A frozen treat in India is leaving a bad taste in peoples’ mouths.
Photos of Hitler-themed ice cream, which were originally manufactured in Uttar Pradesh, a state in northern India, and sold across the country are making the Internet rounds. The frozen sweet comes in cartons depicting images of Adolf Hitler, frowning next to ice cream, along with a cartoon version of the Fuhrer wearing a swastika-top hat.
— The Sun (@TheSunNewspaper) June 5, 2015
But Neeraj Kumar, the owner of MVF Product--the company behind the ice cream--claims the cones are simply a reference to a familial nickname.
“In our Uttar Pradesh village, anyone who has a ‘karak mejaz’ is called Hitler,” Kumar explained to the Hindustan Times. “One of my uncles is a short-tempered and strict man, so we nicknamed him Hitler. While naming this particular batch of cones, I thought why can’t we have a little fun at the expense of my uncle and name the cones after him! That was how the name originated.”
Kumar names different batches of cones after real people and says he believes most Indian residents in his village probably do not recognize the infamous image of the mustachioed dictator.
The Daily Mail reports that the cones are readily available across India but Kumar told the Hindustan Times that most of the cones sold out last year.
But that hasn’t stopped those in high places from condemning the treat.
“Height of tastelessness; Indian ice-cream named after Hitler. Would the Germans name a sausage after Godse?” Indian congress leader Shashi Tharoor tweeted along with a picture of the controversial cartons.
Height of tastelessness; Indian ice-cream named after Hitler. Would the Germans name a sausage after Godse? http://t.co/fr4KuvQ15h
— Shashi Tharoor (@ShashiTharoor) May 29, 2015
Nathuram Godse was the militant Hindu nationalist leader who is best known for assassinating Mahatma Gandhi.
Other Twitter users have followed suit with their confusion over and condemnation of the product.
@bencomics but the move from that to Hitler Ice Cream is bizarre; it should really REALLY taste bad. If there's any justice in this world.
— Vernon Reid (@vurnt22) May 30, 2015
I'm gonna have to go out on a limb and say that this may be the worst marketing idea ever. Holy crap! I wonder... http://t.co/Xc8KdeoRIx
— The ShrineOHK (@TheShrineOHK) May 30, 2015
While naming a product after one of the vilified leaders in history may be seen as the ultimate faux pas in most Western countries, India has a more complicated history with Hitler.
Navras Jaat Aafreedi, a professor of social sciences at Gautam Buddha University in New Delhi, spoke to Bloomberg in 2012 about Hitler’s popularity within the country. Aafreedi believes that Hilter isn't as vilified in Indian history because "had Hitler not weakened the British Empire by the Second World War, the British would have never voluntarily left India.”
Despite the fact that he was responsible for the deaths of millions of people, Hitler has been adapted into a moniker for people who are just grumpy, says the professor. “Mein Kampf” is still a bestseller within the country, and there are even cafes and stores named after the oppressive leader. With few Jews in the country, there is an acceptance of things and places named for Hitler.
“Large sections of Indians are not aware of who Hitler actually was and what the Holocaust meant. They do not understand the long-term implications of using Hitler as a brand image and the culture that it brings with it,” N Bhaskara Rao, founder–chairman of the Centre for Media Studies, told the Hindustan Times.