Turkey's Jews protest over Hitler shampoo ad

ISTANBUL, March 26 Mon Mar 26, 2012 11:10am EDT

ISTANBUL, March 26 (Reuters) - A Turkish shampoo commercial featuring an enraged Adolf Hitler is a "huge insult to human rights" and should be withdrawn, leaders of the country's Jewish community said on Monday.

The 13-second television spot for Biomen shampoo shows black-and-white archival footage of the Nazi leader at a political rally. Dubbed in Turkish, he shouts that men should not use women's shampoo.

"Using Hitler, whose brutal ideology caused the deaths of millions of people, in a commercial in order to be different or create awareness (of a product) is unacceptable," said a statement posted on Istanbul's chief rabbinate's website.

The rabbinate contacted Istanbul-based Biota Laboratories - which makes Biomen - to ask them to pull the ad but the company has so far declined to scrap it, saying the commercial's message was humorous, Jewish community leader Silvyo Ovadya told Reuters.

No one from Biota was immediately available to comment about the ad or the rabbinate's complaint.

"We will pursue legal means now," Ovadya said. "The ad is also demeaning to women."

He did not say which legal means the community might pursue. In Turkey, the Industry Ministry's advertising commission oversees content in television advertising and is authorised to pull commercials and issue financial penalties for those that violate broadcast standards.

About 20,000 Jews live in Turkey, mainly Istanbul, a city of some 14 million Muslims. Most are descendants of Sephardim who escaped the Spanish Inquisition and found refuge in the Ottoman Empire some 500 years ago.

The community has suffered violent attacks, including the bombing by al Qaeda of two synagogues that killed 27 people in 2003.

Jewish leaders have expressed concern about rising anti-Semitism in Turkey since relations with Israel, a former military ally, soured after the 2010 raid by Israeli commandos of the Mavi Marmara, a Turkish-led humanitarian aid ship bound for Gaza. Nine Turkish activists, one with dual U.S. citizenship, died in the raid.

The New York-based Anti-Defamation League said it was "repulsed" by the use of Hitler's image to sell shampoo.

"The use of images of the violently anti-Semitic dictator who was responsible for the mass murder of 6 million Jews and millions of others in the Holocaust to sell shampoo is a disgusting and deplorable marketing ploy," said Abraham H. Foxman, the Anti-Defamation League's national director and a Holocaust survivor, in a statement on the group's website. (Reporting By Ayla Jean Yackley; Editing by Toby Chopra)