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Toronto Star, Saturday, September 15, 2007
identity photos of female inmates at the
with reference to Nazi gas chamber went up during
celebration of Jewish New Year
'death camp' ads
by Debra Black
AS Toronto's Jewish community
celebrated the Jewish New Year, a subway ad
campaign for Solo Mobile, which contained a
reference to a Nazi death camp, was pulled down
Thursday by horrified officials at Bell
The billboard ads, which appeared in six subways
stops in Toronto and in Vancouver and on a number
of buses in Vancouver, featured a young Japanese
girl dressed in an urban punk style, sporting a
number of buttons and accessories.
One of the buttons she was wearing read:
"Belsen was a Gas" -- referring to the title
of a controversial song by the Sex Pistols about
a German concentration camp where Jews were
murdered in gas chambers during the World War II.
they weren't. There were no "gas chambers" at
Bergen-Belsen, and relatively few
The ads were pulled down almost immediately,
said Mark Langton, a spokesperson for Bell
Canada, which owns Solo Mobile, a discount brand
wireless service, through Bell Mobility.
"It's a bad ad on any
day, perhaps particularly so this week," he said
yesterday, referring to the fact that Jews
across the city and the world celebrated Rosh
Hashanah, or the Jewish New Year, from Wednesday
evening till sundown yesterday.
"It was unintended. The reality is we would
never knowingly run an ad with an offensive slogan
Bell and its team takes full responsibility for
the ad, said Langton, apologizing to "anybody who
was offended, distressed or troubled by it, because
we were too."
Complaints about the ads flowed into various
media outlets, which contacted Bell Canada Thursday
According to Langton, no one directly called
Bell's customer service team to complain.
The ads were a serious mistake, he said.
The wording on the button was not clearly
visible in the small ad proofs the team at Solo
Mobile and Bell saw when approving the ad, Langton
The button and the wording was virtually
impossible to read.
But when the ad was blown up to full size -- a
minimum of four metres by two metres -- and
plastered on the billboard, the words on the button
were very clear.
Some of the ads on buses in Vancouver were
smaller and the offending button was cropped out of
Bell Canada has put measures into place to
prevent such a thing from happening again, Langton
"Everyone involved has had intense discussions
about it and how it will never be repeated, what
errors happened, what functional glitches allowed
it to happen.
"New processes are in place to avoid a situation
like this from happening again."
The offensive ad will
be replaced with another, either featuring a
London police officer in front of the British
Parliament or a woman in Dutch clothing in front
of a windmill.
The ads are supposed to depict people from
around the world envious of Canadians who can get
cheap Solo Mobile phones.
Horrified TTC officials also moved heaven and
Earth to get the ads down as quickly as possible,
spokesperson Marilyn Bolton said yesterday.
They, too, had only seen a small version of the
ad and had not seen the wording on the button.
Bolton said she believes the TTC has good
practices in place to screen offensive ads, but the
transit firm as well as CBS -- the media company
that handles transit advertising space -- will
review them to make sure this kind of thing doesn't
Maybe it's as simple as making sure someone
reviews the full-size billboard rather than a
proof, Bolton said.
"If we'd seen the offensive words we'd have
deep-sixed it really fast."
published Sep 20, 2007 04:30 AM
death camp did not have gas chambers
THERE were no gas chambers at the Bergen-Belsen
concentration camp. Information from the
Bergen-Belsen Memorial in Germany indicate that at
least 52,000 people died of starvation and disease
at the camp during World War II. Incorrect
information was published in a Sept. 15 article
about a Bell Canada ad campaign withdrawn because
it referred to a controversial song by the Sex
Pistols about Bergen-Belsen. The Star regrets the
dossier on Bergen-Belsen
Jewish Chronicle reviews: Major
new history of KZ Belsen confirms: No gas
chambers, not an extermination