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Firm uses Jasenovac death camp for eyewear ad

Darko Janjevic
July 4, 2018

Australian company Valley Eyewear has prompted outrage by publishing a sunglasses ad shot at Croatian World War II death camp Jasenovac. The firm told DW the photos were "taken completely out of context."

Denkmal für die Opfer des Konzentrationslagers Jasenovac
Image: picture-alliance/ I. Kralj/PIXSELL

Australian-based Valley Eyewear firm was forced to apologize on Tuesday over its advertising video made on the site of Jasenovac concentration camp. The internet ad caused a storm of criticism online after being posted on the company's social media accounts several days ago. Users have also called for a boycott of the company's products.

The black and white video, which has since been removed, shows a male and a female model wearing Valley Eyewear sunglasses inside a bleak concrete room and walking around concrete structures, before cutting to a wide shot of the two walking away from Jasenovac's Flower Memorial.

The recognizable structure, designed by architect Bogdan Bogdanovic, was built in 1966 to honor the memory of the camp victims.

The Jasenovac death camp in Croatia was run by the Ustasha, the fascist regime allied with Nazi Germany during World War II. Camp historians have determined the names of 83,145 killed at the site, including more than 20,000 children. Most of the victims were Serbs, alongside Roma and Jews. Some experts believe the total number of victims to be much higher.

According to screenshots of deleted Valley Eyewear posts, the company said the ad for their "Black" line of sunglasses was "filmed on location in Croatia at one of World War II's most historic and darkest locations. JASENOVAC."

The advertising video was made "[i]n memory of the tens of thousands of people that perished at the site."

"Why not just go to Auschwitz?," asked Twitter user Julian Nyca, who shared the screenshots.

Read more: Neo-facism on the rise in Croatia, Council of Europe finds

Director of Jasenovac Memorial Ivo Pejakovic told the Serbian newspaper Vecernje Novosti that his organization only learned about the ad through media reports.

"We don't have any fences, walls or barriers, and of course you could record inside the site. There are security guards, but they cannot know who would use the photos and for which purpose," Pejakovic said.

Croatia’s shadows of the past

Valley Eyewear head apologizes, says pictures taken 'out of context'

By Tuesday evening, all the posts featuring videos and photos of Jasenovac had been pulled from the Valley Eyewear accounts.

Commenting on the controversy for DW, company's founder Michael Crawley apologized and said that "a few images have been taken completely out of context."

Crawley said he had traveled around Eastern Europe with his team in an attempt to capture the "Spomeniks;" futuristic former Yugoslavia monuments that include the Jasenovac memorial.

"I have been in contact with the  head of the Jasenovac memorial and one of the heads of the Jewish community in Australia to send our apologies," he wrote, adding that the firm had pulled the ads "since some images have offended people which was NEVER what we had wanted in a million years."

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