08/17/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Nazi Gnome Sparks Controversy, Investigation Of Artist

German prosecutors are investigating the legality of a garden gnome sculpture that recently went on display in a Nuremberg art gallery that is quite clearly giving the trademark right-handed Nazi salute associated with Adolf Hitler, the BBC reports. Nazi salutes and symbols are expressly forbidden in Germany--as they have been since World War II. Prosecutors are now investigating the artist, Nuremberg Academy of Fine Arts president Ottmar Hoerl, 59, who claims that the point is to mock the Nazis, not glorify them, according to the BBC:

Last year hundreds of his "Nazi" gnomes went on show in the Belgian city of Gent, in an exhibition called "Dance with the Devil".

Mr Hoerl said that Belgians had well understood the political meaning "when one portrays the master race as a garden gnome".

"In 1942 I would have been murdered by the Nazis for this work," he said.

Hoerl's explanation may help his case. According to the Telegraph, investigators are currently conducting interviews, but will also look into the artistic intent behind the gnomes. According to spokesman Wolfgang Traeg, "It is also a question of art a bit. It will also depend on what the artist and the owners of the gallery have to say for themselves about the whole thing."

Get HuffPost World On Facebook and Twitter!