• Germany's news in English
 

Nazi-themed Asia café sparks global outrage

Published: 20 Jul 2013 12:46 GMT+02:00

The SoldatenKaffee ("The Soldiers' Cafe") opened its doors in the western Javanese city of Bandung in 2011, named after the popular hangout for soldiers in Germany and occupied Paris during World War II.

Eerier than the gas mask canisters and battle flags bearing swastikas is the more than two years' silence that has followed the café's grand launch.

When the café opened no one voiced offence at the waiters and guests dressed as Nazi soldiers -- the Holocaust is weak on the radar in Indonesia, home to the world's biggest Muslim population, where the Jewish community numbers a mere 20 people.

But a recent report about SoldatenKaffee in the English-language Jakarta Globe newspaper triggered angry responses online and prompted Bandung deputy mayor Ayi Vivananda to summon the owner for a meeting.

"We need to ask him first in detail what his real intentions are. But what is clear is that Bandung city will not allow anyone here inciting racial hatred," he said on Thursday.

The café's creator and owner, Henry Mulyana, said he did not intend to bring back memories of the Holocaust but was not surprised to be branded a "bad guy".

"I don't idolize Hitler, I simply adore the soldiers' paraphernalia," Mulyana, a Christian who likes playing with air rifles, told AFP at the café on Tuesday.

His collection is on display for diners and includes a water canteen, bayonet, goggles and a lantern, most of them bought online.

"The ones with swastikas on them are worth more," he said.

The restaurant had only ever received positive press before the recent exposure in English-language media and receives a regular stream of customers.

"We're living in Indonesia and Indonesians weren't tortured in the Holocaust, so we don't really care," said mining company employee Arya Setya, eating a plate of spaghetti at the cafe with his girlfriend.

But now that news of the cafe's existence has reached a wider audience, it has sparked outrage among Jewish communities in other parts of the world.

"The Simon Wiesenthal Center is reaching out to senior Indonesian diplomats to express on behalf of our 400,000 members and victims of the Nazi Holocaust our outrage and disgust," Rabbi Abraham Cooper, from the Los Angeles-based Jewish human rights group, told AFP by email.

"We expect that all appropriate measures will be taken to close down this business celebrating a genocidal ideology that at its core denigrates people of colour and all non-Aryans," he wrote.

Under Indonesian law, anyone who deliberately shows hatred towards others based on race or ethnicity can be jailed for up to five years.

But such vilification usually goes unchecked, with hardline Muslim groups carrying out violent attacks on religious minorities with near impunity in recent years.

Mulyana said that his café has also attracted Western guests, including Germans, with one photographed on its Facebook page wearing a red swastika T-shirt along with several Indonesians in the same clothes.

He revealed he plans to set up an even bigger café on the resort island of Bali, which attracts throngs of foreign tourists each year.

"I'll certainly display Hitler's image, as well as Winston Churchill's, and paraphernalia from American and Japanese soldiers from World War II," he said.

His café could not contrast more deeply with attitudes in Europe, where several countries have criminalized the promotion of Nazi ideology and the denial of the Holocaust.

While Mulyana does not deny the Holocaust happened, he said making the tragedy taboo was hypocritical.

"If we want to speak up about humanity, why don't they stop wars in this world now, like in Afghanistan? War always claims so many lives," he said.

However, when contacted by AFP on Saturday Mulyana said he had decided to close down the café temporarily, refusing to give further details.

Indonesia, where 90 percent of the population of 240 million identify themselves as Muslim, does not recognise Judaism among its six official religions.

The country has no diplomatic relations with Israel and vocally advocates for the state of Palestine, although it has quietly engaged in economic and military ties.

Today just one synagogue exists in the country, in the city of Manado. A century-old synagogue in the city of Surabaya was shut down by extremists protesting against the 2008-9 war in Gaza.

Other Indonesians in Manado are believed to have Jewish roots, some hiding their heritage for safety fears.

A lack of sensitivity towards the Holocaust has also been shown in other parts of Asia.

Thailand's prestigious Chulalongkorn University was forced to apologise on Monday after its students created a mural depicting Hitler among comic book superheroes during graduation celebrations.

And in 2006, an Indian restaurateur outraged the country's small Jewish community by opening "Hitler's Cross". He was forced to change the name days later.

Historian Asvi Warman Adam from the Indonesian Institute of Sciences blames Indonesia's education system and schools for a lack of awareness about the Holocaust and world wars.

"We don't hear a lot of criticism against the Nazis and fascism in Indonesia," Adam said.

