Apology for Harry's Nazi outfit falls on deaf ears

 

BRITAIN: An apology offered on behalf of Prince Harry (20), third in line to the British throne, failed yesterday to stop a torrent of national and international criticism of his appearance at a fancy dress party dressed in a Nazi costume complete with swastika armband.

As Conservative leader Mr Michael Howard demanded the prince apologise in person rather than in a statement issued on his behalf, a former Labour defence minister suggested he be prevented from pursuing his army career, while others suggested he should join the British delegation to Auschwitz later this month to mark the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camp.

Clarence House, the London home of his father, the Prince of Wales, had issued a swift apology on his behalf late on Wednesday as the first edition of the Sun newspaper hit the streets showing the prince at a birthday party last weekend dressed in the uniform of Rommel's Afrika Korps under the headline "Harry the Nazi".

In the statement, he said: "I am very sorry if I caused any offence or embarrassment to anyone. It was a poor choice of costume and I apologise."

But while Downing Street tried to halt the controversy, and British Jewish leaders suggested the apology be accepted, the reproduction of the photograph across the world showing the third-in-line to the British throne wearing the badge of the German Wehrmacht provoked outrage among politicians and anti-fascist campaigners.

Mr Howard, whose parents fled the Holocaust, tempered his criticism with an acknowledgment that the prince was a young man.

But he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: "I think a lot of people will be disappointed to see that photograph and it will cause a lot of offence. Prince Harry has apologised. I have no doubt that his father and his family will have a good deal to say to him in private. I think it might be appropriate for him to tell us himself just how contrite he now is."

Liberal Democrat leader Mr Charles Kennedy said there was a tremendous fund of good will in Britain for Prince Harry and his brother Prince William because of the death of their mother Diana, Princess of Wales. But he warned it could not last forever and suggested the prince should say sorry "just to make that apology all the more personal".

Aides to the Prince of Wales were resisting that course last night, urging a sense of perspective and insisting the young prince's initial statement had been prompt and genuinely contrite. But Queen Elizabeth's former assistant press secretary, Mr Dickie Arbiter, insisted: "It's just not good enough to behave like that. We all know history, and at 20 there is no excuse."

The Board of Deputies of British Jews said while the costume was in bad taste members were pleased the prince had apologised, and Rabbi Jonathan Romain of the Reform Synagogues of Great Britain said it should be accepted.

Lord Janner, a former Labour MP and one-time president of the board of deputies, said Prince Harry's action was "totally wrong and totally unacceptable", adding: "I think he should be disciplined. He should understand what he has done and why it is so offensive."

As the royal family suffered embarrassing reminders of the former King Edward VIII, then Duke of Windsor's visit to Hitler in 1938 following the abdication, the Simon Wiesenthal Centre in Los Angeles said the prince should go to Auschwitz and see for himself "the results of the hated symbol he so foolishly and brazenly chose to wear".

Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder of one of the largest international Jewish human rights groups, said: "This was a shameful act displaying insensitivity for the victims, not just for the soldiers of his own country who gave their lives to defeat Nazism, but to the victims of the Holocaust who were the principal victims of the Nazis."

He suggested Prince Harry accompany his uncle, Prince Edward, who will represent Queen Elizabeth at the ceremony marking the liberation of the death camp on January 27th.

Former Labour armed forces minister Mr Doug Henderson said the incident demonstrated that Prince Harry was unfit to go to the Sandhurst military academy.

But the Ministry of Defence said the incident would not affect his place there: "The same principle would apply in the case of any other pre-entrance cadet. Prince Harry is not yet in the army. If a cadet at Sandhurst was considered to have committed a serious error of judgment it would be dealt with on a case by case basis by the chain of command."