Airline apologises for poor taste of fashion spread that used Jewish Museum and Holocaust memorial as backdrop
The budget airline easyJet has been forced to withdraw almost 300,000 copies of its in-flight magazine because of protests over its use of Holocaust memorial sites as a backdrop for a fashion feature.
An eight-page spread in the November edition of the magazine, easyJet Traveller, depicted models posing at the Jewish Museum in Berlin and leaning against the pillars of the Holocaust memorial. The magazine has been removed from all flights after complaints from Jewish organisations in Europe and from passengers, particularly on flights to Tel Aviv, one of the airline's destinations.
An advertising agency contracted to produce the feature for easyJet received written permission to photograph its models outside the museum but not at the Holocaust memorial, a field of 2,700 concrete pillars with an underground information hub in the centre of the city.
Uwe Neumärer, a spokesman for the Foundation for the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, said: "We only give permission to projects that have a connection to the memorial, the Holocaust or some aspect of commemoration."
Samantha Day, an easyJet spokeswoman, said the magazine's contents had been brought to the airline's attention on Friday, three weeks after it had first gone into circulation. The magazine was produced by an external agency.
"We realised that to hold a fashion shoot in front of the memorial was inappropriate and insensitive, and we didn't wish to offend anyone. It's not quite clear why we didn't spot it earlier," she said. The airline had received a very few complaints about the magazine, "but it can take a few days for customer service complaints to come through and for them to be addressed".
In the publication's fashion feature, models pose in Berlin fashion designers' outfits and the specific locations are clearly identified in the text. Under the headline A Quick Guide to the Chic Side of Berlin, an accompanying article reads: "Ravaged by war and torn in two by conflicting ideologies, Berlin may not be a picture-perfect jewel … but it's a treasure trove for the culture vulture … no visit would be complete without exploring the testaments to the city's turbulent past, such as … the Jewish Museum and the Holocaust memorial."
INK, the publishing house responsible for the magazine, said the article was meant to encourage people to visit the memorial. "The shoot was intended to not only promote local design talent … but to raise awareness. From an educational perspective, it is of utmost importance that visitors to Berlin see the Jewish Museum … and Holocaust memorial," it said in a written statement.
Oliver Bloom, an artist from London, had written to the magazine's editor to complain after seeing the article during a flight between Venice and Gatwick this month. "As soon as I saw the images and recognised where they'd been shot, I just realised what a contradiction it was," he said. "The memorial is designed as a place to make you feel quite strange, full of monoliths, tombstones, and it's to help you meditate on the human life lost. To have a fashion shoot there with models, is a contradiction in terms, and shows complete insensitivity and a level of ignorance about the Holocaust."
Bloom also contacted the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust. "I told them how distasteful I thought it was. I'm still waiting for a reply from the editor."
easyJet said it "profusely" apologised to anyone offended by the "inappropriate fashion photo shoot … featured in this month's issue of the in-flight magazine", and said it was reviewing its co-operation with INK.
One person responding to the issue on the German news website thelocal.de wrote: "What next? A tourism photo shoot in Auschwitz?"
When the Holocaust memorial opened in 2005, its architect, Peter Eisenman, created a stir by suggesting that visitors to the site should be allowed to have picnics at the stones, and use the place as a thoroughfare, enabling it to be integrated into the city's infrastructure. But rules were soon introduced and security guards now monitor the memorial round the clock.