Douwe Osinga's Blog: The stolen Böögg and the Nazis

Monday, April 24, 2006

The stolen Böögg and the Nazis

Back in the day when Usenet was the place to go for a good flame war, Mike Godwin came up with what has been called since, well, Godwin's law stating that if a discussion goes on long enough, the likelyhood of somebody bringing up the Nazis approaches one. And in many groups if somebody brought up the Nazis he'd automatically lose the argument. This post is an exception to that rule, I hope.

About a year ago I blogged about the odd tradition in Zurich of the burning of the Böögg. The Böögg is a huge snow man like puppet filled with fireworks that is set to fire each year to celebrate the coming of the summer. This year things were different. The Böögg was stolen by Left Wing Radicals.

It turns out that what I thougth was a odd and charming ritual from days long gone is actually part of a Zurich culture war that dates back a long time. I was surprised to hear that the fact that the Böögg had been stolen didn't pose any immediate problems, because there was a reserve Böögg, stored in a secret place, guarded by the police. Aparently in 1921 or so, the Böögg had been the target by the Communists and they had succeeded in setting it on fire before the official hour. I can imagine how Lenin, who lived in Zurich until 1916 said before he left, guys I'm going to start a revolution and that his communist friends said: well, don't worry, we'll do something quite revolutionary too.

Anyway, I joked around about this to a Swiss friend of mine. But he didn't think it was funny, he said the whole Böögg thing was very conservative and he never went there. Bad taste or something. So I was talking with my wife about this. Would you not go to a palace because it was built on the backs of slaves? In the GDR they had little plaques on museum items saying, the average laborer had the work so many days for something like this. It is one way of doing it.

So what if the Nazi's had built this great palace but with slave labour?