Furor over fuehrer as human rights group calls for boycott of Hitler wine

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MUNICH — A Jewish human rights organization is calling for a boycott of an Italian winemaker that sells Hitler-themed wine.

Northern Italian winemaker Vina Lunardelli, based in Pasian di Prato, is in hot water over its historical line of wines, which has 50 labels “celebrating” controversial political figures, including Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, German communist Karl Marx and French conqueror Napoleon Bonaparte.

The Hitler-themed wine, called Fuhrerwein, features images of Hitler with Nazi slogans such as “Mein Fuehrer,” “Sieg Heil” and “Ein Volk, Ein Reich, Ein Fuhrer.”

The Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Los Angeles-based Jewish rights organization, said the wine “mocks Hitler’s victims,” including the 6 million Jews killed during the Holocaust.

“The Wiesenthal Center denounces the marketing of these products and urges wine distributors in Italy and around the world to send the only message the owner of this firm might understand, that they choose not to do any business with someone using the Nazi mass murderer as a blatant marketing tool,” Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean and founder of the human-rights group, and Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean, said in a statement.

The Hitler wine has been produced since 1995, but Vina Lunardelli didn’t raise much international ire until recently, when Norwegian tourists stumbled upon the bottles of wine with Hitler’s image on them at an Italian grocery store.

But this wasn’t the first time tourists have complained about the wine bottles.

Americans Matthew Hirsch and his wife raised the issue with Italian media last year while they were visiting the country.

At the time, Italy’s integration minister promised to look into the matter — saying it “offends the memory of millions of people and risks compromising the image of Italy abroad” — but a year later the wine is still on the shelves and is as popular as ever in Italy.

“How sickening is it that such a company operates in a country which first embraced Fascism and later, when occupied by the Germans, saw many of its countrymen executed by the Nazi Third Reich?” the rabbis asked.

The winemaker’s president Alessandro Lunardelli in the past has called his Hitler wine a “joke,” which is sure to upset the Jewish and human rights groups. According to the company’s website, the “Communist Collection” also has Josef Stalin, Vladimir Lenin and Italian philosopher Antonio Gramsci, and the “Fuehrer” series also has labels of Gen. Erwin Rommel and SS head Heinrich Himmler.

Mr. Lunardelli pointed out that his wines are mostly sold in tourist shops for use as “gag gifts.”

“Hardly any Italians buy the wine; well, occasionally they might go for a Benito Mussolini bottle,” he said last week. “People usually buy it as a joke gift, that’s what it’s for, it’s not meant to offend anyone.”

The rabbis aren’t amused.

“Now an expanded line of wines that demean, diminish and mock Hitler’s victims are promoted on a slick website,” the rabbis said.

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