Irony and the Holocaust is a combination usually best avoided. If one needed any
proof, it came from Estonia on Monday.
Jewish groups expressed outrage
after a newspaper in Estonia published a fake ad that they said disrespected
victims of the Holocaust.
The Eesti Ekspress, a popular daily in the
Baltic nation, ran a piece in its satirical pages that used notorious war
Josef Mengele and the Nazi concentration camp Buchenwald to
sell weight-loss pills.
“One, two, three: Dr. Mengele’s diet pills work
miracles on you,” it read. “There were no fatties in Buchenwald.”
members of the small Jewish community lambasted the publication saying it was an
example of the country’s “major problems with moral and ethical
Efraim Zuroff, the Israel director for the Simon Wiesenthal
Center, said it was a “sick attempt at humor.”
“It is incomprehensible
that a leading and ostensibly respectable news weekly in a country which is a
member in good standing in the European Union will publish such a perverted
attempt at humor at the expense of the Nazis’ millions of victims,” he
But Sulev Vedler, the deputy editor of Eesti Ekspress, said the
piece was ironic. Vedler told the The Jerusalem Post in an email that the ad was
meant to spoof a real one run by the Estonian national gas company
In the controversial ad that was pulled shortly after it first
appeared late last month, the Estonian GasTerm Eesti company used a photo of the
infamous gate at the entrance to the Auschwitz concentration camp, which read
“Arbeit match frei” (Work makes you free).
“The ridicule was not at the
expense of any nation or anyone who has suffered in concentration camps, but at
the expense of the Estonian company in question,” said Vedler.
apologized for any offense the attempt at satire might have caused, but Zuroff
dismissed Vedler’s explanation of a simple misunderstanding saying the flap tied
into the larger battle over how the Holocaust is remembered in the
The Jewish activist – who for years has been fighting what he
says are attempts by authorities in the Baltics to cover up local complicity in
the mass murder of Jews during World War II – said Eesti Ekspress has a history
of animosity towards Jews.
As proof, he sent a cartoon it ran on August
21, 2001, that portrayed himself as the devil incarnate, complete with horns and
a pitchfork, drinking the blood of suspected war criminal Harry Mannil out of a
cup handed to him by the Estonian prime minister at the time.
very negative on the war crimes issue to the point that they portrayed me, a
person that tried to facilitate the prosecution as a devil,” Zuroff
Mannil was investigated by Estonia for alleged war crimes against
Jews during World War II when he was a member of the local police, but never
charged. He died in 2010 in Costa Rica.
Vedler on Monday said he had
never seen the cartoon Zuroff complained about before and that he was unaware of
its context or background or when it appeared.
“But I know,” he added,
“that we are not against Jewish people. We don’t hate Jews.”