A mannequin dressed as a Nazi concentration camp prisoner in the window of a store in West Hollywood’s Boystown is sparking controversy.
The mannequin is wearing a concentration camp uniform decorated with both a Star of David and a pink triangle, a badge that Nazis used to identify gay concentration camp prisoners. It is in the window of LA Jock, a store at 8915 Santa Monica Blvd. near San Vicente that sells underwear and other clothing aimed at gay men. Zilberman’s Mantrends company also markets a variety of underwear brands to gay men, including ES Collection, STUD, Addicted, Freedom Reigns and James Tudor.
“I’m pretty shocked,” said Rabbi Denise Eger, founding rabbi of Congregation Kol Ami, a Jewish Reform synagogue that welcomes LGBT people. “It’s quite a shocking display, and I’m sorry that the [owner] doesn’t understand the sensitivities of the Holocaust survivors that live in West Hollywood. It’s taking the Holocaust and the memory of those who perished and commercializing it, which is truly an affront.”
LA Jock owner Nir Zilberman, who is from Israel and is of Russian descent, said he’s “proud of being a Jew” and that he put the mannequin up several days ago to raise awareness about anti-LGBT laws in Russia.
“I did it to get people’s attention” Zilberman said. “I truly believe that what [Putin] is doing right now in Russia is exactly what we got in the second world war.”
Zilberman is the organizer of a rally and march that will begin in front of the store at 8 p.m. Thursday in advance of the Sochi Olympic games, which begin Friday.
“It’s not about selling clothes,” Zilberman said. “This is about love, and it’s the only way I’m going to wake up people. If this is what I have to do, then this is what I’m doing. Why in my store? It is the best billboard I can do.”
Earlier this week, Zilberman told WEHOville.com that after Russia’s anti-gay laws were passed he “became obsessed” with the subject. At one point, he said, he spent 10 to 12 hours each day watching deeply upsetting, sometimes disturbing videos. He told WEHOville.com that it “felt like we were going back to Hitler.”
Eger said that her congregation stands with the LGBT community in opposition to Russia’s anti-gay movement and that Kol Ami will have a Shabbat Service on Friday night to protest Russia’s anti-gay laws.
However, she said, “We cannot as a Jewish community and a gay community allow the evils of the Holocaust to be commercialized or used for shock value.”
Zilberman said that the mannequin will stay up for the rally/march, when another component of the display will be revealed. It will include photographs that depict many aspects of life after the Holocaust, he said.