In­done­sian mu­seum Hitler de­fended as selfie hot spot

Las Vegas Review-Journal (Sunday) - - WORLD - By Stephen Wright

JAKARTA, Indonesia — The teenagers smile as they take self­ies with a hero­ically posed Hitler, ap­par­ently un­aware that the gi­ant back­drop to their happy mo­ment is the Auschwitz-Birke­nau con­cen­tra­tion camp, where more than a mil­lion peo­ple were ex­ter­mi­nated by the Nazi dic­ta­tor’s regime.

It’s a scene that plays out ev­ery day at a wax­work and vis­ual ef­fects mu­seum in Yo­gyakarta. The in­fo­tain­ment-style mu­seum, De Mata, is de­fend­ing the dis­play as “fun” for teenagers.

Hu­man Rights Watch de­nounced the ex­hibit as “sick­en­ing,” and the Los An­ge­les-based Si­mon Wiesen­thal Cen­ter, which cam­paigns against Holo­caust de­nial and anti-Semitism, de­manded its im­me­di­ate re­moval.

“Ev­ery­thing about it is wrong. It’s hard to find words for how con­temptible it is,” said Rabbi Abra­ham Cooper, as­so­ciate dean of the cen­ter. “The back­ground is dis­gust­ing. It mocks the vic­tims who went in and never came out.”

The wax­work por­trays Hitler as an im­pos­ing and dom­i­nant fig­ure, a far cry from the drug-ad­dled phys­i­cal wreck who com­mit­ted sui­cide on April 30, 1945, as Rus­sian forces over­whelmed the Ger­man cap­i­tal, Ber­lin.

Be­hind the wax­work is a gi­ant im­age of Auschwitz and the slo­gan “Ar­beit Macht Frei” — work sets you free — that ap­peared over the entrance to Auschwitz.

To one side of Hitler there’s Darth Vader, and di­rectly op­po­site is Indonesia’s cur­rent pres­i­dent, Joko “Jokowi” Wi­dodo.

Warli, the mar­ket­ing of­fi­cer for the mu­seum who goes by one name, said he was aware Hitler was re­spon­si­ble for mass mur­der but de­fended the wax­work as “one of the fa­vorite fig­ures for our vis­i­tors to take self­ies with.”

“No vis­i­tors com­plained about it. Most of our vis­i­tors are hav­ing fun be­cause they know this is just an en­ter­tain­ment mu­seum,” he said.

Warli hadn’t heard of the Si­mon Wiesen­thal Cen­ter but said he’d dis­cuss its de­mand to re­move the dis­play with De Mata’s owner, busi­ness­man Peter Kusuma, and man­age­ment.

Cooper said it was in­ex­cus­able that a busi­ness would in­ten­tion­ally use Nazism and the Holo­caust to make money and de­plored the “dis­con­nect” with his­tory.

Slamet Riyadi The As­so­ci­ated Press

A vis­i­tor at De Mata Mu­seum in Yo­gyakarta, Indonesia, walks by the fig­ure of Adolf Hitler dis­played Wed­nes­day against the back­drop of an im­age of Auschwitz-Birke­nau.

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