Swastikas, Nazis, Hitler and Taiwan

Does anyone have any thoughts on all the swastikas that can be seen. I don’t mean the ones associated with buddhism. Those I know are not nazi. But the obvious ones, black on a white circle background on a red rectangle. Yes, the nazi flag. Or the occasional “nazi” mudflaps I see on cars. I was once in an eyeglass store and I noticed frames for sale with the brand name “Gestapo”. Does it all come down to ignorance? I am not Jewish, but personally I feel a little angry at the ignorance people display. Am I alone? Anyone else have any feelings or thoughts?

I haven’t seen much of it lately, but there does seem to be some astounding insensitivity in this regard.

I once saw a guy in Hong Kong with a shirt that said Hitler’s Summer Camp with a swastika and what I strongly suspect was the long. and lat. of Auschwitz. Most of the time I chalk it up to appalling ignorance but in that case it seems that you would have to know about the death camps to get the (sick) joke.

After chatting it over with my Taiwanese girlfriend for an hour, it seems to me that some people just have no idea about the Third Reich. Those that do got only cursory coverage in school (how much did you study the Nanjing massacre, not to mention 2/28?). In Western education we all see documentary footage and spend weeks on it. Here it’s not really treated as the pivotal event of the 20th century like it was for us. Perhaps in part because of that some people know about the death camps but don’t see Nazi paraphenalia as inextricably linked to that. To the people who wear it I’d guess that it’s a remote piece of history that they don’t see as being especially related to them. That there’s no neo-nazis here may also make it more safely historical for them.

They think it’s cool and fashionable. Also, it’s worth pointing out that (if we bracket the historical background) they’re not stupid for thinking that. The nazi flag and the swastika were chosen precisely because they are very strong visually appealing logos.

I still don’t think that entirely explains things. There’s still the fundamental failure of sypathetic imagination. But maybe that’s more or less present in a minority of all societies. Perhaps if the Hutus had come up with a good logo there’d be some jackass in Kentucky wearing it on a T-shirt right now.

A few years back a Taiwanese company (it might have been a subsidiary of a German company) placed a few ads around town with a caricature of Adolf himself. After serious complaining by Germans living in the area, the ads were actually promptly removed.
I remember seeing the old WWII helmets with nazi emblems on them down south a few years back (used as motorcycle helmets, of course), but I think that’s mostly just due to simple ignorance (a frog in a well…).

Here’s an article about that, from the Taipei Times.

“We decided to use Hitler because as soon as you
see him, you think of Germany. It leaves a deep

Shen Yu-shan, of K.E. and Kingstone which designed the advertisement

Funny you should bring this up. Not only have I seen the Hitler Cafe in Danshui, but I’ve also seen this Hitler-themed T-shirt for sale in Xinmending, and of course we all know about the Hitlercycles so prevalent on the streets here.

I think it’s partly a matter of not being conditioned to hate Hitler as most Westerners were growing up. Taiwanese simply lack that background and so treat Hitler like any other historical figure.

Like Grizzly, I haven’t seen very much of those things recently, but at some places it might be different. I’m afraid this is not only about ignorance. Ignorance may play its part in ignoring how many lives ended during that era and how, but chinese people (Mainland/Taiwan both) might actually admire Hitler and the Nazis. As a German, when I meet someone for the first time and they ask where I come from, I heard several times a response like “Germany? Hitler is very good!”. My standard response here in Taiwan is usually “You are Chinese? Oh, Mao Ze Dong is great!”
At the Taipeh First Girl Highschool (Bei Yi Ny), when I spoke about Christmas in a German class, I was even asked if Germans would dress like Hitler when they play Santa Claus. That school claims to be the No. 1 girl highschool on the island…
In my opinion, the reason for such thinking is based on the ideology planted through the view on Chinese history - not only at school, but also in the media. It seems there is general admiration for people (with the exception of Mao Ze Dong) who have united the broken chinese empire or kept it together - no matter how they achieved that. People who mention Hitler to me usually also tell me that he established a great german empire.
Usually, I stick to my above mentioned Mao reply in such situations. The usual response is “No, they are different.” Of course: One killed Chinese, the other one Europeans. For me this comparison seems the only way (at least in Taiwan) to give a quick (and very simple) update/refresh in history knowledge - if you like Hitler, you have to like Mao…

