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Nazi memorabilia on Etsy—a complicated loophole

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You can’t buy or sell items on Etsy that “glorify hatred.” But that doesn’t apply to memorabilia related to Nazis, American slavery, and the Ku Klux Klan.

It’s a complex issue for Etsy and sites like it that deal with users’ free speech.

The discussion came to a head in Etsy forums Wednesday when seller jw observed that he wasn’t allowed to sell a Hitler film slide even though nearly 1,000 shops were currently offering Nazi- and Hitler-related goods.

Some sellers suggested jw report the Nazi-related items as against Etsy rules, when another community member, Robin, revealed an interesting loophole. 

Etsy allows vintage goods and vintage collectibles to be sold, so long as they are more than 20 years old and clearly marked as such.

“Etsy forbids items that promote or glorify hate,” Robin added. “Nazi Germany is a term for when the Nazi's occupied Germany. Lots of vintage Etsy legal items for sale here. Don't get excited just because Nazi is in tag or titles. Take a deep breath.”

To quote Etsy’s clause about hate verbatim:

“The following types of items may not be listed on Etsy: ... Items or listings that promote, support or glorify hatred toward or otherwise demean people based upon: race, ethnicity, religion, gender, gender identity, disability, or sexual orientation; including items or content that promote organizations with such views.”

However, Etsy does not forbid historic items, and unfortunately, hate is an enormous part of global history. As a result, it’s easy to find Nazi military medals, depictions of black mammys, and other offensive items marked as vintage or historical novelties.

Even though offensive historical items are allowed, several sellers still spoke out against the sellers that are providing them.

“i would never shop at a store ... that makes money off of anything the nazi's produced,” k mak said. “I walked out of a store just last week because of a nazi patch that was being sold. I know that's my opinion and not everyone would care, but it makes me wonder how many customers you alienate with such a charged product.”

Why would anyone want to buy a Nazi product anyway, some users asked? In a previous discussion, sparrowsalvage reminded Etsians that the answer isn’t always cut and dry:

“If someone collects it and builds up a bit of a 'yay nazis!' situation obviously it's distasteful to most compassionate people, but there are similarly people who collect anything and everything to do with The Civil War, colonisation of Australia, etc. My father collects Vietnam war stuff because it helps him deal with what he went through there.”

Photo via Etsy