The emergence of a Nazi group in Taiwan that reveres Adolf Hitler and advocates curbing immigration has been condemned by an international Jewish human rights organization.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center on Tuesday hit out at the National Socialism Association of Taiwan (NSA) on Tuesday for championing the former Nazi dictator. "In the global interconnected world we live in, it is unacceptable anywhere to seek to promote the policies and images of Hitler and Nazi Germany as worthy of emulation," Simon Wiesenthal Centrer Associate Dean Rabbi Abraham Cooper said in a statement.
The year-old NSA is seeking the status of a non-governmental organization from the Taiwanese authorities and plans to hold its inaugural convention this coming Saturday. The controversial association has around 1,000 members, mostly of college age, who use their Web site to publicize their extremist views. The Web site is emblazoned with a Nazi swastika and says the group's ranks are reserved for people "who do not dislike Hitler."
One contributor to the Web site's discussion forum advocates policies on immigrant workers that bring to mind the German National Socialists' final solution. "If foreign laborers have children in Taiwan the government must exterminate them," the blogger writes. He adds: "In order to stop our genetic stock from further deterioration, strict monitoring and cruel punishments are called for."
Another contributor to the online blog writes: "What Hitler meant by 'superior race' is superior cultural content and not biological phenotype." Other members of the NSA have posted photos of themselves on the Internet posing in German army uniforms.
Taiwan, which has a population of 23 million, currently hosts about 300,000 immigrant workers, most of them from neighboring countries in South-East Asia. The self-styled NSA leader, 23-year-old Yue Shu-ya, thinks that Taiwan could learn useful lessons from the Führer's welfare state model. "We want to study Hitler's good points, not study his massacres," he said. "It has nothing to do with Naziism."
Israel's representative to Taiwan has said he wants to meet with the Taiwanese government about the conditions on the island that have led to the group's formation. Raphael Gazmou, the Israeli Economic and Cultural Office representative in Taipei, said that the emergence of the NSA reflected "ignorance and an emotional void as well as psychological and social sickness".
"This is an upsetting and worrisome phenomenon," he said. "I believe the educational sector of Taiwan should question itself about how a group of young people, some with academic backgrounds, decided to worship the monstrous Adolf Hitler. It is also particularly sad that in Taiwan, where people have managed to achieve democracy and human rights, there is this kind of nostalgia for monsters as role models," he added.
While school and university courses in Taiwan cover the events that surrounded World War II, relatively few Taiwanese understand the revulsion that Naziism conjures up in the West. There is no indigenous Jewish community in Taiwan and most Taiwanese seem confused by distinctions between European countries and religions.
An official of Taipei's municipal government Emile Sheng said that the emergence of Taiwan's Nazi movement reflected the island's ignorance of modern Western European history. "People here don't really understand what Naziism is," he said. "They are not really racist or anti-Jewish. They don't really know what it means."
It is not the first time that Hitler has caused controversy in Taiwan. In 2004 the country's Nationalist Party withdrew a presidential election campaign advertisement featuring a picture of Hitler following protests from Jewish groups. And in 2001 President Chen Shui-bian's Democratic Progressive Party also withdrew a television commercial with footage of Hitler.
Hitler images and iconography have often been used to promote commercial products in Taiwan -- including a now-closed Nazi-themed restaurant -- on the grounds that the German leader symbolized strength.