Fascination with Nazi Lore in Asia

Yesterday I blogged about the recent incident in Chiangmai where students dressed up in Nazi uniforms for their annual sports day.  I talked about my experience in many Asian countries where people are unfamiliar with the history of Hitler and the Nazis, and about how actually in some areas Nazi lore has some popularity.  Well today I read that the 7-eleven chain in Taiwan were selling some items that “had a resemblance” to Hitler.

Actually, the article stated:

“….products featuring a cartoon vampire that bears a striking resemblance to Adolf Hitler….”

I had to laugh at the press again trying to create a storm out of a sensitive issue.  The cartoon is a common caricature of an Asian, and the ONLY thing that causes a “resemblance” to Hitler is the toothbrush mustache.  It is probably the most recognized mustache in current history.  Absolutely no-one in the West uses that style now as it was associated with Hitler.  However as I mentioned yesterday, this is not the case in Asian history.  Now imagine if the press instead reported the finding as:

“….products featuring an Asian cartoon vampire called Mark, that happens to have a toothbrush mustache…”

Ah, but that isn’t controversial at all is it?  And it wouldn’t sell any newspapers / magazines.  Take off that mustache and the character looks a lot like a typical Asian business man.  Hitler?  Come on.

History is history people.  If you can’t laugh at bullies who met their match, then you have a problem.

Then there was this quote from professor Lin Chong-pin:

“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.”

I guess he gives some insight into why Nazi imagery is popular, i.e. the uniforms look spiritied and the high hat looks very heroic.  So, because someone nasty did something something bad with a mustache and uniform does that ruin it for everyone?  To me that just means that they keep being a bully.  Bring out the imagery I say, reclaim it for the people.  Just like the swastika.  It doesn’t belong to the Nazis and never did.  Everyone get it out and display it, showing their support for a wonderful religious symbol.  The longer we keep hiding this stuff in a box and get all ‘het up’ whenever it comes out, the longer it will retain its link to the oppressor. It is time to move on.

I would be interested to know if Professor Lin was quoted accurately.  I wonder if he actually used that word “ignorant”.  As I said yesterday, why should we demand that Asians know the history of Hitler?  Tell me Westerners out there, do you know the historic detail of the Great Famine?  Which country did it occur in?  When did it occur?  How many people were estimated to have died?  Who caused it?  If you said the Great Famine of Ireland – then you are wrong.  The death toll from that was estimated at around 1 million people.  The Great Chinese Famine was a man-made famine, caused by the abysmal policies of Mao Zedong from 1959 to 1961.  Guess what, it is estimated that over 40 million people died in those 3 years.  People ate the bark from off trees, sold their children for food, and even dug up the recent dead to eat them.  The horrible thing was that the country had enough food – it even exported food during that period – but primarily because of Mao’s policies the people died.

40 million people.  Some estimates put it as MORE than all those who died in World War II!  So come tell me, who has the right to tell Asians (or anyone) what “history” they should be aware of.  Before you make the accusation – look in the mirror.  Should Asians know about the Nazis?  Why?  Because of the number of people killed?  If you use that criteria then do you know the history of the terrible things that have happened in Asia where more than 6 million people died?  Nope, you probably don’t.  Do you think it is a terrible thing to turn up to a fancy dress party, dressed as Mao Zedong?  No big deal eh?  Then you understand how Asians view Hitler.

I think that Professor Lin probably said “They’re not anti-Semitic, it’s just not relevant…”

I’m sure he also meant to say “Reading and understanding of Western History is poor”.  I am sure that they are really familiar with Asian History.

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