Rotorua retailer ‘flags’ concerns over swastika

August 21, 2015 by Keren Cook
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A Rotorua retailer has no qualms about offending people with a swastika flag currently hanging inside his shop window.

The Rotorua Collectors Centre is owned by Walter Dobbs, and stocks a variety of war memorabilia, sports gear and historical collectors’ items.

A local man informed New Zealand’s Rotorua Daily Post about the flag, expressing concern about what ex-servicemen and visitors to the city might think.

Dobbs says only two people have complained to him about the flag so far, and in his opinion it’s not enough for him to bring it down. The retailer made it clear he did not support the Third Reich movement, and says there is a demand for products with the swastika insignia.

The flag has caused quite a rift with locals. A Rotorua Lakes Council spokeswoman said some of the Thursday Night Market stall operators were offended by the flag being on display and the market manager had a “quiet word” to Mr Dobbs about the complaints, and how it might be a good idea to take it down – Dobbs refused.

For Dobbs, selling these items is nothing more than a simple business exercise: “The most copied, the most expensive and the most collected military in the world is Third Reich; we can’t deny that.

“I have no sympathies with them myself of course, but if the public come and ask for it, what do you do? What’s the worst thing you can say as a retailer? No haven’t got any,” says Dobbs.

For Dobbs, the issue is about numbers saying: “If enough people came in and said it was offensive, I probably would take it down. Of course there are people out there who will be offended and so they should be, but there should be freedom of choice for me to do what I like, we don’t live in North Korea or Syria.”

However, it appears that the local community doesn’t quite see it this way.

Rotorua RSA museum curator Alan Bines, 85, served in the New Zealand Army and Navy.

“Personally, I think it is a disgusting kind of thing. The fact is we fought against them and certainly I don’t agree with a swastika being displayed.

“I think for him to display a German swastika out there, many ex-servicemen still around would have problems with it, it brings back sad memories,” says Bines.

New Zealand Jewish Council chairman Stephen Goodman says it is “disappointing” that people are making a profit this way: “Unfortunately, it is not illegal in New Zealand.

“It is history and it is valid to study it but it really depends on the motivation. If it’s to learn from the past to ensure we don’t repeat the future then it is quite a valid subject to study, but the glorification of it is quite grotesque and most offensive,” says Goodman.

The facts remain – Dobbs is a shopkeeper who sells Third Reich war memorabilia. His current display of the Nazi flag boasting a swastika has hit a raw nerve with the people of Rotorua.