The teacher of a class of students that sparked outrage by dressing as Nazis at a campus cosplay event expressed remorse over the incident on Saturday, and said he hopes the public will give his students another chance.
In a statement issued through the Hsinchu Kuang-Fu High School, Liu Hsi-cheng, a history teacher and homeroom teacher for the class, said his students deeply regret their actions and believe that the entire class should take the blame because they made a collective decision to dress as Nazis.
Liu said the students were asked to dress as historical figures for the cosplay event on Friday to celebrate the school's founding anniversary, and when they voted to cosplay Adolf Hitler, he warned them that Hitler is a controversial figure and repeatedly asked if they really wanted to proceed with the Nazi theme.
But the Nazi theme got the most votes, so he decided to respect the students' choice.
(Cheng Hsiao-ming, right, president of the school, later apologized to the public for the incident.)
With hindsight, Liu admitted, he neglected his duty as a teacher and "should have immediately rejected (the decision) on the spot."
Some students are reportedly feeling distressed over the online backlash and have told the teacher that they cannot attend school on Monday.
The students triggered widespread criticism in Taiwan on Saturday after photos posted online showed them dressed in costumes resembling Nazi uniforms, wielding swastika flags and displaying Nazi tanks made of paper cartons at the cosplay event.
The incident prompted the Presidential Office to request that the Cabinet hold the high school accountable. The Israel Economic and Cultural Office in Taipei and the German Institute Taipei also expressed shock and disappointment over the incident.
"It is deplorable and shocking that only seven decades after the world witnessed the horrors of the Holocaust, a high school in Taiwan is supporting such an outrageous action," the Israel Economic and Cultural Office in Taipei said.
"We strongly condemn this tasteless occurrence and call on the Taiwanese authorities," at all levels, to initiate educational programs to introduce the meaning of the Holocaust and teach its history and universal meaning. Israel will support such endeavors as necessary, the office said.
Cheng Hsiao-ming, president of the school, later apologized to the public, and said that the school administration will take full responsibility for the incident.
A local history teacher alliance and the Action Coalition of Civics Teacher also issued a joint statement of apology, saying "we feel that we have not worked hard enough, and have allowed this absurd, ignorant and indifferent attitude toward the value of universal human rights to spread and become an international joke."
The groups called for more emphasis on transitional justice in school curriculum, and a comprehensive review of military-style student uniforms and events such as military song competitions in Taiwanese schools.