Analysis: A distinct phenomenon and a new challenge
The party envisioned by Lan is not the typical initiative by European anti-Semites, but rather a completely different, much less dangerous, but still extremely worrying issue.
By EFRAIM ZUROFF
A decision anywhere in the world to establish a Nazi party, complete with the standard swastika symbol, would obviously be cause for grave concern and immediate protest. To ignore such a phenomenon would be unthinkable.
But Wednesday's announcement that a group of Taiwanese students, headed by one Chao Lan, has established a Nazi party in Taiwan poses a different problem than would be presented if an ostensibly similar political organization were founded in Europe or in North or South America.
The party envisioned by Lan is not the typical initiative by European anti-Semites with nostalgia for the Third Reich and definite anti-Jewish proclivities, but rather a completely different, much less dangerous, but still extremely worrying issue that we have failed to address adequately.
While high school and university courses in Taiwan cover European history, they clearly do not devote sufficient attention to the Holocaust and its universal implications. This also explains why in the relatively recent past, possibly well-intentioned if woefully ignorant Taiwanese entrepreneurs have used Nazi symbols and the likeness of Hitler to help publicize products or restaurants.
Most Europeans today have granted the Holocaust iconic status as the ultimate genocide and a watershed event in the annals of mankind, and share a revulsion to anything associated with the Nazis and their collaborators.
But in the Far East, there is little knowledge of the fate of European Jewry and almost no understanding of the deeply-rooted disgust most Europeans feel for Nazi images.
For obvious reasons, Israel and the Jewish world have focused most of our Holocaust education efforts in places where we assumed it was most needed. Asia, the Far East in particular, have basically been ignored.
Perhaps the Taiwanese students' initiative will serve as a long-overdue wake-up call.
Even though there was no mass murder of Jews in that part of the world, even by the Nazis' Japanese allies, there were many events during World War II that still resonate locally - the comfort women issue to name one - which the Jewish world can use as a context to educate the Taiwanese about the Holocaust.
Last year, the UN established an international Holocaust Remembrance Day. It is up to us, with our five decades of Holocaust education expertise, to make it meaningful in the Far East, as well.
Dr. Efraim Zuroff is the Israel director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
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