German paper ripped for 'anti-Semitic' caricature of Facebook's Zuckerberg

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A caricature of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in Germany’s largest broadsheet newspaper shows anti-Semitism reminiscent of the Nazi propaganda, say critics.

The cartoon, in the liberal  Süddeutsche Zeitung, depicts Mark Zuckerberg as an octopus with a hook nose devouring the world’s technology. It appeared in the Friday edition of the Munich-based paper along with the International New York Times. The drawing of the 29-year-old Zuckerberg comes on the heels of Facebook’s $19 billion purchase of the messaging startup company WhatsApp.

“The cartoon is starkly reminiscent of a 1938 Nazi cartoon depicting Winston Churchill as a Jewish octopus encircling the globe," said Efraim Zuroff, of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. "And if anyone has any doubts about the anti-Semitic dimension of the cartoon, we can point to Mark Zuckerberg’s very prominent nose, which is not the case in real life. Absolutely disgusting!”


The caption under the cartoon, drawn by Burkhard Mohr, says in German “Krake-Zuckerberg” which translates as “Octopus-Zuckerberg.”

The cartoon echoed a theme "reminiscent of Nazi propaganda which sought to warn Germany of the threat posed by Jews/world Jewry, and in a certain sense particularly by those Jews who had assimilated into German society, and could not be automatically identified as such," Zuroff said.

A Facebook spokeswoman said Zuckerberg had no comment on the matter

"We understand that the artist and the newspaper have issued a public apology about this cartoon," she said. "We have nothing to add to this."

In an email statement to on Tuesday, Mohr wrote: “anti-Semitism and racism are ideologies which are totally foreign to me,” adding, “It is the last thing I would do, to defame people because of their nationality, religious view or origin.”

Mohr said he was not aware that the presentation of Zuckerberg could be a problem “because he had not viewed Zuckerberg as a Jew.” He noted that the senior editor who developed the idea with him received concerns from the editorial staff, and that he decided to draw a “faceless octopus, but it was too late for the early edition.”

The faceless octopus appeared in a later edition.

Zuroff said Mohr's apology "rings very hollow."

The newspaper reaches more than 400,000 readers each day and is considered one of Germany’s most serious dailies. Last year, it was engulfed in an anti-Semitism scandal for printing a caricature of the Jewish state as a horned monster.

The SZ has garnered intense criticism over the years for its sharp attacks on Jews and the State of Israel, as well as pro-Iran articles. In 2011, the paper published a poem “What Must Be Said” by former Nazi SS soldier and Nobel literature laureate Günter Grass accusing Israel as the greatest danger to world peace. His poem defended the anti-democratic Islamic Republic of Iran..

A year earlier, the controversial German-Iranian scholar Katajun Amirpur published an article claiming that Iran’s former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad -- notorious  for his Holocaust denial -- did not say Israel “must be wiped off the map.” She argued it was a defective translation, prompting criticism from German journalists and political scientists.

Benjamin Weinthal is a Berlin-based fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Follow Benjamin on Twitter@BenWeinthal