Unfortunately, I chalk this one up to cultural/historical ignorance of many asian nations regarding european history. You can’t really blame them though after all how many western countries are taught eastern history? My high school here in the U.S. barely breezed over the events in China during WWII and the Communist cultural revolution with Mao. Instead, we got a few paragraphs about Pearl Harbor a jingoistic two page reading assignment about American servicemen which summed up the whole ‘pacific war’ conflict. Fewer Americans are familiar with the Nanjing massacre or the details about it even though it’s well regarded as the Asian holocaust. I had to do a lot of reading on my own to discover these things…not even my college level world history courses taught much about the east.

There seems to be a general separation in historical education in the east/west who each choose to teach by their ethnocentric point of view. I think a lot of it has to do with language barriers and general unfamiliarity with each other’s cultures. Eastern culture/language is still regarded as incomprehensible to most Westerners. Same with Asian nations who aren’t entirely familiar with western historical figures.
I do feel privileged being born in the U.S. I feel I can stand and look at things as an “outsider” sometimes, while also gaining an insider’s perspective of both eastern/western culture.

Oh yeah…another thing to my high school textbook’s credit we did have entire chapters devoted to Asia but our teacher’s skipped them and went right to european WW2 events. :unamused:
Another reason why you can’t trust the American public school system.

A differnce between the American and Taiwanese educational systems is that the US course of studies is controlled by the locality in which it is located. The Taiwanese is controlled by the Central Government.

It the 1920’s and 1930’s the KMT had very close relations with Germany. Chinese officers were trained by the Nazis and some, like Chiang Wei-kuo (CKS’s son) participated in the Nazi occuption of Europe. During the battles in and around Shanghai, Nazi equipted, trained and led divisions fought the Japanese. Quite a number of German personel were killed.
Take alook at the May 16, 1938 cover of Life magazine:


Notice the helmet? Why would a KMT controlled education system want to teach Taiwanese that their army and officers (many of whom were involved in the 228 massacre) had been trained by the Nazis?

Last year a mainland Chinese TV star was punched for wearing an outfit with imperial Japanese motif. This symbol (red sun with thick radiating rays) would be the equivalent of swastika in Asia.

However, it seems to be acceptable to wear Kamakazi (Wind God) headbands or paraphernalia. Why is that?

Another possibility is that people aren’t really aware that the Nazis commited genocide. When I was talking to my girlfriend I noticed she refered to it as a “massacre” 屠殺. I wonder if the concept didn’t fail to penetrate into the local consciousness here. When I tried to look up “genocide” all I got from Far East was “collective slaughter” 集體屠殺. The Guoyu Cidian doesn’t have this term at all. The Lin Yutang gave “extinguishing of a race/kind” 滅種, but when I cross referenced this with the GC again the example sentence basically said that at the end of the Qing revolutionaries feared the “demise of the country and the extinguishing of the race” 亡國滅種, which seems to me to suggest that it doesn’t have quite the same meaning or at least the same power that the word “genocide” carries in English. And even if it did, it doesn’t seem to be the term people use. Based on a quick purusal of dictionaries and Google, “The Great Massacre of the Jews” 猶太大屠殺 seems to be the prefered term.

Could it be that part of the problem is that some people don’t realize that Hitler tried to completely wipe out and entire people and culture? That it was an attempt at genocide and not just "collective slaughter? And that this is in perhaps perpetuated in part by the language?

Maybe a native speaker or Ironlady can comment on this.

Part of it might also be due to the propensity for the Chinese and Japanese to belittle or de-emphasize certain events by referring to them as an “incident”. Examples include the “February 28 Incident”, the “Tiananmen Incident” and my all-time favorite, the Japanese description of their 8 year war with China: “The China Incident”.

