Soldatenkaffee is a local business in Indonesia, but it gained international attention over the past week due to its Nazi decor that appears to glorify Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich. That negative publicity this weekend prompted the owner to remove the offending decorations and consider his next steps.
According to an Associated Press reporter who filed a story on the establishment, cafe had a red wall displaying Nazi memorabilia, including a large red-white-and-black flag emblazoned with the swastika and a large photo of Adolf Hitler.
That’s not all. Waiters dressed in the uniform of the infamous SS, the Schutzstaffel, which terrorized Jews, other minorities and Germany’s enemies during World War II. The organization was outlawed after the war, as it was a key participant in the atrocities the Nazi’s committed during the Holocaust.
The restaurant serves schnitzel and German beer and according to AFP was named after the popular German soldier hangout in occupied Paris during World War II.
The AP reported that though the cafe has been open for two years, a recent article in a local English-language newspaper brought wider attention to the establishment and with that angry criticism.
It also prompted Ayi Vivananda, deputy mayor of Bandung – where the restaurant is located – to send a letter to owner Henry Mulyana inviting him to meet with local officials to examine if racial hatred was behind his choice of the Nazi theme.
"Those symbols are internationally recognized to represent violence and racism," Vivananda said, according to the AP.
Mulyana is defending his motives, saying he has no wish to incite hatred. He explains that he just wanted to attract local and foreign customers, and thought highlighting Nazi symbols would be a way to gain attention.
He also denies being pro-Nazi or supporting Hitler. "I don't idolize Hitler, I simply adore the soldiers' paraphernalia," Mulyana told AFP, which describes him as “a Christian who likes playing with air rifles.”
"I'm just a businessman, not a politician," Mulyana told the AP. "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."
While he may have initially attracted customers with his unorthodox decor, the recent controversy has now has forced him to temporarily shut his doors.
Mulyana called a press conference Saturday where he said he felt very confused and depressed, according to the Jakarta Post.
“As an ordinary person, I don’t understand about the pressure. Many people outside have taunted me with vile language. I cannot say anything. After harsh statements were published in online media, I immediately closed my cafe,” he told reporters.
The Jakarta Post reported that as of this weekend, the walls were “clear of all Nazi-themed decoration. There are no posters, pictures, or images of German soldiers from the Second World War.”
The owner said he was aiming for a pop culture theme, not racism. “It used a Second World War theme from the German side; but, it should be noted that it is art, not ideology or even extremism or racism,” he said.
Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center also expressed his outrage, saying the organization was "reaching out to senior Indonesian diplomats to express on behalf of our 400,000 members and victims of the Nazi Holocaust our outrage and disgust."
Indonesia is home to the world's largest Muslim population, but the Jewish community numbers only 20 people, according to AFP.
“Under Indonesian law, anyone who deliberately shows hatred towards others based on race or ethnicity can be jailed for up to five years,” the AP reported.