A high school teacher in Taiwan has asked for a second chance for his students after photos went viral over the weekend showing them dressed up as Nazis at a school event on Friday.
The shocking images were taken at a “cultural event” at Kuang-fu High School in northern Taiwan’s Hsinchu City. They show at least a dozen students dressed in black Nazi uniforms with red swastika armbands on their sleeves, waving Nazi flags, holding Nazi symbols and reportedly shouting “Sieg Heil!” at one student saluting inside a cardboard tank.
Unsurprisingly, the photos provoked considerable outrage and disgust, prompting rebukes from both Israeli and German officials in Taipei.
“It is deplorable and shocking that only seven decades after the world witnessed the horrors of the Holocaust, a high school in Taiwan is supporting such an outrageous action,” the Israel Economic and Cultural Office in Taipei said in a statement.
Responding to the outrage, on Saturday, the Presidential Office demanded that the high school apologize to Israel over the incident, saying that it showed an extreme lack of respect to the Jewish people and a profound ignorance regarding recent history. The Ministry of Education also threatened to cut funding to the private school.
The school has since apologized, explaining that it had failed to perform the necessary reviews before holding the event. It promised that such an incident would not happen again in the future, adding that it values peace and understanding and does not condone Nazism.
At the same time, Liu Hsi-cheng (劉習正), a history teacher, has expressed remorse over the incident, adding that he hopes the public will give his students a second chance. Liu said that his students deeply regret their actions and believe they should all be held responsible since it was a collective decision to dress up as Nazis.
He explained that the cosplay event on Friday was meant to celebrate the school’s founding. Each class was asked to dress up as historical figures. In a class vote, Liu’s students chose Adolf Hitler.
Liu says that he tried to warn his students that Hitler is a controversial figure, questioning whether they really wanted to go with a Nazi theme.
But that’s what got the most votes, so Nazis it was.
Looking back, Liu admits that he should have immediately rejected the decision.
Strangely enough, Liu’s students weren’t the only ones dressed up as Nazis in Taiwan last week. On Saturday, two people were spotted on the Taipei MRT dressed in Nazi uniforms. Photos of the pair were posted onto the Facebook group “Another Side of Taiwan,” they appear to show an older man in a Waffen-SS uniform and a young boy dressed up as a Hitler Youth.
Taiwan has a complicated history with Nazism. Back in 2014, an Italian restaurant in New Taipei City apologized after complaints began rolling in over a new pasta dish featured on its menu called “Long Live the Nazis” (納粹萬歲麵).
“When we were deciding on a name for this pasta dish, it never occurred to us that the word Nazi would stir up such controversy,” the 24-year-old manager told reporters.
In 2000, another restaurant in Taipei found itself in similar controversy for displaying photographs of Nazi concentration camps on its walls. The owner of the restaurant pleaded ignorance and took the images down.
[Images via Sina / Another Side of Taiwan]