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Prince Harry Offends with Nazi Gaffe

DW staff (dc)January 13, 2005

Britain's Prince Harry has made many gaffes in his public life -- smoking cannabis, underage drinking, scuffling with photographers. But his latest caper -- dressing as a Nazi at a costume party, tops them all.

Read all about it: Harry's costume choice was the talk of the partyImage: AP

The photo splashed across the British tabloid The Sun shows a lanky Prince Harry wearing the tan uniform of the Nazi's Afrika Korps, complete with red and black swastika armband, holding a drink in one hand and a cigarette in the other. And it begs the question: "Harry, what were you thinking?"

Prinz Harry
Britain's Prince HarryImage: AP

The youngest son of the late Princess Diana and heir-to-the-throne Prince Charles may be the "wild child" of the British royal family, but surely he knows better? And if he doesn't, then why didn't one of his minders, or at least big brother William, who attended the "native and colonial" party in a much tamer lion costume, warn the wayward redhead?

Harry's timing couldn't be worse. In just two weeks' time, his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth, is due to host a reception for survivors of the Holocaust before representing the nation at the Holocaust Memorial Day National Event.

Jewish leaders outraged

Jewish leaders have already spoken out about the incident. The Simon Wiesenthal Center, one of the world's leading Jewish human rights organizations, called it "a shameful act…displaying insensitivity" to both Holocaust victims and Allied soldiers "who gave their lives to defeat Nazism."

Its founder, Rabbi Marvin Hier, said Harry ought to go to Auschwitz with his uncle, Prince Edward, head of the British delegation for the 60th anniversary commemorations.

"There he will see the results of the hated symbol he so foolishly and brazenly chose to wear," Hier said.

A 'poor choice'

Prinz Harry mit Nazi-Kostüm auf dem Sun -Titel
The British tabloid "The Sun" splashed a photo from the party over its front pageImage: dpa

In a statement from Clarence House, Harry apologized for what he called "a poor choice of costume." But there have been calls by British politicians for the prince to appear in person to make his own public apology.

"If he wants to be considered an adult, he's got to behave like an adult, and he has got to apologize in person, through radio and television," said former royal press spokesman Dicky Arbiter.

Others, including Rabbi Dr. Jonathan Romain of the Reform Synagogues of Great Britain, are prepared to put the incident down to the folly of youth and let the prince's apology stand.

The fact that the palace has issued an apology indicates that this was a mistake by the Prince," Romain said. "But having been given, the apology should now be accepted."

Career consequences?

Prinz Harry beim Rekrutieren
Prince Harry, youngest son of the Prince of Wales and grandson of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, took charge of a 48-strong parade of military cadets at Eton school Tuesday night May 26 2003, fuelling speculation that he may opt for a military career. Harry, 18, was appointed Commander of Eton's Combined Cadet Force's formal trooping of the colour ceremony.The Prince of Wales was among those looking on as his youngest son led the guard of honour's march out on to College Field with their colours at the yearly tattoo, held since ÒThe CorpsÓ was founded in 1860. (AP Photo/ PA) ** UNITED KINGDOM OUT MAGAZINES OUT NO SALES **Image: AP

The costume choice could prove to have serious consequences for Harry, as already, there have been calls to bar him from attending the elite Sandhurst military academy later this year.

"I don't think this young man is suitable for Sandhurst," said Doug Henderson, a former armed forces minister in Prime Minister Tony Blair's government. "If it was anyone else, the application wouldn't be considered. It should be withdrawn immediately."

In Germany, the costume scandal is likely to renew complaints that British perceptions of the country remain skewed by the Nazi era. On a recent trip to London, German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said he was amazed at the way Britons still portray Germany as a nation of Nazis.