Friday, February 22, 2002
New York G.I. Joe, meet der Fuhrer and the Angel of Death.
A small-time entrepreneur has sparked a furor by launching a line of dolls featuring leaders of Nazi Germany, including Adolf Hitler and Josef Mengele, the evil concentration camp doctor.
Creator Mike Fosella, 43, of Pound Ridge, N.Y., said he made only 50 of each doll ï¿½ and sells only to serious collectors and history buffs.
"They don't glorify Hitler or Nazis," said Fosella. "How can they glorify anything when there are only 50? If I were mass marketing them at the toy store, that would be another story."
But not everyone views the dolls as harmless.
Ken Jacobson, associate national director of the Anti-Defamation League, warned that many people, particularly Holocaust survivors, could find the dolls offensive.
"The people who are most interested in these things are probably the ones with sinister intentions," Jacobson said. "He has the right to conduct business, but society can determine what is appropriate. Anything we see as offensive we'll call it offensive."
Fellow doll makers aren't about to honor Fosella's work either.
"He certainly has a right to do what he wants, or else we've become Nazi Germany," said Joyce Miko, president of the Academy of American Doll Artists, based in Concord, N.H. "But I think, overall, what he's doing is gratuitous sensationalism."
The dolls, about a foot tall, are similar to the familiar G.I. Joe.
Fosella said he is sold out of both the Hitler and Mengele dolls, which cost $170.
He plans to continue the series with Nazi Gestapo chief Heinrich Himmler and propagandist Joseph Goebbels.
Fosella, who said he rejects Nazism and Mengele's cruel experiments on humans, insisted he was proud nonetheless of the craftsmanship and detail of his dolls.
They have plastic bodies and 24 movable pivot points, he said. The heads are made of cast resin and are hand-painted.
The Hitler doll was modeled on a photograph of the future dictator as he left Landsburg Prison, where he wrote his manifesto, "Mein Kampf."
"Every stitch is accurate," Fosella said, admiring the doll. "Look, he's even got socks on."
Fosella said he screens his buyers and wouldn't sell to a skinhead or a Hitler fanatic. He said most of his customers are veterans and professors.
"A hundred years from now, these will be in Sotheby's," he said. "These are museum-quality."
"I decided to do Nazi leaders for historical reasons and nothing more. To me, it's an art form," he said.