Aushwitz bar named after a site of genocide

From ‘Bar’s name leaves bad taste for some’, article by Huang LiJie, 19 Nov 2011, ST

A BAR named Aushwitz at Circular Road yesterday removed its signboard after some members of the public said they were offended by its similarity to Auschwitz, the name of a World War II German concentration camp. Bar manager Maurice John, 39, said the bar, which opened late last month, removed the signboard last night and will also take steps to change its name because of the negative feedback.

The bar registered its name as Auschwitz, according to records from the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (Acra). But the name on its signboard – Aushwitz – was spelt without a ‘c’. Mr John, a Singaporean, said he had intended to name the bar Aushwitz, and not as registered.

…He said he picked ‘Aushwitz’ from a list of pub names he found off the Internet. He said he did not immediately associate the name with Auschwitz, which he knew was the name of a concentration camp. He said: ‘I chose it because it was unique. To me, the name reflected a commercial disco and not a girly pub where men go to meet women… We never meant to choose a name to offend anyone.’

…Mr Alexander Gow, 37, a Briton working here as a food and beverage manager, however, found the name so offensive that he e-mailed the German and Israeli embassies and the exporters of Beck’s beer on Thursday to raise the matter. He also posted his view on the issue on his Facebook page, and his friends have been circulating it. He said: ‘It is baffling why they would name an entertainment venue after a site of genocide.’


The name ‘Aushwitz’ is probably ‘unique’ for a COMMERCIAL DISCO, provided the staff are dressed in Nazi garb and herd you on the dancefloor where they gas you to the grim sounds of industrial goth punk. It doesn’t matter if the premises were a disco, girly pub, cafe, bookstore or a child care centre. As long as one gives it an touchy name such as Swastika, Holocaust or Da CHOW (Dachau), you’re bound to rile some Jewish sympathisers. Aushwitz, of course, isn’t the first themed bar/eatery around to get into a fix over an offensive title.

In Mumbai, there used to be a Hitler’s Cross, which sold Nazi memorabilia in addition to food. Seoul had its ‘Fifth Reich’, replete with SS insignia.  Taipei, home of the Modern Toilet,  had its ‘Jail’, where the washrooms were called the ‘Gas Chamber’ (hur-hur). More recently, to supplement the country’s morbid fascination with Nazi chic, vampire cartoon Hitler keychains were yanked from Taiwanese 7-11s. These Asian cities had little to do with Nazi conquest, but unlike the Singaporean debut of Aushwitz, these Nazi gimmick names were at least grammatically correct. Aushwitz is meaningless in any language (Google search reveals no such suggestion for this as a bar name), and sounds like the bar management was trying their luck to kickstart a Nazi fascination here, hoping that a misspelling would let them off by a technicality.

Naan and nazis

All this uproar over people exploiting the Holocaust nightmare for their own gain does serve to educate younger, clueless Singaporeans on the evils that Man is capable of, that Nazi ‘culture’ isn’t simply plain amusement, cosplay, or a ploy to sell anything German-made be it cars or electric heaters. Yet everyone seems perfectly fine with the countless Hitler parodies on Youtube. If naysayers are so concerned of clubs reminding the community of a bygone era of horrific, genocidal violence, what about places celebrating the bloodthirsty  Genghis Khan then? Like Genghis Khan Mongolian Teppanyaki and International Buffet?

Mein Camp

But the real irony is this; despite Singaporeans having an ancestral lineage of victims suffering under the Japanese Occupation during the same World War which brought the world Auschwitz, we’re making a fuss over a concentration camp in Poland tens of thousands of miles away, when few would recall our very own ‘death camp’ right in the heart of Changi.  In fact, someone lamented the naming of Changi Airport as such because of Changi’s  history of prison atrocities during the Japanese Occupation, which would be considered Singapore’s version of the Holocaust. Except that instead of systematic extermination, prisoners were subject to a slow excruciating death from diseases due to overcrowding. In a ST forum letter in 1981, What’s in an airport’s name. Plenty!;

..It seems rather odd to tourists, many of whom visit the Japanese Surrender Chamber on Sentosa island, that any country should give an international airport a name which has connotations with wartime suffering and cruelty.

The writer would be disappointed to know, 30 years on, that our world-famous airport is still named after the historic location of a notorious POW camp, while a little-known bar selling Becks’ beer can’t make reference to a Nazi concentration camp even with a deliberate typo in its name.


7 Responses

  1. In my original piece about the Aushwitz bar I did mention that there is a difference between that name and Changi.

    The Aushwitz bar owner had said he named the bar after the “geographical location” – however, prior to the Second World War the name Auschwitz was used by Germans to refer to the Polish town near where they built the camp, and since the war there has been no place of that name except the museum of the camp itself. Auschwitz was never officially the name of anywhere except the Nazi camp.

    Changi, on the other hand, has been used as a name for that region of Singapore since at least the early 1800’s. Even the prison itself (used by the Japanese to house civilian “trouble-makers”) pre-dated the war by a few years, as did the nearby Selarang barracks that were used as a Prisoner of War camp. Whilst the crimes that were committed there were appalling and should be remembered it is easy to see why the name has remained in general use when Auschwitz’s did not.

    Sometimes people feel it is better to reclaim a long used name rather than let it become synonymous with an atrocity – I am not saying this is right, but it is certainly understandable. Dachau, for example, is still the name of a town in Bavaria, and the Polish villages of Sobibor and Treblinka also kept their names.

    To open a bar named after a place whose only history is the systematic genocide of a people is ridiculous. To name anything in the Changi area after the area itself is more understandable. However, if anyone were to name a bar in Europe after the Japanese prison and camp located in Changi during the war I would expect people to stand up and say “that is unacceptable”.

  2. Thanks for the comment. I had trouble finding your original post on Facebook, but glad that Changi was brought up. Whether or not Changi was named well before the war or is a ‘geographical location’, it still became a name synonymous with POW atrocities overseas(maybe it’s more ‘catchy’ than Selarang). As would Auschwitz if it were indeed a name of a Polish town before the Nazis trooped in. If the latter’s the case, would it make any difference to the ‘unacceptability’ of the name?

    • It’s scary how you read minds! BTW I’ve always mixed S21 and S11 up, and can’t tell my Kopitiams from my Koufus.

      • 😉

        i didn’t even know there was an S21! i always assumed there was only S11.

        i regularly mix up food junction and food republic, though…

      • Talk about unintended consequences. I had a record number of search hits for ‘Aushwitz’ and ‘Auschwitz’ bar in my blog stats. Even a ‘aushwitz bar review’ and ‘where is aushwitz bar’

  3. In case you’re not aware, Auschwitz is the German name of the town of Oswiecim as it’s properly known. It can be argued that the two do not carry the same baggage since outside of Poland, one would readily associate the former with the camp and its atrocities.

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