Points of Articulation
War on a Different Front
As part of Plan B Week, I wanted to take a look at two Plan B toys from different although similar lines: the Panzergrenadier from Special Forces WWII, and the Wiking Division Eastern Front soldier from Call of Duty. Both of these figures are based on German soldiers from World War II, and both have been pulled from shelves due to backlash against Plan B, but we'll get back to that in a second.
Both the Panzergrenadier and Wiking Division soliders continue Plan B's level of excellence in sculpt, paint and detail, complete with highly realistic and meticulous detailing. Both are 6" tall, my favourite scale, meaning they fit alongside most of your figures from companies like McFarlane, ToyBiz and NECA.
They share the same articulation, 20 points each, a standard (and a very good standard) for Plan B toys; the use of balljoints in the arms and legs gives them a lot of poseability and movement, and the interchangable heads. What's more, they fit together, despite coming from two different lines, they both come from the same war and look great together – the Call of Duty line fits right into the WWII Special Forces line, and vice versa; these toys are a delight for any WWII collector.
The Panzergrenadier is wearing a white uniform, possibly for some winter maneuvers. Of course, rather than flat white, it's got a dirty, faded look. The Wiking Division figure is in a brown and orange camo, perfect for crawling around in the mud of the Eastern Front.
And, as expected, both come with a small arsenal of weapons: the Panzergrenadier alone includes a MP40 Sub Machine Gun, 2 Magazine Pouches, TYPE-II Entrenching Tool, Bread Bag, M31 Mess Kit, M31 Canteen, Stick Grenade, M38 Gas Mask Canister, M35 Helmet, Walther P38 Pistol, and Holster. I'm particularly fond of the grenade here, of which I've yet to see with other Plan B figures, but everything is great – the Sub Machine Gun even has a realistic moving part and the magazine pouches are perfect. Sadly, it's going to be very hard for you to find either of these figures or any other German Plan B toy due to an attack on Plan B over making toys of Nazi soldiers from World War II.
Backlash started after people rallied media interest against Plan B for making German solider figures from World War II, and shortly after Plan B pulled the toys from shelves and made a statement on their website, denying any support for the Nazi ideology and apologising for any harm caused by the figures.
I'm extremely disappointed by this – no one complains when a figure of Freddy Krueger is released, a child killer and rapist, yet people get up in arms over Nazi toys?
Okay, Freddy Krueger isn't a real person, he's a character, but his ideology is much more evident in the toy than these soldier figures, and no one is going to be buying Plan B toys to celebrate anti-semitism or the ideology; they're buying them to have enemies for their American soldiers. As Plan B stated, "Our intent was to depict historically accurate action figures of allied and enemy forces." That is exactly what they did, and they did it very well.
Nazi doll saddens Holocaust survivor
'Painful, not necessary,' says Calgary man
Manufacturer defends toy as 'cool figure'
VANCOUVER - Dolls depicting members of a Nazi SS combat division originally created to guard concentration camps are now available in Canadian stores.
Auschwitz death camp survivor Sid Cyngiser is saddened by the toy. He doesn't think it should be on store shelves.
"It's a painful thing to see that. It's not necessary," said the 80-year-old Calgary man, whose grandmother, mother, father and sister vanished in the camps. "It's 60 years after the war and people are still busy with hatred."
The 'Totenkopf Division' doll, sporting military fatigues and the trademark death's head insignia on the cap, comes with a Walther pistol and gas mask. The packaging infers that the division fought in Normandy in 1944 as a tank unit — which part of the division did.
The Totenkopf was, however, a group originally formed at Dachau, site of the first concentration camp outside Munich. It opened in 1934.
Martin Kitchen, professor emeritus of history at B.C.'s Simon Fraser University, said the sale of the dolls is "most extraordinary."
Kitchen said it was a "fanatically ideological group" numbering about 40,000 members at its peak.
"They were a nasty bunch," Kitchen said. "They were responsible for a number of atrocities on the Eastern Front."
The figure is part of a World War II series from Plan-B Toys of Groveport, Ohio.
Other figures in the doll series include several Waffen SS figures and a variety of U.S. airborne soldier figures as well as regular Wehrmacht troops. The Waffen SS sniper comes with a recruitment poster.
The SS was the elite private army initially formed as a bodyguard for Nazi leader Adolf Hitler. Plan-B co-president Chris Borman said the company did not set out to offend anyone but was just portraying the Totenkopf troops that fought in Normandy.
"Everyone knows the Germans were Nazis in World War II," Borman said. "We picked them because they've got the coolest gear. It makes for a cool figure.
"There's really no harm in it," he adds. "We won the war. We already know the outcome.
"That division was involved in some terrible things, but wasn't everyone during World War II? It's just history."
Leigh Poirier, executive director of the Canadian Toy Testing Council, said her group wouldn't even look at a toy like this "due to its negative nature."
"It doesn't promote positive play for children. Our mandate is to encourage that."
Are toys like this idolising or enthusing the activity of the Nazis? Only as much as a Skeletor figure is proclaiming that trying to take over the world with idiocy is a good idea. I find the whole thing ridiculous and insulting, especially considering that these toys are not aimed at children, but at collectors and fans of the Call of Duty game. I also find it disagreeable that Plan B pulled these excellent figures from the shelves without a fight – I'm proud to have these toys in my collection, and I think Plan B should be proud to have made them, but instead they've discarded them with much of their own hard work. I wouldn't have expected such a fine company to give up without a fight – after all, you can still buy a 12" Hitler toy, and you can buy a 12" George W. Bush.
Are these figures really evil? Hardly – they're historically accurate and I truly do not believe they are celebrating Nazism; the backlash is unfounded. There are plenty of World War II video games out there that allow the player to play as Axis characters, but no one is decrying them. If a toy company was making Nazi Playsets out of Easy-bake Ovens that allow you to exterminate Jewish toys, then I think we'd have a real problem on our hands, but these are not ridiculous or offensive – just solider figures like the American solider figures, and no one can deny that both sides commit atrocities during war. And now, who are our American solider figures going to fight? Skeletor?
Anyway, beyond my discussion, these are fine toys from a fine company continuing their standard of excellence – it's just a shame you wont be able to buy them.
Was Plan B right to pull the figures from shelves? Did Cyngiser overreact to something he didn't understand? Would the reaction have been less severe if the reporter hadn't gone out of his way to not mention that the figures were licensed properties based on a videogame? Tell us on our message board, The Loafing Lounge.