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Germany's Adolf Hitler - AIDS Controversy

BERLIN (AP) -- A German AIDS awareness group has come under fire for posting an online video that starts off with a young couple having sex in an apartment before revealing the male to be a grinning Adolf Hitler.

Its closing message: "AIDS is a mass murderer."

On Tuesday, a prominent German Jewish group and AIDS prevention advocates demanded the ad be withdrawn.

"It is disgusting and we're asking the producers of the campaign to pull it back," said Joerg Litwinschuh of German AIDS Assistance, an awareness group.

He said the ad, commissioned by Regenbogen, German for rainbow, seemed designed for little more than shock value and was offensive to people who have HIV.

"We denounce this ad. I can say that absolutely," said Volker Mertens, a spokesman for another group, the German AIDS Foundation.

Stephan Kramer, general secretary of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, issued a statement calling the ad "a defamation and mockery" of Holocaust victims.

"Apparently the initiators and producers of this campaign are only concerned, without consideration for other's emotions, with provocation based on this slogan: Hitler sells," Kramer said.

On Monday, Regenbogen deputy head Heiko Schoessling told The Associated Press that the ad would run on German TV and in movie theaters. He said the "mass murder" campaign would also include radio spots, music videos, print ads and posters featuring former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and former Soviet leader Josef Stalin.

The next day, as criticism mounted, Regenbogen spokesman Jan Schwertner said plans for the video and the broader campaign were not final. Talks with TV stations and theaters are continuing, he said, but would not disclose when and where the ads would appear.

German broadcaster RTL said it was contacted by Regenbogen about the ad but decided against airing it. "After having talked to child welfare authorities, RTL decided to not screen the campaign," said Cordelia Wagner.

She said RTL made the decision last week after considering "the entire context" of the ad, meaning both the use of Hitler's image as well as the explicit nudity and sexual content.

Schwertner defended Regenbogen's decision to use Hitler's likeness, saying the aim was to "give a face" to HIV.

"It was in no way our intent to depict those with AIDS or (who are) HIV positive as mass murderers. We wanted to give the virus that kind of a face," Schwertner told reporters.

Until recently, Germans resisted taking creative liberties with Hitler as they reckoned with the horrors of the Nazi past.

But as the World War II generation dwindles, that resistance is fading.

Two years ago, when a Swiss Jewish director portrayed Hitler as a comical dolt in "Mein Fuehrer: The Truly Truest Truth about Adolf Hitler," many reviewers dismissed the movie as bad cinema but didn't recoil at the treatment of the Fuehrer as comedy.

This spring, a German-language version of the Broadway hit musical "The Producers" - replete with swastikas and goose-stepping storm troopers - had a moderately successful run in Berlin.


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