An ill-conceived “cultural exchange” event at a Colombian police academy has sparked controversy as officers wore Nazi uniforms, with one even dressed as Adolf Hitler himself, in a bid to make German delegates feel “welcome”.
Ahead of the event, a post on the Colombia National Police’s Facebook page said: “We are carrying out Internationalisation Week with the invited country: Germany.
“With these cultural exchanges we strengthen the knowledge of our police students.”
The post also included a hashtag in Spanish that said “it's an honour to be a police officer.”
After a series of public relations disasters the Colombian police force had been trying to improve their image, redesigning their uniform to minimise association with the brutal suppression of recent anti-government protests.
This latest image-improving event took place at the Simón Bolivar Police Academy in the Valle del Cauca department of Colombia, just over two hours from regional capital Cali.
Photos of the bizarre reception saw police cadets in Nazi costumes standing around a crude papier-mâché model of a World War 2 era Messerschmidt ME-262 jet fighter.
As an additional touch of realism the Hitler impersonator had a dog that resembled the Führer’s beloved German Shepard, Blondi.
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A mixture of modern and Nazi-era German flags were also on display and the centrepiece of the strange tableau was an amateurish-looking model of a Nazi stronghold.
After photos of the event went viral on social media, Colombian President Iván Duque took to Twitter to say that “any apology for Nazism is unacceptable.”
“I condemn any manifestation that makes use or reference to symbols alluding to those who were responsible for the Jewish Holocaust that took the lives of more than 6 million people,” he wrote, adding: “Anti-Semitism has no place in the world”.
Peter Ptassek, the German ambassador to Colombia, also condemned the careless use of Nazi symbols, tweeting: “Events like this are outrageous and directly offend not only Jews, but also all the victims of the Nazi regime and its criminals. Any hate speech can lead to tragic results like those experienced years ago.”
Official images of the event have now largely been taken down, although a few still remain online.
Colombia’s National Police released a statement apologising to the country’s Jewish community and saying that the force “vehemently rejects the decision made within the school”.
According to local reports the director of the school has now been sacked.
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