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July 15, 2013 11:14 am

Thailand University Apologies for Hitler ‘Superhero’ Billboard After Wiesenthal Center Critique

avatar by Joshua Levitt

Offensive Thai student billboard, Hitler salute being emulated by a recent graduate. Photo: Simon Weisenthal Center.

Offensive Thai student billboard, Hitler salute being emulated by a recent graduate. Photo: Simon Weisenthal Center.

Administrators at Thailand’s leading university have apologized for a student mural that showed Adolf Hitler alongside Superman and other superheroes, after The Simon Wiesenthal Center criticized the art work, the Guardian reported, citing the university and the anti-Semitism watchdog.

The huge billboard was mounted outside the art faculty of Chulalongkorn University, as part of a tribute to this year’s graduates. Under “Congratulations,” written in bold white letters, the billboard showed Hitler with his arm raised in a Nazi salute next to Batman, Captain America, the Incredible Hulk and Iron Man.

The mural was up for two days before being removed on Saturday in response to criticism from The Simon Wiesenthal Center on Friday. Online photographs (see above) showed graduating students in their robes, mimicking Hitler’s raised-arm salute.

The artistic vision behind the picture was to show that good and bad people co-exist in the world, art school dean Suppakorn Disatapundhu said after summoning the students for an explanation. “They told me the concept was to paint a picture of superheroes who protect the world,” the dean said in a telephone interview. “Hitler was supposed to serve as a conceptual paradox to the superheroes,” he said, noting that the superheroes were painted in vivid colors while Hitler’s image was in grey. “This kind of thoughtless display will not happen again.”

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Suppakorn said new art students had painted the banner as part of a traditional send-off from incoming students to the graduating class, and it was one of dozens of banners and billboards across the campus during the university’s commencement period.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center, an international Jewish human rights group, had criticized the banner before its removal.

“Hitler as a superhero? Is he an appropriate role model for Thailand’s younger generation – a genocidal hatemonger who mass-murdered Jews and Gypsies and who considered people of color as racially inferior?” asked Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean at the center, in a statement on Friday.

“The Simon Wiesenthal Center is outraged and disgusted by this public display at Thailand’s leading school of higher education. This mural has been on display for days nearby the University’s Faculty of History building. We are outraged by those who created this travesty, at the young person posing using the Nazi ‘Seig Heil’ salute and appalled and disgusted by the total silence of the University’s elite for the apparent failure of anyone demanding its removal,” Rabbi Cooper said.

Last winter, Rabbi Cooper brought the Wiesenthal Center’s “Courage To Remember” Holocaust exhibit, translated into Thai, to Bangkok’s UN Hall where he joined 500 community activists, students and diplomats to stand and remember 6 million Jewish men, women and children murdered by Hitler’s Nazi Third Reich. “Perhaps it’s time that the University arranges for its faculty and students to view it as part of an anti-genocide curriculum,” Rabbi Cooper concluded.

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