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September 10, 2012 10:39 am

Estonian Newspaper Under Fire for Nazi Death Camp Joke

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The ad reads 'One, Two, Three... Dr Mengele slimming pills work wonders for you! There were no thickset people in Buchenwald!". Photo Eesti Ekspress.

Jewish groups around the world have denounced an Estonian newspaper’s decision to run a fake advertisement in their humor section, which featured famished and emaciated prisoners.  However, the deputy editor of Eesti Ekspress, a leading Estonian newspaper which published the photo of prisoners at the Buchenwald concentration camp in a fake advertisement for diet pills, says that due to cultural differences, Jewish groups who have criticized the move don’t understand a simple attempt at humor.

The decision to publish drew sharp criticism from Jewish groups in Estonia and around the world, including the Simon Wiesenthal Center, which called the move “incomprehensible” and a “perverted attempt at humor at the expense of the Nazis’ millions of victims.”

Estonia’s Jewish population, which stood near 1,000 people when the Nazis captured the country from Soviet forces in 1940, was decimated during the Holocaust.

According to Eesti Ekspress’ Deput Editor Sulev Vedler, the “Doctor Mengele weight-loss pill” advertisement was anti-Fascist  because it was an attempt to make fun of an Estonian gas company which posted a picture of Auschwitz’s entrance on their website last month. Gas Term Eesti, the national gas company, took down the picture after its publication, claiming they had made a mistake in trying to contrast safe home heating gas with the deadly one used by Hitler’s Nazi forces at the infamous concentration camp.

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“It was published on our jokes page. I think people living in other cultural environments than ours just don’t understand it like we do,” Vedler told the Associated Press.  “For us it was an anti-fascist joke and a reaction to the recent, improper advertisement of one Estonian company. We didn’t mean to have fun at the expense of any nationality, there is no nationality mentioned in the picture.”

A spokesman for Estonia’s current Jewish population responded to the move in the daily Estonian newspaper Postimees, saying that her country faces “major problems with moral and ethical values”.

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  • Richard Tamme

    While I feel extremely ashamed about my fellow countrymen’s sick joke, it must be pointed out that GasTerm (whose ad was the target of the mock ad by the Eesti Ekspress newspaper) IS NOT A NATIONAL COMPANY in Estonia, but a rather small private enterprise.

    R.Tamme; Tallinn, Estonia