T-shirts hinting at Nazi invasion on sale in Germany ahead of Russia 2018 World Cup
German online store Shirtzshop.de offers various items of clothing adorned with images of two male profiles in helmets resembling those of the Wehrmacht – the army of Nazi Germany – and a slogan written in Gothic script which reads: "This time we come in summer."
The print also features the dates of the FIFA 2018 World Cup in Russia, while the description says it's a "football fan T-shirt design."
Even though the Nazi army invaded the Soviet Union in summer - on June 22, 1941 - the battle for Moscow, one of the most strategically significant clashes of the war, took place between September 1941 and March 1942, with the German offensive being brought to a halt in early December.
Severe weather is believed to have aided the defenders of Moscow, as the Nazi army had to struggle with snowy roads and a lack of proper clothing. The slogan may therefore refer to that battle, although it is unclear.
"Items with such symbols and messages are considered discriminatory and will not be tolerated inside the stadiums," FIFA spokesperson Thayssa Plum said in an emailed statement to RT.
Plum also referred to the FIFA Stadium Code of Conduct, which particularly notes
that "materials of an extremist, offensive, or discriminatory nature containing Nazi symbols or attributes, or attributes similar to Nazi symbols" are prohibited at matches.
"FIFA has a zero-tolerance approach to discrimination and have mechanisms in place to ensure that the atmosphere in the stadiums is one of celebration and respect," Plum said, adding that anti-discrimination measures have already been tested during the FIFA Confederations Cup in Russia earlier this year.
"We are happy that the preventive measures implemented by FIFA and the member associations are proving effective and trust that the World Cup in Russia will take place in a spirit of unity, peace and friendship," the statement said.
The store is registered in the German town of Halle and is owned by Sven Liebich, who was head of the local “Nazi-comradeship” until 2003, according to the Mitteldeutsche Zeitung news outlet. Liebich also reportedly took part in violent protests, but is believed to have then started presenting himself as a left-wing activist, having tried to join the German Left Party (Die Linke).
Liebich’s store has previously offered clothing featuring provocative designs, particularly ahead of the 2016 European Championships in France. At that time, the store presented a very similar print with the slogan “Frankreichfeldzug” (Military expedition to France), which is commonly used to refer to the Nazi invasion of France during World War II.
The store is apparently not the only retailer attempting to cash in on provocative designs ahead of the World Cup in Russia. Another online shop, Teezily, also put on sale T-shirts and hoodies featuring the slogan: "This time we will come in summer." On the print, a hooded figure with a bat is depicted against the background of a Black Cross emblem used by the modern-day German Armed Forces. It was also used by the Wehrmacht – the army of Nazi Germany.
Teezily doesn't produce the clothing, and is rather an online platform for third parties to create their own designs which are then produced and sold by the enterprise if a certain number of items are ordered. So far there is no evidence indicating that German football fans have anything to do with the provocative clothing designs.
This particular design was apparently created by a German online sales group, Deutsche Fun Shirts, registered in the town of Altenstadt. “A limited series of shirts for the World Cup – grab one before it disappears from the market!” a description posted on Facebook says.
Even though it is unclear whether the group has any links to far-right groups, it is not the first time it has used symbols clearly resembling Nazi ones for its shirt designs.
In January, it presented a series of apparel featuring an eagle resembling the Nazi one, and two skulls in Wehrmacht helmets, as well as the slogan “Gott mit uns!” (God is with us!) – which was frequently used in the German Empire and Nazi Germany.
Another design featuring symbols similar to those of the Nazis was promoted on the group's Facebook page in December 2016. At that time, it was a print of an eagle bearing a striking resemblance to the Nazi symbol, and a wreath with a fist.