Hitler Chic, as it was dubbed in 2013, describes the phenomenon of Nazi paraphernalia gaining popularity in Southeast Asia – as we reported here. This ‘craze’ features T-shirts printed with cartoon images of Hitler’s face, Nazi influenced bike helmets, temporary swastika tattoos, and pictures of stuffed toys doing a Nazi salute.
Bangkok once boasted a Hitler themed bar and in 2012 it saw the opening of the Hitler fried chicken joint. The marketing material for this was based upon the model used by Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) – who threatened to sue. Instead of the face of the Colonel, however, buckets of the crispy cockerel corpses were emblazoned with the oh so familiar face of the Fuhrer.
As expected, this has caused outrage in the international community, particularly the Jewish sector. Ex- Israeli ambassador to Thailand, Itzhak Shoham, stated that this “hurts the feelings of every Jew and every civilized person.”
The problem is mainly manifest in the younger generations, who know little of the War era, and are not educated to be sensitive, even in a Kingdom so reliant on international tourism. Schools in Chiang Mai have even featured Nazi inspired fashion shows and themed sports events (Sacred Heart Catholic School). He was also added to a mural of superheroes at the prestigious Chulalongkorn University, as reported in the international media.
Despite these shocking revelations, it is generally considered that the Thais mean no offence. Jason Alavi, the principal of an American English-language school in Bangkok, said “I think they just don’t know any better. World history and geography instruction are woefully inadequate in Thai schools…The vast majority of the Thais I have known have very little real, useful knowledge of the details of the rest of the world. It’s just not a strong point in the Thai curriculum.”
It is a more pressing concern, however, when such Nazi references actually enter the textbooks and educational resources.
It has been brought to our attention that Walen language school, here in Chiang Mai, with several additional branches located around Thailand, has been using textbooks – of their own creation – which refer to Adolf Hitler. On page 43, for example, the book teaches “Adolf Hitler wear mustache”.
Offended by the materials he was provided, Yossi Rosenboim, an Israeli citizen who signed up for Thai classes, approached the school owner with concern. “I was very shocked by this!” lamented Rosenboim, visibly upset as he recalled the experience. “I was asked to repeat the sentence, and then spell it out for the class, but I could not. The teacher did not understand why I was not able to do this, and another student had to explain it [to her].”
Furthermore, when he approached the manager of the school to cite his concerns, he was told that they would remove this sentence from the next edition of the textbook – but when he asked why they would not edit the current version to prevent further upset, the owner purportedly just repeated he would deal with the situation. In this case, the head of the school is in fact NOT a Thai, but of Polish origin.