Hitlers’ Cross (sic), usually called Hitler’s Cross (now renamed to Cross Café), was the name of a Hitler-themed restaurant at Kharghar in Navi Mumbai, a satellite city of Mumbai. The restaurant’s name, “Hitlers’ Cross”, referred to the swastika and the Cross of Honor of the German Mother, symbols of the Nazi regime, and the restaurant’s interior was decorated in red, white and black – the colours of the Nazi party. An enormous portrait of Hitler was the first thing visitors saw when they opened the door. The manager of Hitlers’ Cross told the Times of India: “We wanted to be different. This is one name that will stay in people’s minds … we want to tell people we are different in the way he was different.” After severe criticism, Hitler’s Cross had to drop its name and is today called the Cross Café.The inauguration of Hitlers’ Cross was attended by several prominent representatives of Navi Mumbai community on August 18, 2006. Important dignitaries such as Navi Mumbai mayor Manisha Bhoir and former mayor Sanjeev Naik were invited as chief guests to the restaurant by the Sablok Builders group, who are reportedly behind the management of Hitlers’ Cross, and are currently planning to open more branches in Mumbai. Actor Murli Sharma, who has featured in films like Apharan and Teesri Ankh, was also one of the guests present at the inauguration. When asked by a news reporter if he felt disturbed by the name of the restaurant, Mr. Sharma said: “I am not really agitated as I have not read much about the man (Hitler). However, from what I know about Hitler, I find this name rather amusing.”
Holocaust awareness in India is limited and Hitler is regarded by many as just another historical figure. The swastika, reviled in many parts of the world, is also an ancient Hindu symbol and is widely displayed to bring luck. According to the Associated Press, there are just 5,500 Jews in India, and all but 1,000 live in Mumbai .
Yet the Hitler-themed restaurant caused an uproar. Although the store’s owner, Punit Sablok, pointed out that his establishment was not promoting Hitler, Jonathan Solomon, chairman of the Indian Jewish Federation, was among the infuriated. According to Solomon, the new establishment “[signified] a severe lack of awareness of the agony of millions of Jews caused by one man,” and he promised to work hard “to stop this deification of Hitler.”
Finally, on August 24, after less than a week of international outcry and a meeting with local Jewish leaders, Punit Sablok agreed to remove Hitler’s name and the Nazi swastika from billboards and the restaurant’s menu. “I chose the name innocently. I didn’t expect that it would snowball into a major controversy”, Mr. Sablok said, being unsure of the name to be chosen, but sure of one thing: “no more dictators”. The Indian Jewish Federation reacted positively, saying it was relieved. “The incident exposes the lack of understanding of the present generation about the atrocities of the past and the need to educate them about crimes against humanity,” Solomon said.
On August 30, the restaurant was renamed the Cross Café. “We hope the new name will be a trouble-free one. We have deleted Hitler’s name and the swastika symbol will be replaced with multi-coloured rings,” Punit Sablok said. Two other options, Fort Knox and Exotic Goblet, were considered by the owners before they decided on the new name, Mr. Sabhlok added.