A wax figure of Adolf Hitler at the De Mata Museum in Indonesia is attracting international backlash. The statue stands in front of a photograph of the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp. Teenagers are reportedly taking gleeful selfies with the figurine, which the museum defended as a “fun” way to interact with photogenic displays.
According to the Associated Press, the museum’s spokesperson said Hitler has been one of the most popular figurines for visitors to take selfies with since it was put on display in 2014. Human Rights Watch’s Indonesia researcher, Andreas Harsono, reportedly called the situation a “sickening” reflection of anti-Jewish sentiment in Indonesia.
Nazi nostalgia is an increasingly common part of pop culture in Indonesia. For example, there is a Nazi-themed cafe in the city of Bandung. “There is a view that Hitler was a successful leader who brought Germany out of its pallid state at the end of the First World War,” Adrian Vickers, professor of Southeast Asian Studies at the University of Sydney, told Newsweek. “The school curriculum doesn’t really teach about the Second World War and the Holocaust, so there’s this huge gap in people’s knowledge, which goes back to the curriculum during the Suharto period.”
The few hundred Jewish residents of Muslim-majority Indonesia sometimes experience discrimination and violence when political tensions flare up. Yaakov Baruch, an Orthodox Jew who runs an Indonesian synagogue, told AFP a stranger threatened to kill him when Baruch was walking with his pregnant wife in a bustling Jakarta mall. “They said to me: ‘We don’t want you to use your kippah in this country. If you continue to use it, we’ll kill you,'” Baruch said. The nation’s last remaining synagogue was demolished in 2013.
Many critics worry the museum’s Hitler display mocks Holocaust victims. The figure is situated next to a Darth Vader statue and across from a wax figure of Indonesia’s current president, Joko “Jokowi” Widodo. “No visitors complained about it. Most of our visitors are having fun because they know this is just an entertainment museum,” the museum’s spokesperson reportedly said. “We will follow the best advice and the response from the public. Let people judge whether the character is good or bad.”