'We encourage our visitors to interact with the displays' – Madame Tussauds

Staff fail to stop visitors from making Heil Hitler salutes next to waxwork

By Marcus Dysch, August 25, 2011
Salute for the camera?

Salute for the camera?

An Israeli mother has described her shock at witnessing tourists making Heil Hitler salutes next to a waxwork of the Nazi leader at Madame Tussauds.

The woman visited the attraction with her husband and baby son and said she was amazed by fellow tourists posing for pictures with the Führer figure.

Museum bosses apologised, but told the Israelis that the company was "apolitical" and "absolutely defends the right of our visitors to make such choices for themselves, as long as they behave responsibly".

The museum later backtracked, explaining that it would make efforts to stop "inappropriate gestures".

But just days later news reporters from Israel's Channel 2 witnessed visitors approach the Hitler waxwork and give the same offensive salute - without being challenged by staff.

The Israeli mother, who is staying in London for the summer with her businessman husband and son, and has asked not to be identified, said the family had gone to the museum hoping to see models of famous Israelis.

She explained: "We saw the singers and footballers and then we saw the politicians. I spotted the Hitler figure and everyone was going to have their picture taken with him. We were very upset. We just stood there amazed at the number of people taking pictures, hugging him, doing Heil Hitler salutes.

"I wanted to tell them what he had done. My grandfather was in a concentration camp and all his family were murdered there. It's very personal to us. I thought about my grandfather and how he would feel."

The woman, from Rishon le Zion, said she did not feel Madame Tussauds had initially recognised how upset her family had been.

"They said people should take responsibility themselves and behave. I asked them to move the waxwork. I do understand he is part of history, but maybe they should put him where people can't take pictures and explain more about the Holocaust and how Europe suffered in the war."

After the August 13 visit, she and her husband wrote to the museum to complain.

In response to the request for the waxwork to be removed, Madame Tussauds spokeswoman Liz Edwards replied: "Hitler's régime represents an important, albeit horrific, point in modern Europe's development – and is therefore a very legitimate part of some of the attractions."

Ms Edwards admitted that visitors had previously made Heil Hitler salutes, but said: "We apologised to the Israeli family for the upset of the experience. Had we seen it happen it would have been stopped immediately.

"We are just as upset by what happened as our Israeli guests were. We will be more aware of guests being around that figure and staffing in that area. We just have to hope people use their brains."

Nevertheless, she also wrote: "We pro-actively encourage our visitors to interact with them [the waxwork figures] should they so choose."

Holocaust Educational Trust chairman Lord Janner said he was appalled by the incident.

"It is upsetting and offensive to see young people posing in a Nazi salute. Surely Madame Tussauds have a responsibility to ensure visitors behave appropriately and respectfully."

London is one of only two Madame Tussaud museums to display Hitler, out of 12 venues around the world. The other Nazi waxwork is on show in Berlin, where meetings were held with the Jewish community before it went on display.

The German venue's figure is displayed in his bunker as the war comes to an end. A man was fined three years ago after decapitating the figure.

Last updated: 4:59pm, August 25 2011