Nazi-hunters blast local firm

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 08 August, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 08 August, 1999, 12:00am

A HONG KONG company has come under fire from an anti-Nazi group for producing models of two infamous Nazi SS officers which have become collectors' items in Germany.

International anti-Nazi organisation the Simon Wiesenthal Centre said the models of war criminal Joachim Peiper, infamous for ordering a massacre of American prisoners, and SS Lieutenant-Colonel Otto Skorzeny were 'outrageous' and an 'insult'.

Local manufacturer Dragon Models has been producing the figurines, sold through distributors around the world and over the Internet, at the request of customers in Germany.

The figurines became the subject of controversy in east Germany last week when police seized 12 toy components from six shops in the towns of Jena and Weimar and claimed they depicted Nazi figures and insignia.

They were suspected to be propaganda for 'anti-constitutional organisations', said police, using the euphemism for neo-Nazi groups which are outlawed in Germany.

Dragon Models said it was stunned by the seizures and emphasised it did not use swastikas or other Nazi symbols on its figurines.

'We have been making these models for 12 years. It's all part of history,' said Fred Leung Kwok-kip, the manager of the Tsuen Wan-based company, which also makes US, Chinese and Russian military figurines.

'If we do something from World War II, of course we have to include the Germans. All we are doing is [illustrating] a part of history, not promoting anything.

'We have been selling for eight to 10 years in Germany and there has not been a problem. If there is a problem, I am sure Customs would have seized our products.' He said he was not aware Peiper was a war criminal.

Mr Leung said the products were mostly sold in hobby shops to adults who collected war figurines. 'Our products are not for children,' he said.

He said the Peiper and Skorzeny figurines would be withdrawn if the company received any complaints.

Peiper was a war criminal and SS lieutenant-colonel who spearheaded the German effort in the Ardennes. Skorzeny was a SS colonel and daredevil commando dubbed the 'most dangerous man in Europe' by the Allies who later helped former SS members escape to Latin America.

'We are outraged,' said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre in Los Angeles, an organisation set up by Simon Wiesenthal, the legendary Nazi hunter, to remind the world of the Holocaust against Jews during and before World War II.

'In Peiper's case, it is an insult to a generation of Americans who fought and died [in the war] and it is an insult to Jewish people because of the Nazi Holocaust,' Rabbi Cooper said.

'If Peiper's side had won, people wouldn't be walking around free in Hong Kong. Asia would look a lot different.' Rabbi Yaakov Kermaier, of the Ohel Leah synagogue in Hong Kong, backed the call for the figurines to be discontinued. 'Even for adults in any sensitive society, to allow Nazi figures to be portrayed in a positive light is really terrible,' he said.