden one) you can oficially buy AH "Mein Kampf" and get it delivered without any problems to your doorstep (because the EU is no problem for the customs - office). A simple game on the other side brought me a 30 minutes interrogation. That's what I can't understand. If you ask someone they shrug their shoulders and say: Well, that's EU law.

With all respect, but if you have a 120$ investment I am not sure if you wouldn't find it odd, if a simple situation that could be explained with just a few words, turns out into something big.

And, one last remark: It is not the symbols of any organization that is dangerous but what the people are doing because of or in fear of the situation. I can make laws for the reason to protect you from everything and in the same moment restrict your life heavily - so heavily that you are almost unable to live free. I won't go into a philosophical discussion here. But the way we treat our history here is just odd and brings forth all these "New-Nazis" that are running around. Just think about the eastern part (is it Sachsen?) were a national-party gets 8 %. But no one shows that their is just "hot air behind their ideas" but due to all the boycott-stuff they get even more tiime in the news than they ever deserved.

I am not against paying taxes, VAT or whatever. But I am not a criminal and don't want to be dealt with in that way. Our land has problems enough. So these people should do something against these problems than to harrass a simple wargamer.

Even the announcement, that the invoice HAS to be in German is, for a customs office IMHO a very sad situation (to put it gently). If it would be in chinese I might understand it, but in English???

Sorry to disagree her, but I see it different...

Wolfgang
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Mik Svellov
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I agree with everything Michael wrote.

There are very good reasons for the strict anti-nazi laws in Germany, and while they will eventually be removed (to harmonise EU laws) it is only natural that German officials are taking it serious.

As for the problem with improperly filled duty papers is this a major problem for many EU countries as the internet makes it so easy to import goods from other countries.
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Depends how you look at it. As one of the main rights built into the Magna Carta and the US Constitution was the right to be tried by a jury of your peers, to remove that right is a dangerous move indeed! The connection to reactions to terrorism and and political correctness is pretty obvious. One of the first casualties of terrorism alongside truth tends to be freedom as a reaction to the dangers around us. Rightly or wrongly.
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At Michael: Very well spoken. Nothing to add.

At Wolfgang: Sorry, but the title of your thread is not ok. You have a problem with the etiquette of a customs officer? Then clearly write it! All I can say is: Oh brother... *sigh*
 
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Michael Graf
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Re: Why wargamers are Nazis - a sadly true story about a cus
Alphawolf wrote:
1)VAT is not the problem. I pay it usually at the local post office or when I receive the package. But to go to the "Customs office" located 25 km away from me was new.

Parcels usually end up at a customs office when where is some (usually formal) problem with the customs declaration / invoice / whatever, or when they believe they have reason to doubt the veracity of the declaration.

I once had to pick up several electronics parts, for instance, because the customs people didn't believe they really were free samples. They were, though.

Quote:
2) I also have no problems with opening the package. I still find it interesting that while they opened it, they taped it and then let me open it again. Why not keep it open? But well, maybe there is a law for this too.

Actually, that's quite simple to explain: AFAIK, customs processing usually takes place at the point of entry; for air mail, that's usually Frankfurt airport. If there are any problems, it's forwarded to a customs office near you. The parcel was re-sealed for forwarding.

Quote:
3) It was the whole situation that upsets me. Even if I were a Nazi there is NO REASON not to be at least polite in any way. The whole "talk", if you would name it so, was a gentle tone from my side and a VERY militaristic tone from the other side.

Yes, they should have been polite. No question about that.

Quote:
4) Reason: Why is a small counter a problem for our land? OK, I know this is an absurd question.

If the counter had the SS runes on it, it contravenes §86a StGB (http://bundesrecht.juris.de/bundesrecht/stgb/__86a.html), particularly paragraph (Absatz) 1, section 2, unless you argue that a game is a work of art and therefor exempt under §86, Absatz 4.

If you don't like that law, write to your MP to have it changed; however, as long as that's the law, you can't expect customs to ignore it.

Quote:
5) Throu an English book distributor (no special militaristic store or a small hidden one) you can oficially buy AH "Mein Kampf" and get it delivered without any problems to your doorstep (because the EU is no problem for the customs - office).


AFAIK, _Mein_Kampf_ is not illegal per se; you can also buy used copies in Germany without legal problems. However, the state of Bavaria seized Hitler's estate after the war, which they argue includes the copyright on _Mein_Kampf_, and does not allow reprinting.

Quote:
A simple game on the other side brought me a 30 minutes interrogation. That's what I can't understand. If you ask someone they shrug their shoulders and say: Well, that's EU law.

It's not EU law, it's German law: the plain old StGB. Most of it actually predates the EU by decades.

Quote:

And, one last remark: It is not the symbols of any organization that is dangerous but what the people are doing because of or in fear of the situation. I can make laws for the reason to protect you from everything and in the same moment restrict your life heavily - so heavily that you are almost unable to live free. I won't go into a philosophical discussion here. But the way we treat our history here is just odd and brings forth all these "New-Nazis" that are running around. Just think about the eastern part (is it Sachsen?) were a national-party gets 8 %. But no one shows that their is just "hot air behind their ideas" but due to all the boycott-stuff they get even more tiime in the news than they ever deserved.

