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Hitler toys being sold in Taiwan convenience stores

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By Danny Bloom

CHIAYI, Taiwan — New Hitler lookalike dolls are for sale at 7-ELEVEN convenience stores in Taiwan today. Seems as if images of Adolph Hitler, the German Nazi dictator, have a special place in the marketing hearts of Asian advertising agencies and PR mavens. From Japan to India, from Taiwan to Vietnam, images of Hitler make the news regularly, and not in a good way.

Ten years ago, for example, in Taiwan, a promotional campaign for German-made space heaters featuring an image of Hitler sparked outrage from both German and Israeli trade and culture officials in Taipei. The ads were quickly taken down and apologies were made by the marketing people involved. It was a big mistake they said, sorry sorry.

The resulting news story made headlines for Reuters and the Associated Press in 1999. Could this happen again?

Fast forward to 2011. A new Hitler doll has surfaced, this time being sold by someone calling himself Mark Lee and apparently designed by a doll firm in Japan.

The doll is a UCB and sells for US$15 at local 7-ELEVEN convenience stores in Taiwan now. The “cute” Hitler lookalike sports an unmistakable Hitler moustache, a Hitler right hand “salute,” a Hitler combover for hair, and a red Nazi-looking armband on the doll’s arm. Ouch.

Will this doll be for sale in 7-ELEVENs in Taiwan next week after the news gets out that another Hitler lookalike doll is being merchandised
online and in stores now? Are the 7-ELEVEns in Japan also selling this cute UCB doll?

Mark Lee, a blogger who created the cartoon figure, staunchly defended himself, saying he had no intention of promoting Nazi thinking.

“I had hoped to use it to satirize some bosses. In the eyes of disgruntled employees, many bosses are greedy and dictatorial and like vampires trying to suck money from them,” Lee said.

Some additional news tidbits to share ….both pro and con. …..The truth here is that Mark Lee the designer admitted he did base the cartoonish doll on Hitler but that he was using satire and irony as an artist to lampoon what the label on the package says in Chinese is “the boss is angry” so the Hitlerish cartoon is not really meant to be Hitler per se, or a slap in the face of Germans today or Jews or Holocaust survivors, but as he said, merely a Taiwanese designer’s take
on Hitler as a dictatorial brutish BOSS. The dollar sign armband is to signify that the boss only cares about MONEY and the office workers must toil for his own.
profit, so from a Taiwanese Point of View, the cartoon is harmless and funny and cute.

Most Taiwanese do not even see Hitler in the face. I asked a college student shopping in the local 7-Eleven last night what he saw in the alleged Hitler doll face and for two minutes he could not answer or say any name of any person…..then I sugggested ….”’What about Hitler’?’, and THEN he got it quickly but he also said ….”it was just cute and funny” to him and he had no real knowledge of Euro history, so no big deal…and much about nothing.

There were very negative reactions in one UK newspaper which sid ”the whole thing is a beeswax story on a slow day and the doll no more looks like Hitler
than Charlie Chaplin and everyone should just chill out and relax and drink some more Forster’s” beer…”

Still, one wonders whether Asians will ever understand what Hitler did during World War II or is that “story” just too far away for Asians to grasp? It happened in 1999 and it happens from time to time all over Asia, from India to Japan. Now it’s happening in Taiwan, again. Laugh or cry? Your call.

Back in 1999, to recap in older news story, a Taiwanese company provoked an angry response because of an advertising campaign using large subway billboards featuring a cartoon figure of a smiling Adolf Hitler. The advertisements are for German-made electric space heaters.

Israeli and German culture and trade officials in Taipei said they were appalled by the ad.

The maker of the space heaters, DBK, based in the southwest German city of Kandel, said it would of course order an immediate halt to the ad campaign.

The ad showed Hitler in a khaki uniform and black jackboots, his right arm raised high in a Nazi salute. Above him is a slogan that said “Declare war on the cold front!”

