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Thai university apologizes for Hitler banner

By Jocelyn Gecker

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 04:44 a.m. HST, Jul 15, 2013

BANGKOK » Thailand's premier university has apologized for displaying a billboard that showed Adolf Hitler alongside Superman and other superheroes, saying Monday (Sunday on Hawaii) it was painted by ignorant students who didn't realize Hitler's image would offend anyone.

The huge billboard was placed outside the art faculty of Chulalongkorn University as part of a tribute to this year's graduating class.

It said "Congratulations" in bold white letters and showed Hitler with his arm raised in a Nazi salute next to Batman, Captain America, the Incredible Hulk and Iron Man.

"(We) would like to formally express our sincere apology for our students' 'Superhero' mural," art school dean Suppakorn Disatapundhu said in a statement issued Monday. "I can assure you we are taking this matter very seriously."

The billboard was up for two days before being removed Saturday in response to criticism. Online photographs showed graduating students in their robes, mimicking Hitler's raised arm salute.

Suppakorn said that freshman 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 artistic vision behind the picture was to show that good and bad people co-exist in the world, Suppakorn 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 scale. "This kind of thoughtless display will not happen again."

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

"Hitler as a superhero? Is he an appropriate role model for Thailand's younger generation — a genocidal hate monger who mass murdered Jews and Gypsies and who considered people of color as racially inferior," Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean at the center, said in a statement Friday. "The Simon Wiesenthal Center is outraged and disgusted by this public display at Thailand's leading school of higher education."

The study of history in the Thai school system revolves primarily around the history of Thailand and its long line of kings. World history is glossed over, with little or no mention of the Holocaust.

Associated Press writer Thanyarat Doksone contributed to this report.

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nodaddynotthebelt wrote:
It is amazing that some people still look up to the Nazis and young people use the word Nazi as clan tags in video games. I encountered that while watching my children play a video game. These video game companies should not allow the use of such offensive tags. Unfortunately we still have people who think it is funny to use the name to insult others of Jewish ancestry or otherwise. It should be easy for these companies to write programs that would prevent such the use of these words.
on July 15,2013 | 06:57AM
daniwitz13 wrote:
I thought free speech and expression existed everywhere? It is NOT a free world if there are people demanding you follow their line of thinking and ideas. What is insensitive to one is not insensitive to another. They each have their Rights, not one over the other. Whatever happened in History, happened. To bring it up should be a Right to do so. They exhume dead bodies don't they? Who gives one person the Right to take away another person's Right? One person's motive should be his own and not be guided by what others perceive. Everyone has the Right NOT to look at it and not forced to accept it. Pity.
on July 15,2013 | 10:33AM
localguy wrote:
daniwitz13 - Free speech does not exist in Thailand as it does in the USA. Say or post something bad about their King and you have a very good chance of going to prison as some people found out the hard way. Very few countries have the freedom to say what you want as the USA does. Your post shows limited knowledge of life in other countries. Must have never left the Nei. In Saudi Arabia Christian religious practice is banned. You cannot renounce your Muslim religion. Spend some time learning about how the real world works.
on July 15,2013 | 11:15AM
SteveToo wrote:
Says a lot for the Education these college students didn't get.
on July 15,2013 | 12:09PM
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