Swiss retailer Migros apologized on Wednesday for putting cream capsules with the faces of Hitler and Mussolini on them in cafes in the Alpine country.
Migros said it “offered its apologies for this unforgivable incident” and that it was in the process of withdrawing them from cafes to which they had been delivered.
It also said that it had ripped up its contract with the company that had designed the offending labels decorated with the faces of the two fascist dictators.
Labels from coffee cream capsules have a cult following in Switzerland, with manufacturers feeding the passion by releasing regular new editions that are sometimes available to collectors before they reach cafes.
The plastic pots were not on sale in the Migros supermarket chain, but served to customers who ordered white coffee at about 100 restaurants and cafes the retail giant supplies.
Migros said one of its subsidiaries, milk company ELSA, had been responsible for supplying the cream and that its internal control procedures had been “insufficient.”
The designs were developed by Karo, a firm which specializes in cream capsules, and were part of a 55-label series based on vintage cigar bands.
Among them were cigar bands from the pre-World War II era which showed the faces of Nazi German dictator Adolf Hitler and his Italian fascist counterpart Benito Mussolini.
Karo boss Peter Waelchli said he was surprised by the sudden media attention.
— Rolf Paul Dreier (@dreierrp) October 22, 2014
“These images were part of the Cigar Bands label series, which has been on the market for collectors for two years,” he said, noting that they were drawn from a book about vintage bands.
“Of course what happened in Hitler’s era is appalling. Appalling things also happen today, like cutting off of heads in Syria,” he added.
Waelchli said he saw little or no difference between showing Hitler in a documentary or film and putting his face on a cream capsule.
“But we’re not making any more,” he said.
A total of 300 boxes of the series, each containing 200 capsules, were distributed to Migros’ clients.
The pictures of Hitler and Mussolini appeared on around 1,200 of the capsules in the batch.