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Storm of Protest over Commercial Using Hitler As a Pitchman

A bank-sponsored television commercial using Adolf Hitler as a pitchman for the sale of insurance policies raised a storm of protest here and prompted a personal apology to Rabbi Henry I. Sobel from Carlos Roberto Chueiri, publicity director of the Banco Real. Angry viewers telephoned the bank and many threatened to close their accounts after the 30-second commercial was run as a “tie-in” with the American series “Holocaust” that was screened on local television.

Sobel confirmed that he was visited by Chueiri after the incident and that the bank official promised to publish a written apology to the Jewish community. “As I have already told him, I think it inadmissable to sell life insurance policies in Brazil by way of Adolf Hitler as a salesman,” Sobel said.

He said he was shocked by the bank’s insensitivity at showing the commercial at a time when bitter memories of the Nazi Holocaust were being revived. He said he hoped the bank’s apology “would be written in such a way as to really convince us that there was no intention to give offense.”

Benno Milinitzky, president of the Confederacao Israelita do Brasil, said that while the commercial aroused indignation, it was, in his personal opinion, only an example of “bad taste” and not intentional.

TRIES TO JUSTIFY COMMERCIAL

The commercial shows Hitler giving a speech. His voice is gradually replaced by that of the announcer who says “the more certain you are of what will happen tomorrow, the more you need to take out a policy.” Chueiri explained that the commercial’s message was that “Hitler is the symbol of the greatest catastrophe” and “to remind people that they can never foresee what will happen tomorrow.”

He added: “This film was reserved for special occasions and based on the series ‘Holocaust.’ We imagined the same would cause an impact. We believed it to be fully in accordance with the spirit of the North American series. And then, in 30 seconds, we succeeded in summarizing that which the ‘Holocaust’ (series) took 541 minutes” to do.

Chueiri said that “after the film, Banco Real began to receive angry telephone calls and even threats. We noticed that people did not repeat what they had seen, they were set loose by the image of the German ‘Fuehrer’ and, as honest publicity men, we realized that the message had not fulfilled its purpose.”

Chueiri disclosed that the commercial was made three years ago and drew no public reaction when it was first screened. He claimed that it had won prizes at international advertising festivals in Tokyo and Barcelona.

Sobel said that 45 people told him they closed their accounts at the Banco Real to protest the commercial. He stressed that these were individual gestures. “No advice was given that the accounts should be closed,” he said.

Commenting on the “Holocaust” series itself, Sobel said that “In spite of its historical imperfections and touches of Hollywood, it succeeded in conveying the feeling of guilt by a silent world. I firmly believe that this broadcast is important for all Brazilians. Momover, the world must be reminded that not only six million Jews were exterminated but 14 million non-Jewish persons were also killed” by the Nazis.

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