Metzitzah B’peh

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Auschwitz Souvenir T-shirt

I created the above design and made it available on t-shirts through CafePress in January 2005. I had three main purposes in doing this: (1) to question why it is okay to make jokes about anything (no matter how tragic or serious or sacred) but the Holocaust, (2) to comment on the commodification of the Holocaust by various organizations and individuals who claim to act on behalf of survivors, and (3) to amuse myself. I ordered one of the shirts for myself and didn't think much about it after that.

In March 2006 someone from CafePress emailed me the following message:

Thank you for using

Regarding your shop, we would like you to include additional information explaining what your message on your merchandis
(sic) is supposed to represent in your shop's front page.

Please reply with the changes that you intend to make by March 29, 2006. If we do not hear from you by this time, then we may place the images in this shop to Pending Status.

Please let us know if you have any questions or concerns.

I responded:

I'm not sure what additional information you want me to include on the shop's front page, but I'll be happy to include it if I can get some elaboration.

The shirt is a parody of the "My parents (or some other loved one) went to the Grand Canyon (or some other tourist destination) and all I got was this lousy t-shirt!" t-shirt which I'm sure we've all seen. The humor derives from the fact that Auschwitz is not the sort of tourist destination that actually sells these shirts.

Is this the additional information that you're asking that I put on the front page? I will do so if you like, but I think the joke is obvious. Please let me know if this explanation is what I should add or if you have any suggestions as to what I should add.

The CafePress representative never responded. In December 2006 I noticed that the design had been placed to "Pending Status." I assumed that they had decided to forgo a response to my request for elaboration, but had only just gotten around to carrying out the threat they had made in March. (I know how slow processes can be in a big corporation.)

I didn't and don't dispute CafePress' right to run their business however they want to run it. If they want to censor designs that they don't like, that's okay with me. I was glad that the design had a good almost-two-year run. Again, I didn't think much about it after that.

Then, a couple of months ago, I happened upon this letter from the ADL while rummaging around on the Web. I was a little annoyed when I realized that that was what prompted the censorship of my design.

I must admit that I was also honored to have provoked such a response. (I wonder if that's how Matt Stone and Trey Parker feel all the time.)

I tried to figure out if there's any hidden meaning in the way he signed the letter:


Abraham H. Foxman
National Direc

But, I decided that the smaller font used on the "tor" in "Director" was just a typographical error, rather than some clever wordplay that I didn't get or some sort of secret, conspiratorial B'nai B'rith code.

Anyway, I'm not cool with being pushed around, so I put the design back up on Printfection. (I've since ordered and received another product from Printfection and I have to say that I'm very impressed with the quality. They have a huge imprint-area on their shirts and the printing job is very good...comparable to what you get on screen-printed t-shirts.)

The other day I noticed that the ADL recently included their overreaction to my t-shirt design in a list of responses they've had to the "inappropriate use of Holocaust/Nazi imagery."



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