During the days of the World War II, the German soldiers used to frequent a series of cafes called Soldatenkaffee (Soldier's Cafe) in Nazi-occupies Paris. The original cafes probably no longer exist, but a namesake has opened its doors in the West Java provincial capital of Bandung, Indonesia’s third largest city. The Indonesian Soldatenkaffee is peculiar decor: a portrait of Adolf Hitler occupies a prominent location above the fireplace, while several Nazi memorabilia including a large wrought iron Third Reich eagle, swastikas, posters, flags and Nazi propaganda adorn the walls. Some of the Führer’s best quotes are also printed on the walls. The waiters serve food dressed in Waffen SS uniform complete with Nazi armbands. But Soldatenkaffee is not a Nazi-themed restaurant, its owner insist.
“This cafe's theme is World War II,” says the owner Henry Mulyana.
When the restaurant first opened in 2011, it generated such a global outrage that Henry Mulyana was forced to close it. He received death threats and was summoned by local authorities to explain his motives. Mulyana explained that he was not pro-Nazi, but had just chosen a theme that he thought would attract customers. But he also remarked that there was no proof the Nazis were responsible for the Holocaust. “Controversy will always exist, depending on from what side we’re looking from,” he said. “The way I see it, the Nazis didn’t commit slaughter.”
Soldatenkaffee remained closed for three years and then opened again in June last year with a supposed overhaul of its heavily Nazi-themed atmosphere. But the Nazi insignia and uniforms that prompted the protest remain. Instead, it now also features pictures of Stalin and Churchill, and mannequins wearing different military uniforms, and a variety of British, French, American, Japanese and Dutch military memorabilia.
“We have a lot of customers from Europe and they don’t have a problem with the World War II theme, because it is seen here from a historical perspective,” the owner said in a press conference during the re-opening.
Knowledge of the Holocaust and the Nazi era is not widespread in Southeast Asia as in the west. The subject is barely touched upon by the school curriculum, as a result of which the population is not aware of the kind of reaction any kind of Nazi propaganda generates elsewhere. “I think we were taught to dislike the Jews more than the Nazis,” told one individual to the GlobalPost.
One of the original Soldatenkaffee, near the Madeleine church, in 1940 Paris. Photo credit
Another Soldatenkaffee in Paris. Photo credit
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