The deputy editor-in-chief of the Estonian weekly newspaper Eesti Ekspress apologized on Monday for publishing a mock ad depicting emaciated prisoners at a Nazi concentration camp.
Sulev Vedler said that the ad, for weight-loss pills, was meant to be “ironic,” and that the intended target of the joke was the Estonian gas company GasTerm Eesti, which in August used a picture on their website of the front gate of the Nazi death camp Auschwitz to sell their products.
“Using such a photo seemed completely inappropriate to Eesti Ekspress,” said Vedler. “The ridicule was not at the expense of any nation or anyone who has suffered in concentration camps, but at the expense of the Estonian company in question.”
Vedler apologized to “people who were offended by this ironic joke.”
The director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center-Israel Office, Efraim Zuroff, told Vedler that the apology was not enough and showed a lack of understanding.
“Frankly, I do not think that you understand the problem,” he wrote to the editor in response to the apology.
Zuroff said that the Holocaust is not a subject for satire, particularly “not in a country in which local Nazi collaborators assisted the Nazis in mass murder, and Waffen-SS veterans… are considered freedom fighters and Estonian heroes.”
Zuroff, who raised the original complaint about the joke ad, was pilloried in the same newspaper in 2011 when he was leading the fight to bring suspected Nazi war criminal Harry Mannil to trial. Eesti Ekspress at the time ran a caricature of Zuroff as the devil.
Following the publication of the offending weight-loss ad, Alla Jakobson, spokeswoman for Estonia’s Jewish community, said in the newspaper Postimees that the incident shows Estonian society is experiencing “major problems with moral and ethical values.”
AP contributed to this report.