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March 24, 2017

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Two-time ambassador, lifetime buffoon

Students of the sophomore media and design class of the Kuangfu High School in Hsinchu paraded in a Nazi cosplay event on campus last year on Christmas Eve. They decked out in Nazi uniforms and marched with cardboard tanks while giving the "Sieg Heil" salute in their "Christmas and Thanksgiving Costume Parade" to celebrate the founding anniversary of their private high school.

The students thought they were just playing "Nazi chic," whose use began with the emergence of the Sex Pistols and the punk movement in London in the mid 1970s. Punks used Nazi-era style, imagery and paraphernalia in clothing and popular culture for taboo-breaking or shock value rather than out of genuine sympathy with Nazism.

The Nazi rally of the Hsinchu high school students, however, touched off a domestic as well as international uproar. The German Institute Taipei issued a statement on Facebook that expressed shock and regret that the students clearly did not understand that the Nazi symbol stands for oppression and disregard for human rights. Israel Representative in Taiwan Asher Yarden wrote on the mission's Facebook page: "We strongly condemn this tasteless occurrence and call on the Taiwanese authorities, in all levels, to initiate educational programs which would introduce the meaning of the Holocaust and teach its history and universal meaning."

President Tsai Ing-wen, according to a statement by her office, feels it is extremely disrespectful to the Jewish people who had been victims of the oppression perpetrated during wars, but more importantly, it highlighted ignorance about history. Minister of Education Pan Wen-chung apologized over the incident, urging all schools in Taiwan to learn a lesson from the cosplay event. Netizens on PTT also expressed outrage. One netizen pointed out, "No wonder Taiwan is ranked the third-most ignorant country in the world," in an apparent reference to results of this year's Perils of Perception Survey by U.K.-based market research organization Ipsos MORI, which ranked Taiwan third on an "ignorance index," after India and China.

The students and their school apologized. Its principal resigned to take responsibility.

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