Costumes resembling Nazi uniforms withdrawn from online vendors after student’s efforts.
Like any other college student, Carly Weisfelner, 19, uses Instagram on a daily basis.
One trip to the site early this month took a turn, though, when Weisfelner came across a friend’s post concerning some questionable Halloween costumes being sold online by Target.
Soon afterward, advertisements appeared on Weisfelner’s Instagram feed showing those very costumes.
The costumes in question were a child’s “Army Officer” costume, which resembles a Nazi uniform, and a “Toothbrush Moustache” costume, which Weisfelner felt resembled a Hitler mustache. Both costumes were created by the same third-party brand, Smiffy’s, a U.K.-based costume company.
The description on the Target website for the mustache costume read: “Whether you’re recreating a silent film actor’s look or going for something from the history books, this moustache will work for you!”
Weisfelner said, “Anyone with a brain would think that ‘someone from the history books’ is Hitler.”
Weisfelner, a Penn State University sophomore from Long Island, N.Y., took to Facebook to bring more attention to it. The post ended up with more than 100 shares and 100 comments.
“I am absolutely infuriated and horrified,” Weisfelner said in the Facebook post. “As a great-grandchild of Holocaust survivors who had countless family members perish, it’s scary that this hatred has not gone away.”
Wendy Siegel, who is originally from Detroit and whose daughters are friends with Weisfelner, saw the post and shared it with her family.
Siegel informed her Detroit-area parents of the controversy, and her parents called the JN with the tip.
“My parents were up in arms when I shared this with them,” Siegel said.
Weisfelner then called Target customer service, as well as people on its marketing and leadership teams.
“They were receiving multiple other calls about it because others saw my post and were angry,” Weisfelner said. “They were actually removing it as I was on the phone with them.”
The JN reached out to Target to confirm if Weisfelner’s Facebook post and eventual complaint were indeed the reasons the costumes were taken down.
“We apologize to any guests who were offended by these costumes. We have removed them from Target.com and have shared this feedback with the vendor. In addition, we are taking this opportunity to review the process we have in place before a costume is available for purchase on Target.com,” Target said in an email to the JN.
But Weisfelner’s post also received some backlash from people who thought she was overreacting. Some people said the mustache and caption could easily have referred to Charlie Chaplin.
Anne Frank Costume?
Target recently came under fire for selling a Smiffy’s costume that resembled Anne Frank, an item that was also subsequently removed from the website. The item description for the costume had read “Is your child studying World War II or the Holocaust? Now you can help her transport back in time to the 1940s.”
Weisfelner said, “Smiffy’s is a third party, so a lot of times these companies just fly under the radar and can sell their items through these big brand websites. Target probably didn’t even notice it. I was very proud of how quickly they were able to recognize what they did wrong and take it down.”
When contacted by the JN, Smiffy’s replied in an email: “Our wartime costumes are used to re-enact important historical events in British history in particular and as such are very popular costumes with our customers. None of the costumes in our current range are designed in the style of, or allude to, a Nazi costume. We have not received any further complaints.”
A recent survey of young adults in the U.S. conducted by the Claims Conference found that only 37% know that 6 million Jews died in the Holocaust, and more than one in 10 believe the Jews caused the Holocaust.
Weisfelner said, “What I do hope for these companies is a further education on Holocaust history and a further education of everything that could be a micro-aggression or insensitive to a minority group.
“I’m part of the generation of change, and if I’m able to carry out my great-grandparents’ legacies and share their stories and share the horrors that they had to go through, I’m willing to do whatever it takes for it to get out there.”