A misguided marketing ploy was restaurateur Puneet Sabhlok’s reasoning behind the mind-boggling decision to name his eatery “Hitler’s Cross”.
It’s tempting to try to give the guy the benefit of the doubt—perhaps it was a misunderstanding, and he meant some other Hitler. He couldn’t possibly have named his restaurant after THAT Hitler…right? Be assured, the red, white and black decor swimming with swastikas left no question that he did indeed intend to use the fuhrer as his mascot, which begs the obvious question, dear god why?
Clearly we can identify the starting point as extremely poor judgement and a (difficult to fathom for the average world citizen) example of cultural insensitivity. Relatively speaking, India was fairly removed from WWII—awareness of the atrocities is less available, education on the war not as pronounced as it is in the parts of the world that still weather the scars of Hitler’s reign. A fascination with the powerful dictator is present in colleges and in small groups of Indians who admire his leadership while remaining willfully ignorant of his tyranny, a disturbing trend of a misplaced affinity with the infamous fascist.
The other cultural factor possibly in play is the Third Reich’s thievery of the swastika, its former use as a Hindu symbol of peace and luck forever sullied by its association with the Nazi Party. (The swastika symbol had been used innocently by several ancient cultures only to be completely ruined by Adolf in the 20th century.) There is allegedly some belief that Hitler’s adoption of the symbol was a gesture of respect for the Indian culture, another bizarre rationalization for the odd acceptance of Nazi symbolism that is being witnessed here and there in the streets of Mumbai.
Whatever the rationale behind it was, it was swiftly smacked down by the Indian Jewish Federation, the Israeli Embassy, the New York Anti-Defamation League, and countless other organizations horrified by what many in the media felt was simply a publicity stunt. It took less than a week for Sabhlok to yield to the pressure from, oh, EVERYONE and replace the swastikas with multi-colored rings, and after considering both Fort Knox and Exotic Goblet as candidates, rechristened the restaurant “Cross Cafe”.
Cross Cafe managed to recover from the uproar, and now serves its salads and sandwiches fuhrer-free.
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