PRAGUE (Sep. 30)
Czech Jewish leaders are backing a public service campaign that aims to ridicule neo-Nazis and convince the public not to be indifferent to skinheads’ activities.
The campaign, which is being supported by a range of state and nongovernmental agencies, shows skinheads giving Nazi salutes and includes the slogan, “Be Kind to Your Local Nazi.”
The campaign — which some have found confusing — is being beamed into millions of Czech homes and posted on billboards across the country.
The television ad, which was designed by a German advertising agency, shows skinheads facing a series of embarrassing situations.
In one scene, a skinhead loses his arm when the doors of an elevator close as he salutes. In another, a man is thrown out of a bar for knocking over beer glasses with his arm. In yet another scene, two skinheads use their outstretched arms to hold up a clothesline for a housewife.
Czech Jewish representatives backed the campaign, saying they believed it is important to raise public awareness at a time of increased neo-Nazi activities in the country.
Tomas Jelinek, chairman of Prague’s Jewish Community, said a controversial campaign was an effective way to approach the issue.
“A politically correct advertising campaign would be OK, but what is needed is something that wakes people up and alerts them to what is going on,” he said. “It is too early, however, to say yet what the result of all this will be.”
“I am quite supportive of the campaign, particularly on television,” said Tomas Kraus, executive director of the Czech Federation of Jewish Communities. “I think it succeeds in ridiculing those who behave in a racist way.”
Kraus did note, however, that the billboard slogan could be taken out of context by foreigners or those who had not watched the full television advertisement.
Tourists on the Prague subway system appeared confused by the poster campaign.
“When I first saw it, I actually thought it was an advert made by the neo-Nazis themselves,” said tourist Jon Einarsson from Iceland.
The advertising community is also split on the comic nature of the advertising campaign.
While one senior advertising executive described it as a great campaign, others are less sure.
Said Pavel Brabec, president of the Association of Czech Advertising and Agencies, “I am not keen on the presentation of evil as something silly. Fascism, neo-Nazism and communism are not doctrines that are influenced by silly people.”
The advertising campaign, which will run until the end of the year, has already drawn criticism from right-wing groups.
The Czech far-right Republican Party has filed a criminal complaint against the campaign’s organizers, accusing them of scare-mongering.