While I agree with the general gist of your argument (and like to quote Benjamin Franklin on the issue -- "They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security"), you're missing the point. Customs officials don't make laws, they make sure the laws are kept to. Using nazi symbols is illegal in Germany, and when you try to import something that uses them, expect trouble.

I don't think the legal-or-not issue has much bearing on the rise of neo-nazism in eastern Germany, though -- IMO, the lack of a democratic tradition and a general feeling of being disenfranchised have a much bigger bearing on that.

Quote:
Even the announcement, that the invoice HAS to be in German is, for a customs office IMHO a very sad situation (to put it gently). If it would be in chinese I might understand it, but in English???

Hmmm... I've never had problems with English invoices before, and IIRC, any official language of the EU should do...
 
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I can understand both sides of the story here.

Similarly, political correctness and the fear of terrorism have their reasons. Trial by Jury is one way to ensure the lawyers don't control the legal process. It has special resonance for Anglo-Saxon countries. On the continent, not so much. However, there is no reason to switch from one system to the other, as both seem to work fine in their respective cultures. One could wish the government spent its time on some other activity...like doing nothing at all.
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Re: Why wargamers are Nazis - a sadly true story about a cus
mrivera wrote:
Depends how you look at it. As one of the main rights built into the Magna Carta and the US Constitution was the right to be tried by a jury of your peers, to remove that right is a dangerous move indeed! The connection to reactions to terrorism and and political correctness is pretty obvious. One of the first casualties of terrorism alongside truth tends to be freedom as a reaction to the dangers around us. Rightly or wrongly.


Hmm, to me things like Magna Carta and US Constitution were based on the best principles *at that time*, it doesn't mean that every single thing in them is still the best solution anno 2005. So to me it's not an obvious conlusion to say that it is a dangerous move to remove it because it happens to be mentioned in those two documents.

Personally, I would see it as an infringement of freedom if a thing like a jury of laymen would be introduced in our (dutch) system of law. To me it is much safer to be judged by qualified professional people who studied the subject, than by people on the street who may decide on your innocence/guilt just because they like or don't like your appearance.

A professional judge would IMHO be a better way to protect freedom than some random people with unknown qualifications and background.

edit: let me add that I agree with Philip that there often is no need to change a good working system. As a continental European I don't have much experience with Trial by Jury, our system without works fine, if your current system works fine, then there should be no reason to change it. If it ain't broken don't try to fix it.
 
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Re: Why wargamers are Nazis - a sadly true story about a cus
Philip Thomas wrote:
I can understand both sides of the story here.

Similarly, political correctness and the fear of terrorism have their reasons. Trial by Jury is one way to ensure the lawyers don't control the legal process. It has special resonance for Anglo-Saxon countries. On the continent, not so much. However, there is no reason to switch from one system to the other, as both seem to work fine in their respective cultures. One could wish the government spent its time on some other activity...like doing nothing at all.


I agree, there should be no need to switch from one system to another if the system works OK. It's true that governements nowadays sometimes feel that "they have to change something" as a response to current events, which turns out in doing more harm than good to the system.
 
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Gary Christiansen
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Re: Why wargamers are Nazis - a sadly true story about a cus
The topic heading is actually pretty much at odds with the actual subject matter of this thread. It's not about wargamers being Nazi's at all, but that a customs official questioned whether the game at issue was nazi material in nature thus violating the law which in turn led to your problem with the customs official. The problem isn't even the customs official really, so much as it is with the mutual understanding of what the law is and the process to vet packages for that kind of material.

There will always be some issues with some packages that cross national borders. The whole problem seems like a red herring to me, a reason to complain about the existing German laws about nazi propaganda. Whether those laws meet your expectations of what is reasonable or not is annoying perhaps, but your expectations are not what concerned the people who made those laws. If you dislike it, go through the process to change it.

I'm not feeling a lot of compassion because it could have been almost any governmental bureaucracy that gave you a stall and caused the frustration you experienced. Having been frustrated that way dozens of times in the States, it is no surprise we haven't a monopoly on the practice.
 
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Martin Parker
United Kingdom
Newbury
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Ok, we are way off topic here, but..... trial by jury for certain offenses is becoming increasingly hard to manage. Two main issues as I understand - a jury is simply over-kill for some charges. More importantly, for certain crimes Jury's are no longer able to understand the complexity of the case......and yes, I do have a low opinion of the general public blush
Still, I think we can agree that one you open the system then it will be further opened in time. Which is where the danger comes in......
 
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Li'l Ronnie Post
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Seattle
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WatchmanX2000 wrote:
The whole problem seems like a red herring to me, a reason to complain about the existing German laws about nazi propaganda. Whether those laws meet your expectations of what is reasonable or not is annoying perhaps, but your expectations are not what concerned the people who made those laws. If you dislike it, go through the process to change it.

I'm not feeling a lot of compassion because it could have been almost any governmental bureaucracy that gave you a stall and caused the frustration you experienced.


Oh for $deities-sake. The guy had a creepy experience, ok? Something that he probably expected to be a simple, non-controversial, everyday matter, took an unexpected turn to the threatening. He doesn't need to be raked over the coals because he dared to relate it here.
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