Frankfurt, Germany – A T-shirt using a yellow Star of David to liken the treatment of smokers in Germany to that of Jews during Nazi rule has angered German Jews.
Earlier this week, after several German states introduced sweeping bans on smoking in restaurants and bars, an events planner called DMP started offering the T-shirt for sale on its Web site.
Jewish groups responded with outrage.
The operator of the Web site said on Friday that he had not sold any of the shirts and that it was a publicity stunt gone awry.
The only publicity it generated was from the angry response of German Jews; and it got the attention of public prosecutors who were investigating whether the shirt broke any laws.
“This is an absolute abuse of the Jewish genocide,” the deputy president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Dieter Graumann, said Thursday. “It is a scandal to exploit the murder of the Jews in order to symbolize the people’s desire to smoke.”
The shirt features a yellow Star of David similar to the one Jews were forced to wear under the Nazis. The world “smoker” is written across the star instead of “Jew.”
Graumann said the sale of the T-shirt did nothing to help German smokers. Instead, it reminded Germans – Jews and otherwise – of worse times, he said.
“It is unimaginative, brainless and tasteless,” he said.
Dennis Kramer, who was listed as the contact for the site, told The Associated Press Friday that he had not actually sold any shirts, nor had any even been made, despite a declaration on the site that 1,000 shirts had been sold since December.
“That 1,000 T-shirts were sold was a lie for promotional purposes,” Kramer said.
He apologized and said, “I have to agree. This was tasteless.” Kramer also said that the Web site had only gone online on Wednesday and the picture of the shirt was removed on Thursday.
Later Friday, the Web site carried a statement that it regretted the shirt had angered and offended people. Previously, a statement on the site said the shirt had been designed to highlight what it called the “disgraceful exclusion” of smokers by society.
“After decades of tolerance, the smoker is being denounced as an outcast, a second-class human being,” the online statement said.