An Indonesian café owner has denied accusations of breeding racial hatred with his Nazi-themed business.
Henry Mulyana’s café Soldatenkaffee in Bandung, Indonesia, is adorned with swastikas, a giant picture of Adolf Hitler, is staffed by waiters in SS military uniforms and features a fried rice dish named “Nazi goreng”.
According to the Associated Press, Mulyana has been summoned to meet with officials to explain his motives for the café’s theme after a large volume of complaints were made.
“Those symbols are internationally recognised to represent violence and racism,” said Ayi Vivananda, deputy mayor of Bandung.
Mulyana denies accusations of being a pro-Nazi and claims he conceived the controversial theme simply to attract customers.
“I’m just a businessman, not a politician. I have a right to design my restaurant with anything that attracts people to come. I'm sure that I'm not violating any laws,” he said.
Soldatenkaffee has been open since April 2011, but the uproar began in earnest after an English language report on the café began circulating on social media websites.
The matter has seen a debate unfold on the café's Facebook page, with supporters urging Mulyana to "keep up the good work", while others accuse him of capitalising on the death and torture of the Nazi regime to make money.
Around six million Jews were gassed, starved and shot throughout Nazi party founder Hitler's time in power.
As to the somewhat delayed reaction, Global Dispatch asks: “What explains Indonesians' relaxed attitude towards these items most would find offensive?
“Some say an ignorance of history, some say how Indonesians deal with race and stereotypes.”
Sarlito Wirawan Sarwono, a professor of psychology at University of Indonesia, tells Burmese publication The Irrawaddy the use of humour to discuss controversial topics is a positive trait.
“[It] actually shows maturity. The conflict of racism definitely exists, but it is latent. So it’s often disguised as humour,” he said.
“In psychology, we call this phenomenon sublimation, which is something potentially threatening that is packaged as another form that is more acceptable."
Mulyana, who has had to temporarily close the café while he prepares to meet with officials, told the Jakarta Globe: “I realised that displaying the Nazi symbol was going to spark some controversy, but I decided to go for it because I don’t feel I’m violating any laws.
“Controversy will always exist, depending on from what side we’re looking from. The way I see it, the Nazis didn’t commit slaughter. War is crime, so there will always be acts of murder in a war.
“Even during the Dutch colonization of Indonesia, many Indonesians were killed. This is also the case with Americans and their bombing of Hiroshima. Why are the Nazis seen as bad guys while those belligerent nations are not?”
He added: “I’m not personally familiar with the [Nazi] ideology, but even if I am, I don’t think I’d find it completely disagreeable. For example, communism in Indonesia was prohibited, but it’s flourishing in China. Maybe it’s just a matter of politics.”