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Nazi-themed cafe draws fire in Indonesia

Officials call for explanation of 'Soldatenkaffee' in Badung as owner says he is not a politician, just a businessman.

Last Modified: 19 Jul 2013 02:51
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A Facebook picture of Indonesians in Nazi-era uniform outside the Soldatenkaffe, Indonesia [Facebook]

Indonesian authorities are to ask a restaurant owner to explain his reasons for opening a Nazi-themed cafe that has sparked controversy among locals and tourists.

Soldatenkaffee includes a red wall of Nazi-related memorabilia, including a large flag with the swastika and a giant picture of Adolf Hitler.

Its wait staff dresses in SS and Nazi-era military uniforms, and can be seen posing in front of the cafe on its Facebook page. The menu carries an Indonsian dish rechristened "Nazi goreng".

The cafe, located in the West Java provincial capital of Bandung, one of Indonesia's tourist destination cities, has been open since April 2011. But a recent article in a local English-language newspaper prompted angry responses from some foreigners and Indonesians on social networking sites. 

Ayi Vivananda, the deputy mayor of Bandung, said a letter was sent on Thursday summoning cafe owner Henry Mulyana to meet with officials to discuss his motives for opening the cafe and whether his objective was to incite racial hatred.

"Those symbols are internationally recognised to represent violence and racism," Vivananda said.

Indonesians in replica Nazi uniforms [Facebook]

The Facebook page of Soldatenkaffe contains pictures of Indonesians dressed in German World War Two battle fatigues and carrying German replica weapons.

Mulyana says his objective was not to breed hatred. Instead, he said he wanted to decorate his restaurant with Nazi symbols to attract customers, both local and foreigners.

He told the Irrawady newspaper: "Controversy will always exist, depending on from what side we’re looking. The way I see it, the Nazis didn’t commit slaughter. War is crime, so there will always be acts of murder in a war."

“I’m not personally familiar with the [Nazi] ideology, but even if I was, I don’t think I’d find it completely disagreeable. For example, communism in Indonesia was prohibited, but it’s flourishing in China. Maybe it’s just a matter of politics.”

He also denied being pro-Nazi or supporting Hitler. "I'm just a businessman, not a politician," Mulyana said. "I have a right to design my restaurant with anything that attracts people to come. I'm sure that I'm not violating any laws."

He said the recent controversy has forced him to temporarily close his restaurant. He declined to say whether he would consider changing the Nazi theme if authorities requested him to do so.

"Let's wait and see,'' he said. "I don't want the workers here to lose their jobs."

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