The Mancunion

Britain's biggest student newspaper

‘Gold Teeth’ use Holocaust joke in promotions

Jewish Society label comments “inappropriate, offensive and vulgar”

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A popular student night has sparked controversy by using a joke about the Holocaust in its promotions.

‘Gold Teeth’ advertised its fresher’s week night on websites like Facebook, TicketText and Skiddle by creating a “Gold Teeth Manchester dictionary”, sarcastically defining words like “rave” and “hype”.

The phrase “get gassed” was defined by them as “Gallows humour used by Jews in final hours around the concentration camps of Nazi Germany.”

In a statement, the Jewish Society responded to ‘Gold Teeth’ by saying: “Considering that Manchester is one of the most ethnically and religiously diverse cities in the country, we are appalled that one of the best known club nights would use such inappropriate, offensive and vulgar terms to advertise their night.”

“We at the Jewish society are deeply offended that this sort of language has been used to advertise to new students who may feel ostracised and marginalised within a new university and city.”

“It is in view of ‘Gold Teeth’s’ appalling lack of sensitivity that we believe ‘Gold Teeth’ should publicly apologise for their recent actions, and in good faith show to students their sincerity by joining Manchester Students’ Union’s access courses to ensure that such a disgraceful situation as this never occurs again.”

This comes in a week where Prime Minister David Cameron has launched a new Holocaust commission, warning of a return of anti-Semitism in Europe and stressing the importance that “we do everything possible to make sure that the memory of the Holocaust is preserved from generation to generation.”

It is estimated that six million Jews were killed during the Holocaust as part of the Nazi’s Final Solution: two thirds of the entire European Jewish population.

‘Gold Teeth’, which usually takes place at The Deaf Institute in Manchester, also has ties to the Students’ Union, with a stage at last Saturday’s Pangaea.

Third year Religions and Theology student Melissa Leigh said: “As a Jewish student whose grandparents survived the Holocaust and escaped from Nazi Germany I am deeply disturbed by the insensitive nature of this post. The Holocaust was very real and it should not be taken lightly.”

“The post has really put me off ever going to ‘Gold Teeth’ and I am extremely upset that they have been given a stage at Pangaea. I think the Union has a responsibility to condemn such comments, especially considering that commemorating Holocaust Memorial Day is part of Union policy.”

“I am astounded that the Union would promote ‘Gold Teeth’s’ event as I feel it goes against everything they stand for.”

Grace Skelton, General Secretary of the Students’ Union, said:  “The agreement to give ‘Gold Teeth’ a 60 minute set at Pangaea was made by Tommy Fish, the previous Activities and Development Officer.”

“The Facebook page was only brought to our attention a couple of days ago and we were obviously extremely disappointed to see the language used on there.”

“At this stage it is too late to cancel their set, but we will work with them in the future to make sure this doesn’t happen again and if it does, we will reconsider having them on future Pangaea line ups.”

In response to criticism, Marcus Horsley, representative for ‘Gold Teeth’, said that ‘Gold Teeth’ have a Jewish Director and majority shareholder.

He said: “If we remove humour from the remembrance of the Holocaust, we disengage it from life. We forget that the people who were killed were in fact human beings, with stories, loves and jokes.”

“To take humour from the representation of the Holocaust, is to dehumanise what was a very human event.”

“I would like to extend a warm welcome to any members of the [Jewish] society at any of our Gold Teeth events, and would invite any of them to email me personally if they want to continue this discussion.”

However, Emily Carp, a third year Middle Eastern Studies student and Jewish Society convener for the LGBT network, said: “It is wholly inappropriate for people to attempt to trivialise the Holocaust.”

“It could potentially be very isolating for Jewish Students coming to Manchester for the first time to see that club promoters have so little respect for the memories of those who were murdered in Nazi Concentration Camps. It really is just in incredibly poor taste.”

“A ‘good joke’ or ‘banter’ should not be of higher priority than the legacy of genocide.”

  • GT

    Uncut response from Gold Teeth here:

    Since Theodor Adorno’s apothegm that “to write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric”, the issue of whether it is ethical to represent the Holocaust in art – comedy included – has embodied many polemic discourses. Questions such as “how should we culturally represent the Holocaust?” and “who has the right to represent the Holocaust?” have motivated artists and critics to openly discuss these representations. Perhaps it is at this point that I should make you aware that Gold Teeth has a Jewish Director and majority shareholder.

    The ethical predicament of representing the Holocaust is largely divided into two opposing approaches. ‘Holocaust Piety’, a phrase coined by Gillian Rose, is a critical discourse that ‘tends toward the total suppression of representation itself’. I reject this stance, along with the cultural mechanisms that I feel keep our understanding of the Holocaust at a safe distance from the understanding of ourselves, and feel we should use all aspects of human culture to explore our past.

