German brewer withdraws ‘Nazi beer’ label

German brewer withdraws ‘Nazi beer’ label

Company denies 'Border Fence' label linked to anti-migrant sympathies, apologizes for 'hurt feelings'

Illustrative photo of people toasting with glasses of beer on March 20, 2016. (AFP / FRANCOIS GUILLOT)
Illustrative photo of people toasting with glasses of beer on March 20, 2016. (AFP / FRANCOIS GUILLOT)

A Bavarian brewer has sparked outrage in Germany by producing a “Border Fence” label that appears to use Nazi symbols to criticize the mass refugee influx.

The Roehrl Brewery this week pulled off the market its special batch, apologizing for “hurt feelings” but denying any far-right sympathies.

Its CEO said he had simply intended the special issue of 2,000 crates as a commentary on the migrant crisis and a reminder of traditional Bavarian values.

The brown label on the half-liter bottles uses Gothic letters for the name “Grenzzaun-Halbe” or “border fence Half,” which evokes demands by local conservative politicians to seal Germany’s frontiers.

It also says “the Homeland needs Beer” while the back label lists the words “Protect,” “Defend” and “Preserve” as well as virtues such as “Diligence,” “Loyalty” and “Discipline.”

University student groups urged a boycott of the brewery, while social media users decried what they dubbed a “Nazi beer.”

They pointed to the retail price per bottle of 88 cents — a number used in neo-Nazi circles for the illegal “Heil Hitler” greeting because the letter H is the eighth in the alphabet.

The company has insisted this is a coincidence, and said the same about the batch’s November 9 use-by date — the day that marks the 1938 anti-Jewish pogroms known as “Kristallnacht” or the “Night of Broken Glass.”

Frank Sillner, CEO of the company in the city of Straubing, told national news agency DPA that the idea for the beer came during talks about Germany’s refugee policy a few months ago.

Bavaria has been the main gateway for the more than one million mostly Middle Eastern asylum seekers who came to Europe’s top economy last year.

“We have nothing, absolutely nothing to do with right-wing extremism,” Sillner was quoted as telling DPA.

He added that the beer’s price changes once sales tax is added, and that the expiration date is “calculated by a computer.”

He also told public broadcaster BR that “when the refugee influx surged, we wanted to point to all of Bavaria’s good and positive traditions, to urge that we please do not forget, despite all willingness to help, what makes our Bavaria beautiful and good.”

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