Jewish groups outraged over shoe with Nazi poison gas name

Reuters, Aug. 29, 2002

LONDON – Jewish groups expressed outrage Thursday that a British company was selling sport shoes with the same name as the Nazi nerve gas used to kill millions of Jews in the Holocaust.

Umbro, the firm that outfits the English national soccer side, said it was an “unfortunate coincidence” that its Zyklon shoe, on sale since 1999, bore the name of the poison gas Zyklon B.

Crystals of Zyklon B were dissolved in gas chambers at the death camps to produce the poison the Nazis used to exterminate millions of Jews and members of other minorities during World War Two.

“We are sure that the name was not meant to cause any offense,” Umbro spokesman Nick Crook said. “Going forwards we will be investigating the names more thoroughly.”

Megasports, a British sporting goods Web site, was advertising Umbro’s Zyklon Junior shoes on Thursday for 20 pounds ($30). The accompanying photo showed a white running shoe with a big Umbro logo. Crook said the shoe would be renamed or withdrawn from sale, but he would not say whether shoes already shipped would be removed from store shelves.

The name appears on the box but not on the shoes themselves, and therefore the company had no immediate plans to recall shoes already sold, he said.

Shimon Samuels, international liaison director of the anti-Semitism watchdog the Simon Wiesenthal Center, pointed out the name in a letter to the company’s chief executive, Peter McGuigan.

The “outrageous misuse of the Holocaust is an insult to victims and survivors, an encouragement to neo-Nazis and skinheads who terrorize the football terraces and a dishonor to sport itself,” he wrote.

He told Reuters his office had since been “inundated with faxes and e-mails” calling for a boycott of the company, and said that acknowledging the mistake would not be enough to address Jewish community concerns. “It’s not just the withdrawal and the renaming, it’s an investigation into how in the world this happened,” he said.

“If it’s purely ignorance, then they need an education. If there is something deeper than ignorance, we are saying hey: you supply the football industry. The football industry is deeply infiltrated by neo-Nazi skinheads.”

He said Umbro should recall all shoes sold under the name. “There are thousands of young people walking around in these shoes that carry the whiff of gas chambers,” he said.

“I think it would be a nice message if Umbro would take out an ad offering a recall — ‘We found a defect in our Zyklon B shoes. Bring them back and get a new pair of shoes free.’ That would send a message: trade in garbage and get perfectly good shoes.”

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Religion News Blog posted this on Sunday September 1, 2002.
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