There were no swastikas in the ad, but the Hitler figure wears a red arm band on his left arm with a white circle bearing the German manufacturer’s name.

*
Bloom is Taiwan bureau chief for San Diego Jewish World. He may be contacted at [email protected]

17 Responses to “Hitler toys being sold in Taiwan convenience stores”

  1. Danny Bloom says:

    The AFP news agency in Taiwan, Agence France Presse, is doing an expanded story on this issue, with quotes coming in from embassies and store owners and local students. Stay tuned. This story has legs. Happy Sweet New Year at the same time.

  2. Observer Side says:

    UPDATE – AFP reports worldwide wire story

    Hitler lookalike key rings and magnets on sale in Taiwan 7-Eleven

    Published on Sep 26, 2011

    by Benjamin Yeh

    A Hitler lookalike appeared on key rings and magnets on sale at 7-Eleven stores in Taiwan, triggering strong reaction on Monday from the de facto Israeli embassy, which said it was ‘appalled’.

    The items, seen at several 7-Eleven convenience stores in Taipei, sported an Adolf Hitler-style cartoon figure with a short black moustache, a brown jacket and a red, black and white symbol reminiscent of the Nazis’ swastika banners.

    ‘We were appalled to see the Hitler lookalike image being used, again, as marketing aid, and sold in Taiwan’s 7-Eleven stores,’ said Simona Halperin, representative of the Israel Economic and Cultural Office in Taipei.

    ‘I find it tragic that once again, people (in) marketing and promotion fail to recognise the meaning of the dark age in human history the Nazi dictator represents.’ She added that she was sure the images were the result of ‘ignorance’ and did not reflect ‘support or identification with the atrocities committed during the Holocaust by the Nazis.’

    A PR official from Taiwan firm which runs 7-Eleven in Taiwan, denied the images were meant to represent the German dictator.

    ”They don’t look like Hitler. It’s not a moustache, but a tooth,” she said, referring to a black square in the middle of the figure’s face.

    East Asian pop culture and commercial art has a long history of fascination with Hitler and the Nazis.

    Occasionally, Hitler turns up in Asian advertisement campaigns, and in the 1990s a pub called “Nazi Bar” was briefly in operation in Taipei.

    In July the Israel Economic and Cultural Office in Taipei expressed shock when three local students were seen dressed in Nazi uniforms at a military-organized summer camp.

  3. Observer Side says:

    can you believe she actually said that? even the design Mark Lee admits he was doing a cartoonish parody of Hitler and yet the PR lady at 711 lies through her…..TEETH: re:

    PR official from Taiwan firm which runs 7-Eleven in Taiwan, denied the images were meant to represent the German dictator.

    ”They don’t look like Hitler. It’s not a moustache, but a tooth,” she said, referring to a black square in the middle of the figure’s face.

  4. Observer Late says:

    UPDATE The local English newspapers in Taipei are now qualifying an AFP news story that was published worldwide today in English, Dutch and German by saying it is “an alleged Hitler lookalike”……. Hmmm. Alleged? Who’s tampering with the copy?

    The UPDATED AFP wire story now quotes Mark Lee the Taiwanese dude who created the cartoonish Hitler “angry boss” figure on his marketing blog first and then later sold store rights to 711 for a 50/50 share of the profits, and the “toy” is now in all 1000 711 outlets all over Taiwan. They have not been pulled yet and may never be.

    Mr Lee told the AFP in a new update that he has been contacted by many news outlets as a result of this story and that he does not understand what all the hullabaloo is about as he created the cartoonish doll figure merely to poke fun at Hitler in a satirical ironic way and the doll is clearly labeled in Chinese packaging as “the boss is angry” and not once does the name Hitler appear on the packaging or on Mr Lee’s website. So he believes he did nothing wrong here and does not understand the negative reactions from the Israeli and German trade missions in Taipei , nor the neg reactions from readers around the world outside Taiwan. In fact, most Taiwanese people seem to think the “alleged” Hitler toy is cute and funny, and some don’t even recognize Hitler’s face in it at all!

