Some coffee drinkers in Switzerland have been startled to find images of Hitler or Mussolini on their packages of coffee creamer. The faux pas has yielded embarrassed sputters from the vendors involved.
The offending creamers have appeared at various cafés and restaurants. They were produced by milk-processing company Elsa-Mifroma, a subsidiary of major Swiss retailer Migros.
In a statement on its website, Migros apologised for the “inexcusable blunder”, saying that “products with such motifs should never have been delivered”.
Migros announced on Wednesday that it would no longer do business with Karo-Versand, the company that made the packaging, after Karo’s Peter Wälchli described the Hitler pictures as "unproblematic".
“Of course what happened under Hitler was bad,” Wälchli told the Swiss News Agency. But he said it shouldn’t make a difference whether he appears in a film or on a creamer lid.
Migros said that internal controls had failed in that the packaging had been approved without proper consideration.
“In the future we’ll be sure to sharpen our controls,” said Migros, which added that it was now doing everything it could to remove the fascist faces from the market.
The images of German dictator Adolf Hitler and his Italian counterpart Benito Mussolini were part of a series of 30 coffee creamer lids featuring cigar band designs.
The idea for the series came from a book of cigar bands, according to Peter Rothenbühler, Wälchli’s partner at Karo-Versand.
“Two years ago, nobody said anything,” Rothenbühler told swissinfo.ch. The single-portion packages recently came into circulation again, and are still for sale on the company website – with or without cream inside.
Other motifs from the cigar band series include flowers and animals, as well as John Tyler, the tenth president of the United States.
Asked how they decided what to include, Rothenbühler admitted, “We weren’t observant enough to notice the picture of Hitler. But in retrospect, we should have paid more attention.”
Karo-Versand said it would not produce any more Hitler lids.
In Switzerland, many people collect the lids from coffee creamers – even going so far as to paste them into scrapbooks or display them in picture frames.