Chulalongkorn University, Thailand's premiere university, is currently under fire for displaying a billboard depicting Adolf Hitler alongside famous superheros as part of a tribute to this year's graduating class, and CBS News reports that they have now come forward to publicly apologize.
The offending billboard, placed outside of the university's art faculty, displayed "Congratulations" written in white letters over Hitler with his arm raised in a Nazi salute next to superheroes including Superman, Captain America, the Incredible Hulk and Iron Man, created by students of the university, the intended vision to show that good and bad can coexist in the world.
"[We] would like to formally express our sincere apology for our students' 'Superhero' mural," art school dean Suppakorn Disatapundhu said in a statement today. "I can assure you we are taking this matter very seriously."
The billboard, one of dozens set up in time for graduation. was up for two days until it was removed Saturday due to widespread criticism. Graduating students were photographed mimicking Hitler's Nazi salute while wearing their robes.
"[The students] told me the concept was to paint a picture of superheroes who protect the world," the dean told CBS News in a telephone interview. "Hitler was supposed to serve as a conceptual paradox to the superheroes," he said, explaining that the superheroes were painted in vivid colors while Hitler's image was in grey scale. "This kind of thoughtless display will not happen again."
International Jewish rights group The Simon Wiesenthal Center criticized the banner prior to its removal from campus grounds.
"Hitler as a superhero? Is he an appropriate role model for Thailand's younger generation - a genocidal hate monger who mass murdered Jews and Gypsies and who considered people of color as racially inferior," Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean at the center, said Friday in a statement. "The Simon Wiesenthal Center is outraged and disgusted by this public display at Thailand's leading school of higher education."
Phuket News reports that associate Professor Supakorn spoke with the students who had created the banner, and claims they had no ill intentions behind it.
In Thailand, world history is glossed over in school, as the study of history mainly revolves around national history and the history of its many kings, with little to no mention of the Holocaust.
Click here to see a photo of the offending billboard showing superheroes and Hitler together.