    As the world turns.

  5. Observer Late says:

    The comments from a UK newspaper on this story are telling. Lobrio says: “I cannot see any insult here really………when I was on the same longitude as Taiwan in a South East Asia land …….I saw a guy wearing a black T-Shirt with an etching of Adolph Hitler on the front and the words ” Next time, no more Mr Nice Guy “. on the back ! ”

  6. Observer Late says:

    Loster Larry said in UK Telegraph comments; “Gott in Himmel, not nearly as bad as the Santa Claus i saw nailed to a cross in Tokyo in 1991 as part of a Christmas theme park “

  7. Observer Late says:

    Mr Kraschner in UK comments: ”Try as I may, I simply cannot believe that this object has caused “outrage” in Taiwan . . . or anywhere else inhabited by normal people.
    I’m not sure about the references to the so-called ‘silly season’ but it certainly raises questions about what journalists get up to when time hangs heavy . . ”

  8. Observer Late says:

    Peter adds good comment: ”I don’t really give a sh1t about the story, but if the black square is a tooth, surely it would be on the mouth line where the other ‘teeth’ are and not above where one would traditionally find a moustache? ”

  9. Observer Late says:

    Harry in UK said: ” It looks nothing like hitler and if a dollar sign looks like a swastika the observer is obviously on some kind of drug”

  10. Observer Late says:

    captain swing in UK adds anti-Zionist comment: ””Adolf Hitler-style cartoon figure”, “reminiscent of the Nazis’ swastika” So not actually images of Hitler or Swastikas then. Not even close. These days a small black moustache reminds me here in the UK of Blakey and On The Buses (Re-runs obviously!)

    After these howls of protest, were any views of outrage expressed by the Israel Economic and Cultural Office concerning the theft and occupation of Palestinian land? Probably more outrageous than a few plastic key rings. And much more lethal. ”

  11. Observer Late says:

    Engladner13 says: ”What a whole lot of fuss about nothing!
    It looks as though the PC busy-bodies have got f’ all to think about.
    To me, at first glance, I would not even know the figure represented Adolf Hitler! As for the ‘swastika’, it’s only short fat Dollar symbol! ”

  12. Observer Late says:

    crossword kid in UK adds: ”As far as I remember Hitler didn’t have two fangs and a bald [combover] head… This is just a vague caricature which could just have equally been based on a Taiwanese man.

    Also, the logo isn’t that much like a swastika at all. Besides, in Asia the reverse Buddhist swastika is still used as a symbol of good fortune and therefore keeps the pre-Nazi connotations that it’s lost in the West.

    Finally, why do I get the feeling that this isn’t actually a “story”, but the result of those increasing numbers of Telegraph staff paid to trawl YouTube and fatuous blogs for page-fillers, non-stories and general guff. I bet someone on holiday snapped this image, put it on their blog, and now the DT will try to get some milage from it. Saves going out and doing some proper reporting.

    I’ve just spotted the branding on the packaging. “i’m mark”. Of course, that famous dictator Mark Hitler. How silly of me to forget… ”

  13. Observer Late says:

    but Clarence in UK notse: ””They don’t look like Hitler. It’s not a moustache, but a tooth,”

    hahahahahhahahaha

    Or lord, deny, deny, deny dear 711 Pr lady. How effective”

  14. Outside Watching says:

    CNN update on CNN website and mentions this site: ”The items went on sale Sunday and sold for $15 each, according to the San Diego Jewish World.” in last sentence, see BELOW:

    7-Eleven stores in Taiwan pull Hitler lookalike items

    These items were pulled from 7-Eleven stores in Taiwan after complaints about their resemblance to Adolf Hitler.
    September 28th, 2011

    With over 175 Comments , many of them anti-Israel, anti-Jewish or plain antisemitic…… read the comments to see public reax:

    In Taiwan, 7-Eleven stores have pulled products featuring a cartoon vampire that bears a striking resemblance to Adolf Hitler after receiving complaints from the Israel Economic and Cultural Office in Taipei (ISECO) for selling the items, according to several media reports.

