Hitler key ring Taiwan
Customer holds key rings with image of a Hitler lookalike for sale at 7-Eleven in Taipei, September 26, 2011. Photo by AFP
Text size

The 7-Eleven convenience store chain in Taiwan has suspended sales of cartoon products said to resemble Adolf Hitler after a protest from the de facto Israeli embassy in Taipei, a store representative said on Wednesday.

The key rings, USB sticks and magnets sporting a cartoon vampire were taken off 7-Eleven shelves after three years of sales on Tuesday following a statement from the Israel Economic and Cultural Office in Taipei.

Their removal is the latest in a series of flaps between Israel and Taiwanese merchants and even government offices displaying emblems associated with Nazi Germany.

The cartoon images of a man with a toothbrush moustache were not meant to look like Hitler, said the convenience store chain and a post on the blog run by the cartoon's Taiwanese creator. But 7-Eleven, which runs more than 4,400 stores in Taiwan, acknowledged suspicions.

"Because there are people with doubts, we've stopped selling the products for now," said the 7-Eleven representative, who declined to be named. She would not say how many had sold to date or whether sales would resume. Other stores in Taiwan sell merchandise bearing the same cartoon images, she said.

In a statement on Tuesday, Israel's representative to Taiwan, Simona Halperin, said: "We were appalled to see the Hitler lookalike image being used, again, as a marketing aid and sold in Taiwan's 7-Eleven stores."

"I find it tragic that once again people down the chain of marketing and promotion fail to recognize the meaning of the Dark Age in human history that the Nazi dictator represents," she said.

Halperin clarified that she does not believe that the sale of the cartoon images was out of support or identification with Nazi ideals, but rather out of ignorance.

Due to a lack of world history in schools, some Taiwanese people equate the Nazis with heroism but harbor no anti-Semitic sentiments, academics on the island have said.

A local company used Hitler's image in a 1999 ad for German-made heaters. Nazi insignias have been spotted on motorcycle helmets, and a drink shop once named itself after Hitler. An association set up in 2005 to study Hitler's achievements drew interest from 1,000 Taiwanese people.