Amazon withdraws refugee costumes in Germany, Italy | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 25.01.2016
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Amazon withdraws refugee costumes in Germany, Italy

In response to massive criticism, US online sales giant Amazon has removed children's costume depicting wartime refugees from its online catalogue both in Germany and Italy.

Every possible aspect of the refugee crisis is discussed in Germany these days, from inadequate housing, language issues, integration challenges and cultural differences to sheer numbers.

It's a sensitive matter that doesn't stop even at Carnival costumes for children, as US Internet giant Amazon found out.

Children's refugee costumes for sale on Amazon raised hackles in Germany and in Italy.

There's no mistaking the text: "Children's Costume 'Refugee.'" There's also no mistaking the fact that this is period dress: for girls, a long plain patterned dress, and for boys, brown baggy pants, an off-white shirt, a grey sleeveless pullover and a flat cap. The two small suitcases aren't part of the bargain, but they apparently round off authentic children's refugee wear from World War I and II.

The costumes don't look remotely like anything a 2015 refugee child would wear.

Users: 'In bad taste'

All the same, customers browsing for costumes for Carnival festivities in Germany next month criticized the costumes as insensitive at a time when so many refugees are headed to Europe, and children are drowning in the Mediterranean Sea.

"To this very day, our parents can barely mention being refugees and dispossessed, and their grandchildren are supposed to have fun with such costumes?" a German user is quoted as writing, while another user urged Amazon to take the articles off the page immediately: "It's totally outrageous!"

Italians, also searching online for children's costumes for the Venice Carnival, which kicked off on Sunday and runs through February 9, were just as taken aback.

History live

Sensitivities were running high - but was the indignant reaction really justified?

Fancy Me, the online retailer for fancy dress costumes that offers the items, is a UK company that probably sells most of its World War period and evacuee costumes in Britain, where re-enacting history has a long tradition.

Companies like Fancy Me provide themed costumes for school plays and VE Day celebrations. So-called "1940s weekends" are popular among adults, and schoolchildren are taken on "World War II Evacuee Day School Trips" where they dress as evacuees, hunker down in air raid shelters, put on gas masks and make Woolton pie, a dish created during in WWII England that mainly aimed at being filling.

In both Germany and Italy, Amazon has meanwhile removed the refugee costumes from its Internet pages.

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