One of the Thailand’s top universities has apologized for a congratulatory billboard which showed Adolf Hitler surrounded by cartoon superheroes. University staff said their students were ignorant about Hitler.
Bangkok's Chulalongkorn University received complaints over the billboard - just one of many banners which are traditionally placed on campus during the university's commencement period. The various signs are placed as a send-off from incoming students to the graduating class.
Students belonging to the faculty of arts came up with the idea of “a conceptual paradox to superheroes” and painted Hitler with his arm raised in a Nazi salute. Batman, Captain America, the Incredible Hulk and Iron Man were positioned next to him.
The banner, which was displayed for two days, sparked fury and outrage from the Simon Wiesenthal Center - an international Jewish human rights group.
"Hitler as a superhero? Is he an appropriate role model for Thailand's younger generation - a genocidal hate monger who mass murdered Jews and Gypsies and who considered people of color as racially inferior," associate dean at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Rabbi Abraham Cooper, said in a Friday statement.
The billboard was removed Saturday in response to criticism.
"(We) would like to formally express our sincere apology for our students' 'Superhero' mural," art school dean Suppakorn Disatapundhu said in a statement issued on Monday. "I can assure you we are taking this matter very seriously."
Dean Suppakorn said that the idea was to show that good and bad people co-exist in the world.
"They told me the concept was to paint a picture of superheroes who protect the world," the dean told AP in a telephone interview. "Hitler was supposed to serve as a conceptual paradox to the superheroes," he said. Serving this idea, the superheroes were painted in bright colors, while Hitler's image was in grey and black, the dean said.
"This kind of thoughtless display will not happen again," he added, vowing to explain to students “that this man caused tragedy in the world.”
The students behind the banner received a verbal warning from the university.
According to an explanation provided in an AP report, the lack of world history knowledge among Thai students is because Thailand’s education system primarily covers the history of the country and its monarchy. For example, children are required to memorize all of the country’s previous kings, while learning very little about the Holocaust TM.