Taiwanese school principal resigns over Nazi-themed parade

After students photographed wearing swastikas, Cheng Hsiao-ming says he’ll leave post early, devote career to educating about important historical events

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

High school students in Taiwan dressed as Nazi soldiers during a celebration on December 24, 2016. Pictures from the event were posted online by Facebook user Pixar Lu. (Facebook)
High school students in Taiwan dressed as Nazi soldiers during a celebration on December 24, 2016. Pictures from the event were posted online by Facebook user Pixar Lu. (Facebook)

The principal of a Taiwan high school where students staged a controversial Nazi-themed parade resigned Sunday, saying he would take full responsibility for an event that caused uproar from local officials and condemnations from Israel and Germany.

Cheng Hsiao-ming, who heads the Hsinchu Kuang Fu High School, apologized to the public and to victims of the Nazi regime.

Photos emerged online Saturday shortly after the school event showing students dressed in black uniforms with swastikas on their arms, waving swastika flags, and giving the Nazi salute, prompting the Taiwanese President’s Office to demand the school apologize to Israel and Germany.

The school complied, with the principal and dean publicly bowing to show remorse, but Cheng then followed up by tendering his resignation.

“To take full responsibility for the matter, I hereby announce my resignation from the post as president (of the school),” Chen said in a statement reported by the Focus Taiwan website.

The principal noted he will provide the Taiwan Education Ministry with a list of others who should be held responsible for the incident.

According to the Taipei Times, among those to be on the list are school administrators and homeroom instructor Liu Hsi-cheng, although no students will be named.

Cheng added that the school will run special courses focusing on Nazi history during World War II and why Nazi symbols are still considered offensive to this day.

Among the activities planned are screenings of the Holocaust movies “Schindler’s List” and “Life is Beautiful” and talks by officials from from the Israel Economic and Culture Office in Taiwan, he said.

Cheng was due to leave his post in February 2017 and be succeeded by the school’s academic affairs director Huang Duen-huang, the Taipei Times said, but he was asked by the board to leave early to limit the damage caused by the parade.

The photos from a Saturday celebration at the private school in Hsinchu City were posted online to the Facebook account of a user named Pixar Lu, drawing responses from local Israeli and German officials.

In response the Israel Economic and Cultural Office in Taipei and the German Institute Taipei issued statements on their Facebook pages condemning the incident.

Cheng said that once his resignation has been approved by the board he intends to dedicate his future career to educating about important historical events. He noted that the school’s teachers and pupils had learned from the incident and asked that they not be judged too harshly.

In the pictures, students can also be seen standing in formation and lining up behind a cardboard German tank while a student sitting on top gives a Nazi salute.

Homeroom instructor Liu said the students decided on the Adolf Hitler theme after two rounds of voting despite his suggestion of a parade on Arabic historical figures. He admitted that not vetoing the Nazi theme was a big mistake.

According to the report some of the students involved said they had intended for their creativity to draw attention in the parade but did not take into consideration that the Nazis were responsible for the deaths of millions of innocent people. Others noted that the school’s black uniforms made it easier to convert them into Nazi-looking styles for the event.

The school administration explained that students are permitted to choose whatever themes they like on condition they don’t involve blood or violence. Teachers are usually only given a few details about the themes as students put emphasis on keeping “result of their creativity” top secret.

On Saturday the Taiwanese Education Minister Pan Wen-chung also officially apologized and the Education Ministry was said to be considering cutting subsidies to the school.

During World War II, Taiwan was a colony under Nazi Germany’s ally Japan.

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