A gay men’s retail store in West Hollywood, Los Angeles has stirred controversy recently, after featuring a window display mannequin dressed up in the clothes of a gay, Jewish Holocaust victim.
The men’s underwear, swimwear, and activewear store – LA Jock – is reportedly featuring the mannequin to campaign Russia’s treatment of gay people ahead of the Sochi Games, which have been described in the past as comparable to the Nazis’ persecution of Jewish and gay people.
In an interview with Racked on Wednesday, Nir Zilberman, the owner of LA Jock, described himself as a gay jewish person, and said he did not care whether he lost business because of the shocking display, as his great grandparents were killed in the Holocaust.
“What’s happening in Russia is exactly what happened when Hitler decided to kill Jews, gays, and everyone else,” Mr Zilberman said. “One sad thing in America is that people need to wake up to reality and can’t hide. This isn’t supposed to be offensive, this is part of our history, and it sends a very clear message to stop the hate.”
He added that by featuring the mannequin in an underwear and swimwear store, it was a good way for people to see his message clearly and that he was speaking “as the voice for those who don’t have a voice.”
One passerby wrote to Racked, complaining, and called the mannequin “more shocking and in poor taste.”
She said: “I’m just puzzled why a visual merchandiser would go that route. We all agree that they should be publicly shamed for this.”
Bora, the store’s manager, said the mannequin is “for shock value to get people’s attention.”
“It’s more emotional and more touchy, to demonstrate the terrible things are happening in Russia,” he added.
Last year, the actor, author and television presenter Stephen Fry wrote an open letter to David Cameron, International Olympics Committee President Jacques Rogge and Lord Coe, urging them to ban the Sochi Winter Olympics, where he argued that Putin “is making scapegoats of gay people, just as Hitler did Jews.”
“I am gay. I am a Jew. My mother lost over a dozen of her family to Hitler’s anti-Semitism. Every time in Russia (and it is constantly) a gay teenager is forced into suicide, a lesbian “correctively” raped, gay men and women beaten to death by neo-Nazi thugs while the Russian police stand idly by, the world is diminished and I for one, weep anew at seeing history repeat itself,” he added.