Outcry over concentration camp party

NEW DEPTHS: The Facebook flier.
NEW DEPTHS: The Facebook flier.

A concentration camp-themed party organised by a Wellington bar has been canned after a backtrack by its embarrassed organisers.

The event, scheduled for Saturday at Maya bar in Blair St, was pulled yesterday after a Facebook page promoting it was flooded with complaints. Invitations had been sent to about 200 people, with 10 confirming before it was cancelled.

A flier promoting the gay party promised a DJ would be "pumping out grunty, hard electro to blow you into oblivion".

The controversy comes as Auckland Grammar pupils who posted photos of themselves worshipping Nazi symbols on Facebook apologised to war veterans at Auckland's War Memorial Museum yesterday.

The five pupils caused outrage after photographing themselves kneeling before a Nazi flag, kissing a swastika and making Nazi salutes during a school outing to the museum.

Jewish Council chairman Geoff Levy said the bar's theme was appalling but he did not think a trend was developing. "Clearly nothing like that should really happen. People should ... have enough wisdom to decide that such a course of action, such a party or a theme, is totally inappropriate."

Whether the organisers had decided to cancel the party due to complaints or their consciences, "the result has been achieved".

"The people themselves have made their own decision to go back on a course of action that would be the height of bad taste and the height of offence to so many people."

Geoff Stahl, a media studies lecturer at Victoria University, wrote to Maya bar management to complain about the party's theme.

The image on the flier was "deeply offensive" and made light of the millions of Holocaust victims.

"At what point did you decide it was a clever idea to take the horrors of the 20th century and reduce them to an ad for uplifting electro house goodness?" Mr Stahl wrote.

Organiser Bonar Kuil said the event had nothing to do with the Holocaust and he was embarrassed by the promotional flier.

"The whole idea was to concentrate on the word 'camp'. It was not meant to have any pull on the Holocaust – nothing at all.

"We have dropped the idea because a few people are obviously upset by the flier, which was not our original intention. It was supposed to be a big, fun, colourful party, but it is all very embarrassing.

"There was no harm intended, but it is obviously not a good idea to run the event."

Maya bar owner Nick Focas said the event was a private function and he knew nothing about the theme till he received a complaint.

"I was horrified. As soon as I found out about it I had the Facebook page taken down and cancelled the event. This is not something we want to be associated with.

"We throw lots of parties here and we don't always know the theme, which is what has happened here."

It is not the first time the bar has been at the centre of controversy. In 2007 a patron threw cleaning fluid on lit cocktails, causing the drinks to explode in a fireball, burning a woman.

The Dominion Post