Text size

PARIS - A Jewish human rights group has sharply denounced British sports supplier Umbro for naming a running shoe Zyklon - a deadly gas used by Nazi Germany to murder millions of Jews during World War II.

In a letter to Umbro on Tuesday, Dr. Shimon Samuels of the Simon Wiesenthal Center said the company's "outrageous misuse of the Holocaust is an insult to its victims and survivors."

Use of the name Zyklon is "an encouragement to neo-Nazis and skinheads who terrorize the football terraces and a dishonor to sport itself," Samuels said in the letter, addressed to Umbro Chief Executive Peter McGuigan.

Umbro spokesman Nick Crook in London said the company wished to "express our sincere regret that the Zyklon name may have upset someone." He said the name Zyklon did not actually appear on the trainers but had been used for advertisement purposes since 1999.

"The naming of the shoe is purely coincidental and was not intended to communicate any connotations," he said, in an e-mail response to The Associated Press. The shoe was being sold in stores and on Internet sites featuring sporting goods.

Crook said Umbro had already changed the shoe's name in Britain and was looking to do the same internationally as soon as possible.

The Wiesenthal Center, named after the famous Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal, also demanded "an "investigation and condemnation of those behind Umbro's marketing strategy."