A branch of the German anti-immigration, anti-Islamic group Pegida expressed outrage last week that the blond, blue-eyed boy on iconic Kinder chocolates had been replaced with black and brown children.
“They don’t stop at anything,” the group said in a Facebook post. “Can you really buy them like that, or is that a joke?”
Before the page was taken down, which had almost 14,000 likes, the group apparently acknowledged that it had "really dived into a wasp's nest here.”
It turns out that the pictures on the new packaging are childhood photos of two of Germany's biggest soccer stars, Jerome Boateng and Ilkay Gündogan, both of whom are German citizens and have played on their national team.
Pegida was founded in 2014 to oppose Germany's immigration policies, taking advantage of a growing tide of xenophobia as Syrian migrants arrive in Europe in record numbers. Through 2015, the group drew tens of thousands of Germans and other Europeans onto the streets in protests that saw sporadic clashes with the police. Counter-protests, in some instances, outnumbered them.
In April, Pegida co-founder Lutz Bachmann went on trial for allegedly "inciting the people," which, as fellow WorldViews writer Rick Noack explained, is "a criminal offense that dates back to fears that populists and neo-Nazis could regain power following World War II."
Bachmann has referred to migrants as "junk" and "animals" in the past, and argues for a "zero-tolerance" policy that bars immigration to Germany. In 2015, Germany accepted almost a half-million Syrian refugees, far more than any other country in Europe. Muslims currently make up about 4 million of Germany's 80 million total population.
Some commenters on the Bodensee Pegida branch's post tried to reason with its authors. One noted that the marketing campaign was linked to the upcoming European Football Championship, while another, quoted in the Guardian, wrote, “Dear folks, firstly Ferrero is an Italian manufacturer, and secondly, where do [you] think they get the cocoa from to make the chocolate with?”
Ferrero, the company that produces Kinder chocolates, chimed in on the debate with a public comment on its Facebook page.
“We at Ferrero would like to distance ourselves from any form of xenophobia or discrimination," the company said. "We don't accept or tolerate this in our Facebook communities either.”