"Hitler's book 'Mein Kampf' is banned in many countries, but it's freely distributed here. It's translated into Indonesian and is quite often sold out," he said.

He said the school curriculum was focused on national history and trying to legitimise Indonesia's 32-year Suharto dictatorship, which saw the slaughter of at least 500,000 communists, Chinese and alleged sympathisers.

Islamic hardliners, who are the most vocal when it comes to blasphemy against Islam, are unlikely to make any noise about the cafe, Adam said.

"But if a Jewish-themed cafe opened, they would most likely stage a protest," he said.

AFP/The Local/pvs

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Poland bridles at German minimum wage
Photo: DPA

Poland bridles at German minimum wage

Germany's newly-introduced €8.50 minimum wage is raising hackles at Polish trucking companies, who say they shouldn't have to pay their drivers at that rate for the hours they spend on their western neighbour's roads. READ  

Life sentences meted out in murder-for-hire
A man photographs an appeal for witnesses in the death of Christin R. in 2012. Photo: DPA

Life sentences meted out in murder-for-hire

A Berlin judge on Thursday sentenced four people to life sentences in a sordid conspiracy murder case in which a pizza delivery driver was paid €500 to kill a young woman for her life insurance. READ  

Jobless numbers rise to top 3 million
Men at work. Photo: DPA

Jobless numbers rise to top 3 million

German jobless numbers rose this month, bringing unemployment up to seven percent, the Federal Labour Agency (BA) reported on Thursday. READ  

Frankfurt man loses airport job over Isis links
Security checks at Frankfurt airport. Photo: DPA

Frankfurt man loses airport job over Isis links

In a decision announced on Wednesday, a Frankfurt court upheld the dismissal of a man from his job at Frankfurt airport over his close friendship with a foreign citizen with ties to terrorist group Isis. READ  

Cologne Karneval scraps Charlie Hebdo float
Image courtesy Festkomittee Kölner Karneval

Cologne Karneval scraps Charlie Hebdo float

Cologne's planned Charlie Hebdo float in its Rosenmontag parade was a false start, after the organising committee scrapped its construction over security concerns. READ  

Overnight raids bust up smugglers ring
File photo: DPA

Overnight raids bust up smugglers ring

Federal police arrested 12 people on Wednesday night after a national raid by police broke apart a smuggling ring. READ  

Anti-euro AfD split over Pegida ties
Former Pegida spokesperson Kathrin Oertel and Brandenburg head of AfD Alexander Gauland. Photo: DPA

Anti-euro AfD split over Pegida ties

Germany's upstart anti-euro AfD party will seek to mend a rift among members on whether to forge close ties with an emergent "anti-Islamisation" movement at a congress this weekend. READ  

Court grants kids right to know donor fathers
Photo: DPA

Court grants kids right to know donor fathers

The Supreme Court (BGH) decided on Wednesday that the children of sperm donors have a right to know who their biological father is at any time. READ  

Russia may declare 1990 reunification illegal
Russian President Vladimir Putin. Photo: DPA

Russia may declare 1990 reunification illegal

More than 25 years after the Berlin Wall's fall, Russian lawmakers are mulling a proposal to condemn West Germany's 1990 "annexation" of East Germany as Moscow's answer to Western denunciation of its seizure of Crimea. READ  

No room for scooters on the bus: Court
Photo: DPA

No room for scooters on the bus: Court

A court in North-Rhine Westphalia found on Wednesday that there is no obligation for buses or trains to make room for mobility scooters - and that it's actually dangerous to bring them aboard. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Business & Money
FATCA: 'The age of financial privacy is over'
Gallery
The best regional foods TTIP opponents want to protect
Photo: DPA
Features
The rise and spread of Pegida
Photo: Shutterstock
Culture
This cosplayer did not think his plan through
National
Europe in statistics - from Spain to Sweden
Photo: DPA
Politics
The Local's report from Pegida's largest ever demonstration.
Sponsored Article
Top-notch tech boosts bilingual schools
National
Six stories that will rock Germany this year
Photo: DPA
National
Terror alert at a new high. Should you be worried?
Dresden skyline and river by night. Photo: DPA
Politics
What does Dresden have against Muslims?
Photo: DPA
National
What were your favourite news stories of 2014?
Gallery
Top 12 German idioms
National
Why has The Local got a new logo?
Photo: DPA
National
This German was abducted and tortured by the CIA
Culture
10 top tips for partying in Germany
Photo: DPA
Technology
What does the Chancellor see as the future of the internet?
Photo: DPA
Berlin
The Local's series on 25 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
JobTalk: All you need to know about working in Germany
National
Share news tips with The Local Germany
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

3,448
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd