MUMBAI, India – When Hitler's Cross restaurant opened four days ago in a Mumbai suburb, local politicians and movie industry types were on hand to celebrate beneath the posters of the Nazi leader and swastikas.
The owner insisted then — and still does — that the name and theme of his new eatery is only meant to attract attention, even if it has outraged Mumbai's Jewish community.
"It's really made people very upset that a person responsible for the massacre of 6 million Jews can be glorified," Elijah Jacob, one of the community's leaders, told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
But owner Puneet Sablok has refused to back down, and apart from Mumbai's 4,500 Jews, there's been little controversy in India, where Holocaust awareness is limited, Hitler is regarded as just another historical figure and swastikas are an ancient Hindu symbol, displayed all over to bring luck. There are just 5,500 Jews in all of India.
"It's just to attract people. There is no intention to hurt anyone," said Sablok about his spacious restaurant, which serves pastries, pizza and salad in Navi Mumbai, a northern suburb of Mumbai, which used to be known as Bombay.
Those objecting to the restaurant plan to ask the local government to force a name change, said Daniel Zonshine, Israel's consul general in Mumbai.
"Instead of Hitler's name being an example of extreme evil, this is like giving legitimacy to Hitler. It's not right to advertise his name in public," Zonshine said.
But while India is ordinarily sensitive to causing religious offense — recently taking action to bar "The Da Vinci Code" movie and cartoon drawings of the prophet Muhammad — at least one local leader said the name Hitler didn't bother him.
"People are unnecessarily making this into an issue," said Sudhir Jadhav, a local ruling party leader. "We have no plans to protest outside the restaurant or ask him to change the name."
Diners were also quite happy eating in Hitler's Cross.
"Hitler was a bad man, but what's wrong with having food here?" said Ashwini Phadnis, 22, a microbiology student as she tucked away a piece of chocolate cake.
Engineering student Anand Dhillon sat with friends, sipping soft drinks. "I think the name is quite interesting. Tomorrow if someone keeps a name like Saddam Mutton Shop or George Bush Footwear, there's nothing wrong with that, is there?" he shrugged.