Sounds like you’re baiting here…but there is some validity to this. For political reasons both the Chinese and Japanese government de-emphasize events for their own world political agendas. The Japanese of course want to put their actions in WW2 far in the past and out of sight. Hey they have a whole battlefield (nanjing) full of skeletons to hide in a very small Japanese sized apartment closet. That’s why any mention of their past imperialist ambitions are waved off with a shrug or apathetic nod by the government. The Chinese government wants to surpress any further remembrance of Tiananmen square to prevent future uprisings. I’m sure in the minds of revolutionaries and most people who are interested (or were victims) those events are still very important. Fact is, Asian nations seem more interested in trading/profiting off each other these days rather than engaging in expansionist or imperialist ideals. Sometimes it’s better to come to a mutual agreement not to remember and continue with business dealings.

Really, fact is, around here, it was the Japanese who were the “bad guys” in WWII. Germany is/was too far away to be of any relevance whatsoever. Whereas Japan, well, that was a much more immediate and tangible problem for Asians. How many Chinese have ever even met a Jew? How many Taiwanese? In a like vein, how many Americans and Europeans batted an eyelash when the Hutus and Tutsis went at it with machetes a few years ago?

As for the prevalence of the swastika, hey, you put a buddhist symbol on a shirt with english words (which are definitely in style here) and a picture of a powerful historical figure to boot, well, what I’m betting that what you really get is just simply one funky & cool shirt so far as the locals are concerned. And why not? I wonder why our “white” genocides should be somehow considered so important that everybody in the world should know abut them and take a view on them. Asian history has enough of its own chronicles of genocide to keep everybody around here more than occupied…

There have been some really interesting posts regarding this topic. I think it must simply come down to East and West, and different takes on world history. I don’t remember learning much in school about asian history. I knew a little about Mao Tse Deng and what he did, but it was all rather vague and distant. I thought of Mao as any other historical figure I had heard of but knew little about. It wasn’t until I reached my adult years that I learned more. Hell, I even thought Chiang Kai-Shek was one of the good guys until just a few years ago when I stated to learn about Taiwan. All cultures, east and west are ignorant.
There is one point Cranky Lao Wai brought up with his link to the heating ad. What the #$%@ is that? Did the designers totally miss the boat? I’m struggling here because I can understand people in general not having any particular feeling about Hitler, but to associate a product with someone who was responsible for a “massacre” or GENOCIDE, that has got to be clueless. Surely they must have known something?!?!

“I see nosink, I hear nosink, I know nosink!” - Sgt. Schultz

That Buddhist symbol is pronounced wan4 and has been around a lot
longer than the German symbol. Also its rotation is reversed and it
is not tilted 45 deg. It is part of the big5 character set, and
unicode too I bet.

So check this out in Taipei Times and another Times story. Personally I think this is even weirder than that air conditioner ad.

And doesn’t anyone remember the fuss over the DPP putting Hitler in their party ad before the elections last year? And how they refused to pull it because they couldn’t see anything wrong with it? Can’t remember, maybe they eventually did pull it, after too much time than should have been necessary had been spent explaining to them how stupid it was to have Hitler in their ad.

In my experience, Asian nations seem to ‘deal with the past’ a lot less than the west.

That’s why I think compraing a swastika to a Mao badge is not a good idea. Most Taiwanese still wouldn’t get it. Compare Japan’s post-war attitudes to the war with Germany’s. Do people in Cambodia seem to really deal with what happened in the Khmer Rouge era?


They pulled the ad pretty quickly, actually. It was showing for 2 or 3 days at most. It went out when the Anti-Defamation League faxed the DPP from New York. The last thing the DPP want to do is offend their American masters.

The ADL’s press release is HERE and the fax they sent to Frank Hsieh Changting of the DPP is HERE.

Here’s a link to the whole sordid Hitler/DPP stupidity:


It also mentions “The Jail”…Taipei’s Auschwitz-themed restaurant. Anyone know if it’s still open???