    I do not have the time, inclination, or column space to expand this into a full essay. Indeed, the subject of cultural Holocaust representation is such a rich academic landscape, with vehement opinions on either side, that to try and sum it up in a small diatribe would trivialise the debate. However, there is one scholar’s quote that I would like to make reference to. Terrence De Pres, stated in his 1987 essay ‘Holocaust Laughter?’: “laughter is used to dispel and to embrace, a kind of comic ambiguity that diffuses hostility, on the one hand, and on the other prompts charity towards those who suffered, those who remember, and those who might simply want to know.”

    If we look at Steve Lipman’s book ‘Laughter In Hell’, a set of Jewish war jokes collected over 20 years, we can see that banter was rife, even on the the walk up to the gas chamber. If we remove humour from the remembrance of the Holocaust, we disengage it from life. We forget that the people who were killed were in fact human beings, with stories, loves, and jokes. To take humour from the representation of the Holocaust, is to dehumanise what was a very human event.

    It would have perhaps been more pertinent of the Jewish Society to contact us directly, rather than going straight to a public forum, however I would like to extend a warm welcome to any members of the society at any of our Gold Teeth events, and would invite any of them to email me personally if they want to continue this discussion.

    • Muhammad

      horrendous response, id be surprised if there wasnt repercussions for the club, a shoot out can lead to the club having to shut down……. you never know who you could upset with statements like this………..

    • Jacob

      what is the name of the ‘Jewish Director and majority shareholder’ i’d be interested to speak to him and see what his view is on this and if he endorsed this response.

    • James Jackson

      Shame on the writer who brutally cut such a thoughtful response down to a glib size. It is unfortunate that at a newspaper run by University students there is rarely any greater depth and analysis than in a tabloid. the kind of sensationalistic journalism chased in this very story destroys any nuance (though presenting a facade of “showing both sides of the argument”). Perhaps the journalist responsible should ask themselves why, if they decided to neuter the references to luminary scholars like Adorno and Lipman, they are at University at all?

    • Mitch

      I find it extremely small minded, and rather pompous i may add, that “Gold Teeth” can muster such a brazen, self righteous reply which essentially disregards the notion that their “get gassed joke” was out of taste, and somewhat offensive and in fact try to suggest that their joke should be regarded as some sort of homage to the human nature of the victims of the holocaust. Are you guys from the same planet ? why not just bite the bullet, acknowledge your mistake, and try to put things right. Admitting your error might be a good place to start. I can tell you for sure that trying to play your stupidity off as something which is misunderstood by supposedly everyone, other than yourselves ( and your Jewish Director ), is detrimental to your reputation …. referencing books and statements about the holocaust and trying to put them in a context to support you, doesn’t make you look any smarter, and maybe you should have put the same effort you put into finding quotes, into thinking about your promotions a bit more carefully, to avoid looking like a bunch of half-wits on a regular basis.

    • Emily Carp

      It is all very well and good to talk about the experiences of Jews who suffered at the hands of the Nazis and who used humour as a coping mechanism, but it is quite another thing to reappropriate a crude understanding of what that looked like to attempt to create your own humour.

      What Gold Teeth seem to have completely misunderstood is that laughing about tragedy is done at the expense of those who were the aggressors, not the victims. The humour in all of the other definitions was derived from the snarky tone of the writing, which derided those who it implied used the term in the defined way, but the people who the ‘snark’ is aimed at in the ‘get gassed’ definition is the people being gassed. Having said that, it would appear generous to say that Gold Teeth even achieved mild humour with the ‘get gassed’ definition: I have read it several times now and each time I am more confused as to which part of the definition was supposed to be funny: it doesn’t even make sense!

      Finally I would like to point out that usually it is reasonable to think that, having heard in a public forum that so many Jewish students were seriously unhappy with the ‘joke’, Gold Teeth might have taken action. As you have not even apologised it would seem that our reaction was justified – if private messages had been exchanged you could have been unapologetic and patronising in a private forum, whilst now it is publicly available for anyone to see how Gold Teeth treats students’ legitimate complaints.

  • Ben

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I can only see 2 ways in which your responce makes sense. (1) you knew of this argument but thought it worth doing anyway and therefore knew this would offend many people or (2) you found this out later and are desperatly trying to hide the fact that what you did was wrong.

  • Emily Carp

    For the sake of clarity I would like to point out that I am the co-convenor of the Union of Jewish Students’ LGBT+ Network, and not “Jewish Society convener for the LGBT network” – a title which makes no sense!