Prior to a cultural event to celebrate the 62nd anniversary of a Taiwanese school, students were asked to choose which historical figures they would like to dress up as for a parade that upcoming Friday. The students decided that they wanted to dress up as Nazis.
Liu Hsi-cheng, a history teacher at Hsinchu Kuang Fu High School made the suggestion that the students dress up as historical figures from Arabic culture, he told Tapei Times.
After making their decision to dress up as Nazis, Liu warned them that it would be a “very controversial theme.” However, the students voted on it twice and were determined to be Nazis for the parade. Liu chose to respect their decision and not stop them.
During the parade on Friday, more than a dozen students dressed in black Nazi uniforms with red swastika armbands on their sleeves. They also were seen waving Nazi flags, holding Nazi symbols and reportedly shouting “Sieg Heil!” at one student giving the Nazi salute inside a cardboard tank.
Pictures of the scene went viral on the internet, causing outrage in Taiwan, prompting rebukes from both Israeli and German officials in Taipei.
“It is deplorable and shocking that only seven decades after the world witnessed the horrors of the Holocaust, a high school in Taiwan is supporting such an outrageous action,” the Israel Economic and Cultural Office in Taipei said in a statement. “We strongly condemn this tasteless occurrence and call on the Taiwanese authorities, in all levels, to initiate educational programs which would introduce the meaning of the Holocaust and teach its history and universal meaning. Israel would support such endeavors as may be necessary.”
On Saturday, Taiwan’s Presidential Office demanded that the school apologize to Israel for the incident. The Ministry of Education also threatened to cut funding to the school.
The country’s education minister, Pan Wen-chung, apologized for the incident and urged all schools in Taiwan to learn from the mistake.
The school’s principal, Cheng Hsiao-ming resigned on Saturday and in his letter of resignation, apologized to the public and to the victims of the Nazi regime and took responsibility for the incident. He added that while creativity is important, students should be taught to respect everyone.
Cheng was set to be succeeded by the school’s academic affairs director in February, but after the incident, was asked to step down early.
Cheng explained that the school would learn from their mistakes and organize a series of educational activities about the Holocaust, such as showing students “Schindler’s List” and “Life Is Beautiful.” Staff members from Israel’s representative office were also invited to speak at the school.
The school explained that they failed to perform the proper reviews before the event was held.
When asked about the themes that students could choose from, the school administration said that the students’ only limits were to not choose themes that involved blood or violence.
The history teacher, Liu Hsi-cheng told Central News Agency that his students regret their actions and that they should be given a second chance. He also said that he regretted the decision not to veto their decision.