BERLIN – A cartoon published by Munich-based Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) last week depicting Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg as an octopus controlling the world with his company brought to mind a cartoon from 1938 Nazi Germany, the Simon Wiesenthal Center said Monday.
The SZ cartoon depicting the Facebook founder with a long nose, triggered sharp criticism from the Wiesenthal Center’s chief Nazi hunter Efraim Zuroff who told The Jerusalem Post that it “is starkly reminiscent of a 1938 Nazi cartoon depicting Winston Churchill as a Jewish octopus encircling the globe. And if anyone has any doubts about the anti-Semitic dimension of the cartoon, we can point to Mark Zuckerberg’s very prominent nose, which is not the case in real life. Absolutely disgusting!” In an email to the Post on Monday, the SZ’s cartoonist Burkhard Mohr wrote: “Anti-Semitism and racism are ideologies which are totally foreign to me.”
Mohr said he was “shocked” that his cartoon appears in this light.
He said that those who know him and his drawings know that “it is the last thing I would do, to defame people because of their nationality, religious view or origin.”
Mohr flatly rejected that his cartoon could be viewed as “anti-Jewish agitation.” He said his cartoon shows the WhatsApp purchase from Facebook and “is a combination of an octopus from the film the Pirates of Caribbean.”
Bohr said what he “meant was a cartoon depiction of the company Facebook beyond a specific person.”
He wrote his cartoon “did not deal with Mr. Zuckerberg, [but] rather Facebook. I am sorry that it led to this misunderstanding and hurt the feelings of some readers.”
Sacha Stawski, the head of the media watchdog organization Honestly Concerned in Germany, told the Post: “Every citizen has the right to be concerned about the invasion of his or her privacy, whether it be in regards to Google, Facebook or whatever multi-level organization it may be... And one may even compare such a multifold invasion into all areas of our privacy to the creeping arms of an octopus. So far so good.”
But, he continued, “The problem begins, however, when one replaces the face of this world-controlling octopus with that of a human, who shows traits, particularly the hooked nose, which the Nazis attributed particularly to Jews, thus transforming an otherwise perfectly acceptable caricature of the company Facebook into an anti-Semitic, Stürmer-like caricature against the Jew Mark Zuckerberg; the octopus, just like snakes, and spiders being frequent ways in which the Stürmer portrayed Jews.”
It is unclear why Mohr’s cartoon appears in two different variations. One showed Zuckerberg with a long nose and a second without a hook-style nose.
Stawski, whose organization works to combat anti-Semitism in the German media said, “interestingly, some people within the SZ must have realized that there was something highly problematic with their caricature, resulting in the unbelievable fact that different versions of the same caricature were published in different parts of the country on the same day.”
Last year, the SZ published a cartoon showing Israel as a demonic monster. The cartoon was widely criticized for depicting Israel in classic anti-Semitic terms.