After public outrage, Polish toy manufacturer Cobi has decided to stop its sale of Nazi-themed action figures this Christmas.
Cobi Toys CEO Robert Podles claimed that the toys were valuable in educating the youth on World War 2 history in a creative and "fun" way. The move has sparked criticism from the public, who have already protested and terminated Nazi embellished items sold by several stores over the past months.
"Our history, our whole European history, unfortunately has imbibed this Nazism from the Second World War and we cannot escape from that. We need to teach children in schools about it, we need to talk about it, so that may never happen again," stated Podles regarding his insistence to keep the toys on their shelves.
The line of LEGO-style figurines sold by Cobi consists of tanks, soldiers and military equipment bearing Nazi swastikas and Third Reich emblems. The soldiers also bear a striking resemblance to Wehrmacht military personnel including their secret police force, the Gestapo, which was assigned the task of arresting and transporting suspicious individuals to concentration where they were brutally tortured. Most were killed.
Customers coming in to purchase Christmas presents for their children were horrified to see the smiley faced figures.
"When I looked closely at the figures I saw that there are German tanks with smiling soldiers from the Nazi era," said a concerned father to the Swedish tabloid Expressen.
However, not all toy stores initially shared Podle's ideals. Swedish departmental store Gekas has stopped stocking the toys as well as removing the product from the shelves after receiving strong customer pressure earlier that week. Gekas CEO Boris Lennerhov has taken a firm stance in banishing the product from his stores and meeting customer complaints.
"This is not something we want to promote as a form of ideal," said Lennerhov, as reported last week in The Local, an English news website in Sweden.
This is not the first time that a retail outlet has embraced Nazism in its marketing campaign. Last October, Jewish-owned Spanish fashion chain Mango provoked public backlash and were forced to apologize for marketing a shirt that was designed with lightning symbols similar to the Waffen SS insignia. The dress earned a mass of deragotary nicknames, including "Nazi chic" and the "SS shirt".
A second Spanish-owned clothing chain, Zara, was criticized for a children's' white shirt designed with black stripes and a yellow star. Nicknamed the "Sheriff", the motif was compared to concentration camp attire, complete with the Star of David badge that Nazis forced Jewish prisoners to attach to their uniforms.