BANGKOK (RNS) Thailand’s most prestigious university apologized to the Simon Wiesenthal Center on Monday (July 15) for allowing its campus to hang a huge, hand-painted “Congratulations” banner illustrated with Captain America, Batman and other comic superheroes, topped by Adolf Hitler giving a Nazi victory salute.
The apology came three days after the Simon Wiesenthal Center published on its website a photograph of a female student in a university graduation gown posing in front of the larger-than-life banner with her arm outstretched in a Sieg Heil salute.
“Hitler as a superhero?” asked Rabbi Abraham Cooper, Simon Wiesenthal Center’s associate dean, in a statement posted on July 12.
“Is he an appropriate role model for Thailand’s younger generation — a genocidal hate monger who mass murdered Jews and Gypsies and who considered people of color as racially inferior?”
Cooper suggested Chulalongkorn University create “an anti-genocide curriculum,” and invited officials to view his nongovernmental Jewish human rights group’s Holocaust exhibit.
In response, Chulalongkorn University’s Communication Center sent a letter to the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center and published it on the university’s Facebook page.
Without mentioning Hitler by name, or the Nazis, Jews, or any details of the mural or photo, the university said it “deeply regrets the appearance of this deeply offensive mural.
“We have investigated the case and found that the mural was created by a group of students who were unaware of its significance, and who have now been given an official verbal warning,” the university said.
The photograph meanwhile went viral on the Internet, creating a storm of commentary by Thais and foreigners, including expatriates and others familiar with Thailand’s notoriously weak education system.
In October 2011, students in northern Thailand proudly paraded wearing Nazi uniforms with swastika armbands, carrying toy rifles and led by a girl dressed as Hitler with a fake mustache.
When foreigners, along with Israeli, British and other diplomats complained, the Catholic Sacred Heart Preparatory School in Chiang Mai apologized for the “fancy dress sports day” parade.
Foreign merchants built Thailand’s first Jewish synagogue around 1600 in the central city of Ayutthaya.
An influx of Jews from Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and America became Thai residents during the 1950s and 1960s.
Israelis began arriving in the 1970s, to participate in Bangkok’s gems and jewelry industry and advise Thais about security and agriculture.
An estimated 300 mostly foreign Jews reside in Thailand today.
YS/AMB END EHRLICH