Wax figure causes controversy. I’ve been to the Madame Tussauds in Amsterdam. These figures are amazingly realistic.
Their arms raised in a Nazi salute, two young tourists pose alongside a waxwork of Adolf Hitler.
This was the sight which greeted an Israeli couple on a visit to Madame Tussauds in London.
The couple, whose grandparents survived the Holocaust, photographed the incident and complained about the tourists’ behaviour, which they described as ‘an unequivocal demonstration of anti-semitism and bigotry’.
But while Tussauds apologised for any offence caused, it insisted: ‘We proactively encourage our visitors to interact with the waxworks should they so choose.
‘We absolutely defend the right of our visitors to make such choices for themselves, as long as they behave themselves responsibly.’
Its comments were described as appalling and insensitive by Lord Janner, chairman of the Holocaust Educational Trust.
The unnamed couple, who live in London with their baby son, visited Madame Tussauds this month, joining the crowds of summer tourists queueing to see waxworks of celebrities including David Beckham, Kylie Minogue and the Royal Family.
They described the figure of Hitler as ‘extraordinarily disturbing’.
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In a written complaint to the London attraction, they said: ‘Not only was it upsetting to see such an evil person replicated in the museum, but we were horrified to see tourists posing with Hitler and doing a “Heil Hitler” salute.
‘We are the grandchildren of concentration camp survivors – the very people that Hitler tried to kill.
‘To see him memorialised was painful and to see people smiling, posing with him and saluting him with a “Heil Hitler” – an unequivocal demonstration of anti-semitism and bigotry – was disturbing and hurtful beyond words.’
The Israeli woman asked for the waxwork to be removed from display, adding: ‘I believe such a statue is offensive to all minorities who Hitler tried to exterminate, including Jews.’
The model of the Fuhrer had previously been displayed behind glass because of frequent attacks from visitors who spat on it or pelted it with eggs.
But in 2002 it was moved into the Great Hall to stand alongside Winston Churchill and other leaders from history, as organisers said it would ‘create a more emotionally-charged experience’.
Lord Janner said he was appalled not just by the tourists’ behaviour but also by the reply to the Israelis’ complaint.
‘It is upsetting and offensive to see young people posing in a Nazi salute by a waxwork figure of Hitler and particularly distressing to descendants of those who suffered under his regime,’ he said.
‘I’m appalled at Madame Tussauds’s insensitive comments defending such activity, as surely they have a responsibility to ensure visitors behave appropriately and respectfully at their museum.’
A Tussauds spokesman told the Daily Mail that staff were all trained to intervene if they saw visitors behaving ‘disrespectfully’.
She said staff would have asked the tourists to stop if they had seen them performing the Nazi salute.
‘Madame Tussauds is apolitical. While we would never set out to offend, neither do we make personal or moral judgments when choosing our figures.
‘Our criteria are very simple – our figures represent either individuals who have reached the top of their chosen profession or area of activity, or who have significantly changed the face of history – good and bad.’
A waxwork of Hitler has been on display at Madame Tussauds in London since 1933, and has often been the target of vandalism.
A branch of the attraction in Berlin also has a model of the Nazi dictator, although it shows him as a slumped and shabby figure in a bunker.
In Germany, where glorifying Hitler is a criminal offence and the Nazi salute is banned, visitors cannot stand next to the waxwork because of the layout of the bunker.
In 2008, a man was prosecuted and fined £780 after he decapitated the model, which has since been repaired and put back on display.