The pan-blue camp apologized yesterday for a campaign advertisement that compared President Chen Shui-bian (
Hitler's photograph featured prominently in five full-page newspaper advertisements for the Chinese Nationalist Party-led (KMT) opposition that called on voters to end Chen's "dictatorship" on election day.
The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and Jewish leaders criticized the ad, which took the election campaign to a new level of bitter personal attacks.
The KMT apologized to the Jewish community over the ad, which refers to Chen by his nickname A-bian, but said it would not apologize to the president.
The KMT said it would pull the ad, although at first it only said it would drop the Hitler photograph and modify the wording if it ran the ad again.
"We express our most sincere apology to anyone in the Jewish community who felt offended by this advertisement," said KMT spokesman Justin Chou (周守訓).
"We were only trying to emphasize a certain aspect in A-bian's personality. In the ad, we did not mention the Jewish people nor the Holocaust, but still, we apologize" Chou said.
"But we are certainly not going to apologize to Chen Shui-bian," he said.
The KMT attack follows a newspaper ad placed by the pan-green camp which pictures Chen alongside four world leaders, including British prime minister Winston Churchill and US president John Kennedy, under the headline: "Only the real leaders know what peace means."
The ad referred to the so-called "peace referendum" being held the same day as the election.
In response the KMT's ad, headlined "Change President, End A-bian's dictatorship," says: "A-bian puts his pictures by those of Churchill and Roosevelt."
"But in fact he is becoming more like Hitler. The DPP is also becoming more authoritarian under A-Bian."
"Only a dictator equals himself as his country. A-bian thinks he is a symbol of democracy but he is hostile to those who oppose him, treating them like enemies," it said.
It features a grainy photograph of Hitler with Italian Fascist leader Benito Mussolini in the background.
Taiwan's only rabbi, Ephraim Einhorn, had called on the KMT to apologize to the president, saying he was "shocked and disturbed" that Chen could be compared to a man who ordered the murders of 6 million Jews.
"I am sick to my innermost being. It's a terrible thing to have done," he said.
"To have the legitimately elected president of the country compared to, or associated with, the monster of all ages is something that I find terribly, terribly difficult to come to terms with," Einhorn said.
Israel's representative to Taiwan, Ruth Kahanoff, was reluctant to comment on the ad because she didn't want her remarks to be construed as an attempt to interfere in the campaign or support a candidate.
But she said, "We are not happy about any trivialization of Hitler and what he did to our people."
DPP Legislator Hsiao Bi-khim (