Published: 05:00, 27 October 2021
| Updated: 15:52, 27 October 2021
A toy and fancy dress shop has refused to take a Gestapo uniform off sale despite complaints from the Jewish community that it is offensive and insensitive.
The outfit - depicting those worn by the official secret police of Nazi Germany - is on display at Kids Korner in Herne Bay.
The Gestapo were responsible for ruthlessly hunting down Jewish people for transportation to concentration camps.
One Jewish leader in Kent says selling the uniform, which costs £52.99, shows a lack of judgement and sensitivity.
But toy shop owner Melvin Smedley believes it is simply historical representation and says he cannot afford to ditch his stock.
Tim Spurrier, the chairman of the Thanet and District Reform Synagogue, said: "As we head towards Halloween, dressing up in costumes to scare and often push the boundaries of taste has now become a popular and often fun event in the calendar.
"It is perhaps easy to unknowingly step over the boundaries of taste at times. Dressing up as a Gestapo officer and all of its implications, negative connotations and tragic history behind it shows a lack of judgement and sensitivity.
"For many people in the Jewish community, the Holocaust remains a living memory and also a devastating part of Jewish family history, with many losing family members to this tragedy.
"Let us not also forget that the Gestapo were also involved in the murder of other minorities such as black people, Roma, gay people and the disabled."
Mr Spurrier says the Gestapo uniform is a clear and dark representation which should never be seen as "just a bit of fun".
"Seeing a Gestapo uniform out in public would certainly cause offence but also a great upset to many, whether Jewish or not," he said.
"Using a symbol of hate and destruction such as the Gestapo uniform just for fun is at best thoughtless and potentially harmful.
"I would hope that any shop selling it or person considering wearing it think twice about the consequences of their actions."
Mr Smedley has run the popular Kids Korner shop in Mortimer Street for many years and stocks hundreds of fancy dress outfits and accessories.
He says he has no intention of causing offence and is happy to talk to anyone who has concerns about what he sells.
"I've had this product for a number of years but because of lockdown I've not been able to sell it,” he said.
"I can't afford at this moment in time to just bury it because every penny counts after lockdown.
“But when it's gone, it's gone for good and I won't reorder it.”
Mr Smedley says when he first started stocking the costume “the world was a different place”.
"Nobody can erase history,” he said.
"There will be someone out there that would say they need [the outfit] from a historical point of view, for example a school talking about the Holocaust.
"I am open-minded and not racist or sexist or anything like that, and if people come and ask me to get something, I will if I can.
"Clearly this has upset a specific section of the community, but I am a very approachable person and will talk to anyone directly and listen to their point of view.
"I have many costumes that others might not like, for example some people don't approve of Father Christmas or Halloween.
"I understand it might be upsetting, but where do you draw the line because somebody, somewhere will always be offended?”