A German toy has been recalled from shelves over concerns that it promoted an inaccurate glorification of Nazi history, Gizmodo's Paleofuture blog reports.
The toy in question, a 69-part model of a flying saucer called the Haunebu II, was inspired by a Nazi aircraft design that never flew. In the product description, its manufacturer, Revell, called it the "first space flight-capable object in the world," claiming it could fly "up to speeds of 6,000 kilometers per hour," or the equivalent of more than 3700 miles per hour. The image on the box showed a Nazi flying saucer covered in emblems of the Third Reich shooting down Allied planes. (The product is no longer listed on Revell's site, but there's a cached version here.)
The Nazis did want to develop space-ready aircraft, but they didn't succeed. They definitely never made a functional flying saucer like the one Revell was selling—it wouldn't have been technologically possible, historian Jens Wehner of the Military History Museum in Dresden explained to the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine. You don't get that sense from the product's design, packaging, and product description, though, which claims that "airworthy prototypes" of the flying saucer flew in 1943 and that the project was halted by World War II.
Suggesting that the Nazis had access to secret, superior space technology might lead some model builders to doubt current historical understanding of the Third Reich, fueling conspiracy theories. And it doesn't help that if there are two things conspiracy theorists love, it's Nazis and UFOs. Some already falsely claim that Germans set up a rocket-launch base in Antarctica and landed on the moon as early as 1942 (neither of which happened, we should emphasize), and toys like this only add to those myths.
Germany has strict laws designed to prevent anyone from glorifying its Nazi history, including statutes that criminalize Holocaust denial and banning anything that idealizes or pays homage to the Third Reich, including swastikas and Nazi salutes. In Austria, where Nazi glorification is also illegal, a Hitler impersonator was arrested in 2017 for posing for photos outside the dictator’s birthplace.
Revell's misleading flying saucer toy wasn't discontinued as a direct result of those laws, though. Instead, the company yanked the product after complaints from organizations like the German Children's Protection Association (DKSB) and Dresden's Military History Museum. The company is currently investigating how a product covered in Nazi symbols got to market at all.