Nokia hastily pulls ad using Nazi slogan

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DUESSELDORF -- Around 3,000 billboard ads for Nokia mobile phones in Germany have had to be hastily pasted over with white paper after the local adaptation of an international ad campaign caused outrage among Jewish groups.

The headline "Freedom of Expression" is used in the international campaign to promote the Finnish telecommunications company's new phone that is available in different colors. Because that didn't easily translate into German, Nokia Germany and its ad agency, Grey-owned Gramm, Duesseldorf, replaced it with a translation of the Latin expression "Suum cuique," meaning "To each his own," a common saying in German.

Unfortunately, the German translation, "Jedem das Seine," was also printed over the entrance of the Buchenwald Nazi concentration camp during World War II.

Billboard ads featuring the headline were posted in Germany's major cities and the line was also used in promotional materials.

Both Nokia Germany and Gramm claim they were unaware the expression had been used over the death camp entrance and have moved swiftly to apologize once they had been alerted by the American Jewish Committee in Berlin.

New posters, using the title of the Shakespeare play "As you like it," ("Was ihr wollt"), are currently in production to replace the offending versions.

"We're very sorry about the headline," says a Nokia Germany spokeswoman. "It was not our intention to hurt the feelings of Jewish people. We just were not aware that the headline was in Buchenwald's entrance hall. We will apologize to all the people who wrote to us."

Marketing Manager Heikki Tarvained would not comment on the cost of the mistake, adding: "Our main effort is not to hurt the feelings of Jewish people."

Copyright June 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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