Parade around in a Nazi uniform complete with a swastika in any North American or European city and there would be outrage, and, in some places, legal prosecution.
But do so in Asia, and it’s a different story. The difference is one of perspective, due to how some young Asians view Nazi uniforms, which is not the same as Westerners’ views.
Elliot Brennan, Non-Resident Research Fellow at the Institute for Security and Development, in an interview with CNN, explained for the majority of Asian countries Nazi Germany doesn’t hold the same historical meaning as for Westerners.
In those countries, the Second World War isn’t so much about Hitler or Nazis, he explained. Instead, it was about Imperial Japanese forces and the war in the pacific. Very little time is expended studying the Western experience of the Second World War.
A contemporary event at a Taiwanese school where students held a fake Nazi parade triggered an international outcry leading to the resignation of the school’s principal in addition to the school issuing a public apology.
Local media reported that the December 23 parade was a portion of a cosplay event. This is a common activity in which local residents don the costumes of characters from popular culture.
Taiwan is not alone: South Korea, Thailand, and Indonesia are some of the states which have generated headlines recently for similar actions.
The controversy over the wearing of Nazi costumes in Taiwan, while clearly offensive to those more familiar with the terrible history, should be a warning about the hazards of cultural relativism, explained Elliot Brennan. Nazi costumes and regalia usually have more of an anti-establishment meaning instead of a historical or political meaning.
Known as ‘Nazi chic,’ it’s an expression of rebellion. Asian wearers have no concept of the deeply disturbing context for westerners, he said.
Israeli representative to Taipei, Asher Yarden, stated on the mission’s Facebook page that he found the photos disturbing and unsettling. Israel called on Taiwanese government officials to start education programs at all levels to acquaint students with the Holocaust’s meaning in addition to teaching its universal meaning and history, CNN Edition reported.
Both Pan Wen-Chung, the minister of education and President Tsai-Ing-wens criticized the school’s parade, saying subsidies for the school would be suspended.