Jesus was an imposter! What can he do for us?

Hansi, The Girl Who Loved The Swastika is the real-life autobiography of Maria Anne Hirschmann. She lived in the Sudetenland in 1938 when the Germans took it over from Czechoslovakia. That year Maria won a "contest" to join the Hitler Youth. She joined the organization and became a volunteer nurse at military medical clinics across the western front of Germany. At the conclusion of the war, she was captured by vigilante Russian soldiers, who constantly threatened her with rape. Finally she escaped and rejoined her long lost sweetheart in Switzerland. Eventually they emigrated to America, where she runs ex-Nazi Christian support groups in prisons and half-way homes across California.

The book is an engaging read, if only because the story is so compelling, and the morals, though heavyhanded, are uplifting. But what makes this title worth noding is the comic book version.

That's right, you heard me.

In 1975, Spire Comics (home to the Jack Chick tracts and Al Hartley's Christian Archie comics issues) had begun doing "graphic autobiographies" of public Christians - mostly friends of Billy Graham, who helped fund the company. In addition to Johnny Cash, Tom Landry, and concentration camp survivor Corrie ten Boom, Spire also turned Hirschmann's story into a 32-page mini-epic.

The cover itself is emblazoned with, you guessed it, a swastika. What's really shameless is the short shrift the comic gives to Maria's real life, dissolving it down into a few pithy rejection-redemption episodes and more than a few overly-stylized images of the Hitler Youth and the bloodshed of war. Its hamfisted Christian dialogue and occasionally questionable content makes it a hallmark of bad comics.

All the same, if you see the comic at your local comic shop or newsstand, grab a copy and buy it. This comic (along with all Spire Comics) are valuable collector's items today.

Source: http://www.goneandforgotten.i8.com/Page01/

I have a large collection of obscure and ephemeral comics, and "Hansi The Girl Who Loved the Swastika" is one of my more obscure finds, picked up in a small Goodwill store for the price of twenty-five cents. This was many years ago, and only recently did I realize a few important facts about this comic.

  • It was based off of a book of the same name.
  • It is, as much as any autobiography is, true.
  • It is a valuable collectors item in some circles.

When I first read it, I did realize it was obviously a heavy-handed attempt at propaganda, and was somewhat amusing in the clumsiness of its religious and political message. Of course, there is a limit to the finesse and depth that a comic book could bring to the issue of totalitarianism, and anyone in our cynical generation is probably going to view this through a heavy cloud of skepticism and irony. But whatever the amount of sincerity and insight that could be put into these weighty issues, this comic falls far below them.

This isn't because I disagree with the religious and political ideas, and as stated in the above writeup, some of the messages could be considered uplifting, even if they are heavy handed. What is done poorly, even for a 32 page comic, is to explain all of the history, some of it very tragic. What is shown is shown brutally and hastily. One page we are being shown (obliquely) the Russian soldiers raping women, and several pages later we are shown smiling American soldiers serving Hansi breakfast in bed. Its not that this is a caricature, it is that the comic slides between them in a way that is totally disrespectful to how harrowing the experience must have been, and thus also doesn't truly communicate what Hansi's conversion away from nazism was like.

And this brings us to (if you will forgive the pun), the crux of the problem. The title itself actually shows the problem: Hansi loves The swastika; but the nazis themselves, what they believed, and what they did, is almost glossed over. Instead of showing or explaining the evils of nazism, nazism is shown mostly in terms of its symbol. To a disconcerting extent, in fact: everything up to Hitler's suicide fits in the first nine pages, and in those pages, the swastika is displayed over seventy times. And in these pages, the most succinct description of nazi belief is:

Hitler is showing us new things---and more scientific ways!
As far as defining characteristics of nazism, spreading science was never one of the greatest.

So, I would actually conclude that this story fails in many ways: as propaganda, as religious autobiography, as apologetic, as history lesson, and as a comic book. The one thing it does succeed at is being a collector's item.

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