Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: World: Asia-Pacific
Front Page 
Middle East 
South Asia 
From Our Own Correspondent 
Letter From America 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 
Friday, 21 January, 2000, 15:29 GMT
Taiwanese dine in 'death camp'

Toilets in Jail Jail: Decked out in Nazi memorabilia

A new Taiwanese theme restaurant is pushing the boundaries of taste as it invites diners to chow down under the gaze of Nazi concentration camp victims.

The Taipei restaurant, called Jail, which opened last month, was designed to give customers the experience of eating in a prison.

Taiwanese just aren't that aware of this history
Manager Stone Cheng
Shackles, mugshots and bars surround the tables, and a mural depicts death camp victims bunched together behind barbed wire.

In smaller photographs, the internees stare dully out from bunk beds, ribs protruding, eyes dead.

The toilets - dubbed gas chambers - are decorated with open pipes and valves.

'Not aware' of history

The restaurant's manager, Stone Cheng, told Associated Press that the owners and designers had spent months planning the interior.

Customers in Jail Strong appetite: Customers tuck in
The theme was not intended to offend customers, or show support for the Holocaust, he said.

"Taiwanese just aren't that aware of this history and aren't as sensitive about it as foreigners are."

Most Taiwanese can describe in detail the atrocities committed by Japanese troops who controlled Taiwan and parts of China during World War II. But many are unclear about what happened on the other side of the world.

Mr Cheng said although no one had complained, the owners might decide to remove the murals.

"We just wanted to have pictures of prisons from all over the world," Mr Cheng said.

Taiwanese TV star Jacky Wu is a co-owner of the eatery.

Popular symbol

But Hilmar Kaht, director general of the German Trade Office Taipei, said the theme was deplorable.

Cell in Jail Young Taiwanese joke around in their 'cell'
"If such things happened in Germany, it would have been forbidden," he added.

However, he believed the owners made an innocent mistake, selecting the photographs because they seemed unusual.

Other Taiwanese businesses have used Nazi symbols to market everything from sports shoes to motorcycle helmets and cars.

Last year, posters depicting a cartoon Adolf Hitler went up around Taipei, advertising German-made electric heaters.

Waitress Shackles and death camp photos adorn Jail
The company involved, KE and Kingstone, said it chose Hitler to emphasise that the heaters were made in Germany. After complaints from German and Jewish residents, the posters came down immediately.

Don Shapiro, a long-time Taipei resident and leader in the city's small Jewish community, says Taiwan has long aspired to play an active role in the international community.

But he said to do this, it must become more attuned to the sensitivities of other nationalities.

"Frivolous references to the evils of Nazism for commercial reasons only serve to trivialise one of the greatest tragedies of the past century," Mr Shapiro added.

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
Asia-Pacific Contents

Country profiles

See also:
05 Jan 00 |  Asia-Pacific
Vietnam noodle fright
Links to other Asia-Pacific stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Asia-Pacific stories