    The convenience store chain, whose 4,400 Taiwanese locations are owned by the President Chain Store Corp., has suspended sales of the key chains, USB drives and magnets sporting the apparent caricature of the Nazi dictator. Company officials originally denied that the cartoon was meant to depict Hitler, first calling the black square on the figure’s face a tooth, then a nose, rather than a mustache. But on Wednesday, the company acknowledged that many saw the image as offensive and said that it did not intend to be insensitive by selling the items.

    “Because there are people with doubts, we’ve stopped selling the products for now,” a representative from 7-Eleven told the German Press Agency, according to an Israeli newspaper.

    The ISECO, which is Israel’s de facto embassy to Taiwan, since China does not allow its diplomatic allies to have official ties with the island, says that while it does not think the products were meant to be a show of support for anti-Semitic ideology, the cartoon figure does signify a lack of understanding of the Nazi party’s history.

    “We were appalled to see the Hitler lookalike image being used, again, as a marketing aid and sold in Taiwan’s 7-Eleven stores,” ISECO representative Simona Halperin said in a statement Tuesday. “I find it tragic that once again people down the chain of marketing and promotion fail to recognize the meaning of the Dark Age in human history that the Nazi dictator represents.”

    Taiwan has a history of Nazi imagery popping up in public as a result of commercial use.

    Outrage about Thai school’s Nazi parade

    In 1999, a local company used an image of Hitler to advertise space heaters made in Germany. Additionally, in 2000, a restaurant in Taipei called The Jail displayed images of Nazi concentration camps, while a bar in Taipei operated under the name “Nazi Bar” during the 1990s. Both businesses later removed the references.

    The nation’s fascination with Nazi lore could stem from the fact that the party has become a symbol of courage because of poor education, which explains why an association created to explore Hitler’s achievements was able to garner interest from 1,000 people in 2005.

    “They’re not anti-Semitic, just ignorant,” Lin Chong-pin, a professor of strategic studies at Tamkang University in Taiwan, told the Christian Science Monitor after a photo surfaced on the Ministry of National Defense’s website of three students wearing Nazi uniforms at a military summer camp. “They think the Nazi uniforms look spirited, that the high hat looks very heroic,” he said. “Reading and understanding of history is very poor.”

    Products featuring the cartoon figure, which was designed by blogger Mark Lee, are sold in other Taiwanese stores as well, according to 7-Eleven. Lee says that while the figure’s appearance was inspired by Hitler, the cartoon was not meant to endorse any of Hitler’s views. In addition to depicting the dictator’s famous mustache, the caricature also wears a red armband and, in one version, has its arm raised in the fashion of the iconic Nazi salute.

    “I had hoped to use it to satirize some bosses,” Lee told Agence France-Presse. “In the eyes of disgruntled employees, many bosses are greedy and dictatorial and like vampires trying to suck money from them.”

    Representatives for 7-Eleven declined to disclose how many of Lee’s products were purchased during their short run on the store’s shelves. The items went on sale Sunday and sold for $15 each, according to the San Diego Jewish World.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. […] Representatives for 7-Eleven declined to disclose how many of Lee’s products were purchased during their short run on the store’s shelves. The items went on sale Sunday and sold for $15 each, according to the San Diego Jewish World. […]

  2. […] Representatives for 7-Eleven declined to disclose how many of Lee’s products were purchased during their short run on the store’s shelves. The items went on sale Sunday and sold for $15 each, according to the San Diego Jewish World. […]

  3. […] Representatives for 7-Eleven declined to disclose how many of Lee’s products were purchased during their short run on the store’s shelves. The items went on sale Sunday and sold for $15 each, according to the San Diego Jewish World. […]


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