This Christmas, some Polish children might receive some unusual — and highly controversial — presents: Nazi-themed toys including Nazi soldiers, tanks, anti-tank guns or jeeps.
The Polish company producing the new toys is, needless to say, being roundly criticized. But it has defended its product. Lego-like figures featuring Swastikas and Third Reich emblems are a "fun way" to teach children history, Robert Podles, CEO of Cobi Toys, told news agency Ruptly, which is part of Russia's RT network. Cobi Toys did not respond to an interview request by The Washington Post on Tuesday.
The toy soldiers in question bear similarities to Wehrmacht soldiers and officers with the Gestapo, the Nazis' horrifying secret police force. Often referred to as the "worst of the worst," Gestapo officers were allowed to arrest suspicious people and send them to Nazi concentration camps. Many of those arrested never returned.
Despite the criticism, Cobi says it plans to continue producing the items. While Ruptly quotes Podles as saying that some of the tanks and vehicles feature swastikas, that symbol does not appear in an advertisement on Cobi Toys' Web site. However, it does depict black crosses that were used as emblems of Germany's Wehrmacht (as the Third Reich's armed forces were know).
"We cannot separate this from history. We need to teach children in schools about it, we need to talk about it," Podles told Ruptly.
Not everyone agrees. The Swedish department store Gekas announced last week that it would remove the products from its shelves. In explaining its decision, it cited customer complaints about the toy soldiers, according to Swedish news site the Local.
“This is not something we want to promote as a form of ideal,” said Gekas CEO Boris Lennerhov, according to the site.
It is not the first time that the commercial use of Nazi symbols has led to recalls or bans. Last weekend, Walgreens recalled wrapping paper that contained a swastika pattern. The Spanish fashion chain Mango came under fire in October for marketing a blouse printed with a motif that resembled the insignia of the Schutzstaffel, or SS, Hitler's protection force. Zara, another Spanish retailer, withdrew and apologized for a children's shirt emblazoned with a yellow star that resembled the Star of David badge that the Nazi regime forced Jews to sew on their clothing.