By Alexis Herr
The swastika clad Soldantenkaffee (Soldiers Coffee), a Nazi-themed café in the West Java provincial capitol of Bandung, Indonesia, opened in April 2011. Servers dressed as Waffen-SS soldiers took orders as customers appraised red walls decorated with Hitler and Nazi memorabilia. When owner Henry Mulyana was questioned about his decision to create a pro-Nazi café, he denied supporting Hitler and said, “I’m just a businessman, not a politician.” After an English newspaper published an article on the Soldantenkaffee’s alarming decor, the international press swooped in to cover the story (summer 2013) and the café soon closed its doors. Despite Mulyana’s claim that his establishment was never intended to stirrup racial bigotry and violence, it is naïve to think it would not heighten antisemitism and hatred. And the fact that Soldantenkaffee served schnitzel on plates stamped with swastikas for two years before closing raises troubling questions about the popularity of neo-Nazism in Asia. The greatest question, however, should not be whether or not Mulyana himself is a neo-Nazi and instead, how can we prevent such businesses from forming in the first place?
Perhaps Soldantenkaffee is symptomatic of an overall void of Holocaust education in Asia. The Holocaust is not a subject widely taught in Asian public schools, which allows for ignorance and bigotry to continue unabated. Anti-Judaism existed long before the Holocaust, and it will continue as long as the general public believes that antisemitic propaganda is more fact than fiction.
The Hong Kong Holocaust and Tolerance Center (HKHTC) is a non-profit organization dedicated to combating ignorance by promoting education and awareness of the Holocaust across Asia. HKHTC was founded in the same year Soldantenkaffee opened for business. In order to advance tolerance and understanding, HKHTC works to make a positive contribution to society by leading conferences, workshops, and exhibits on antisemitism, discrimination, and the Holocaust.
Bigotry, antisemitism, racism, and xenophobia are often rooted in ignorance and if left untreated, they fester into hatred. It is for this reason that AssessingAtrocity celebrates the work of the Hong Kong Holocaust and Tolerance Center and its efforts to foster peace and understanding.