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|Sun Jan 04, 2004 4:50 am Diluting the Evil
|Diluting the Evil
By Michael Freund
The Jerusalem Post
December 24, 2003
It was a bitterly cold December day in London, the kind of day when even the thought of venturing out with the kids seems almost as daunting as the prospect of spending the day with them locked up inside a hotel room.
So after some generous bundling of clothes, we headed off to what seemed to be the perfect family outing – an afternoon at Madame Tussauds, the world-famous wax museum known for its life-like reproductions of the illustrious and the infamous.
Thankfully, the initial response was one of enthusiasm and interest. There was David Beckham, soccer legend, and boy did he look real. A line actually formed next to his figure, as fans waited to have their picture taken with this faithful reproduction of the footballing hero.
Nearby, Superman was flying off to defend truth, justice and the American way, while an enormous replica of the Incredible Hulk looked ready to scoop up visitors in his vast, outstretched hand.
Even the adults found it somewhat amusing. Check out James Bond, looking as dapper as ever, and there is Marilyn Monroe with her skirt flapping in the wind. And over here is Steven Spielberg, Charlie Chaplin, the British Royal Family and…. Yasser Arafat?
Sure enough, in the pavilion known as the “World Stage”, the curators of Madame Tussauds saw fit to place a representation of the Chairman himself, where the man responsible for killing more Jews than anyone since World War Two shares the floor with the likes of Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and Mahatma Gandhi.
Apparently, the proprietors of this popular tourist destination, like much of the rest of Europe, make no distinctions when it comes to the good, the bad and the ugly. They evidently see nothing wrong with throwing together some of the world’s greatest villains alongside some of its noblest heroes, ignoring the subtle message which this necessarily conveys.
And yet, one of the biggest attractions at Madame Tussauds is the “Chamber of Horrors”, a floor devoted to scaring the Dickens out of you by telling the stories of some of the world’s nastier characters, such as serial killers.
Obviously, then, the curators are capable of making basic moral judgments, i.e. that serial killers are bad. But anything beyond this most elementary of logic seems to leave them utterly confused.
Hence, someone who killed several women will have his waxen image placed squarely in the “Chamber of Horrors”. But when it comes to the man responsible for sending suicide bombers to kill Jews, well hey, they’ll just put him near George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, of course.
More astonishing, however, was the fact that there were people waiting to have their picture taken with Arafat’s wax figurine, as though he too were a rock idol or a superstar. In utter disbelief, I watched as a Pakistani man proceeded to put his arm around Yasser, smiling for his friends back home as his wife snapped a picture.
But before I could recover from this pitiful spectacle, I had walked a few feet only to find myself staring as two young British men took turns photographing one another, smiles and all, with none other than Adolf Hitler.
Surely, I thought to myself, there must be some mistake here. How could the people who run Madame Tussauds be so thoughtless, so inconsiderate, so insensitive? Did it ever occur to them that they might be diluting the evil which men such as Hitler and Arafat represent by turning them into tourist attractions?
Apparently not. Looking through the official souvenir guide, it quickly becomes apparent that Madame Tussauds could care less. After all, a two-page spread devoted to the wax figures of Winston Churchill and his arch-nemesis Hitler is entitled, “The greatest Briton meets his great adversary”.
Now, there are plenty of adjectives that come to mind when thinking of Germany’s wartime leader. Evil, wicked, cruel, brutal, and vicious, to name just a few. But “great”? Is that the best they could come up with?
And then, to top it off, the guide includes a photograph of Hitler staring at Churchill, with a caption that reads, “The man who tried to change the world and the man who helped to stop him.”
Call me oversensitive, but I generally associate the term “changing the world” with people such as Mother Theresa or Dr. Jonas Salk, not the founder of Nazi Germany.
If you are as outraged about this as I am, then drop the wax-heads at Madame Tussauds a line at: firstname.lastname@example.org <mailto:email@example.com?Subject=Enquiry%20from%20Madame%20Tussauds%20website> , and let them know what you think. They should either take down the statues of Arafat and Hitler, or at least put a little more thought into how they are presented.
Don’t forget: millions of people visit Madame Tussauds (which has expanded to include branches in New York, Las Vegas, Amsterdam and Hong Kong). Who knows how many come away with jovial photos of themselves arm-in-arm with mass murderers of Jews?
At a time when anti-Semitism is spreading across Europe, it hardly seems wise to glorify its most lethal practitioners.
In this world, there is a limit to everything, even entertainment. And when it comes to depicting the killers of Jews, Madame Tussauds has clearly crossed it.
The writer served as Deputy Director of Communications & Policy Planning in the Prime Minister’s Office under former premier Binyamin Netanyahu.
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