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Cross Café, formerly known as Hitlers' Cross [sic] or Hitler's Cross, was a Hitler-themed restaurant at Kharghar in Navi Mumbai, a satellite city of Mumbai. The restaurant's former name, "Hitlers' Cross", referred to the swastika and the Cross of Honor of the German Mother, symbols of the Nazi regime, and the restaurant's interior was decorated in red, white and black - the colours of the Nazi party. An enormous portrait of Hitler was the first thing visitors saw when they opened the door. The manager of Hitlers' Cross told the Times of India: "We wanted to be different. This is one name that will stay in people's minds ... we want to tell people we are different in the way he was different." After severe criticism, Hitlers' Cross had to drop its name and is today called the Cross Café. Cross Cafe now has a branch in Nerul.

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Inauguration

The inauguration of Hitlers' Cross was attended by several prominent representatives of the Navi Mumbai community on 18 August 2006. Dignitaries such as Navi Mumbai mayor Manisha Bhoir and former mayor Sanjeev Naik were invited as chief guests to the restaurant by the Sablok Builders group, who are reportedly behind the management of Hitlers' Cross, and are currently planning to open more branches in Mumbai. Actor Murli Sharma, who has featured in films like Apaharan and Main Hoon Na, was also one of the guests present at the inauguration. When asked by a news reporter if he felt disturbed by the name of the restaurant, Sharma said: "I am not really agitated as I have not read much about the man (Hitler). However, from what I know about Hitler, I find this name rather amusing."

Controversy

Holocaust awareness in India is limited and Hitler is regarded by many Indians as just another historical figure. The swastika, controversial in parts of the world due to usage by the Third Reich, is also an ancient Hindu holy symbol widely displayed to bring luck.

The Hitler-themed restaurant caused an uproar in the Jewish community in Mumbai and by citizens in the city. Although the store's owner, Punit Sablok, argued that his establishment was not promoting Hitler, Jonathan Solomon, chairman of the Indian Jewish Federation, was among the infuriated. According to Solomon, the new establishment "[signified] a severe lack of awareness of the agony of millions of Jews caused by one man," and he promised to work hard "to stop this deification of Hitler." According to the Associated Press, there are just 5,500 Jews in India, and all but 1,000 live in Mumbai. [1]. Sablok's refusal to change the theme earned the restaurant notoriety across the world as letters from Israel and Germany with the outpouring of strongly worded letters in the city's dailies. The Israeli Embassy too sent a strongly worded letter to the owners.

Finally, on 24 August, after less than a week of international outcry and a meeting with local Jewish leaders, Punit Sablok agreed to remove Hitler's name and the Nazi swastika from billboards and the restaurant's menu. "I chose the name innocently. I didn't expect that it would snowball into a major controversy", Sablok said. At that point, he said he was unsure of the name to be chosen, but sure of one thing: "no more dictators". The Indian Jewish Federation reacted positively, saying it was relieved. "The incident exposes the lack of understanding of the present generation about the atrocities of the past and the need to educate them about crimes against humanity," Solomon said.

On 30 August, the restaurant was renamed the Cross Café. "We hope the new name will be a trouble-free one. We have deleted Hitler's name and the swastika symbol will be replaced with multi-coloured rings," Punit Sablok said. Two other options, Fort Knox and Exotic Goblet, were considered by the owners before they decided on the new name, Sabhlok added.[1] Puneet Sablok said the Nazi swastikas that adorned signs advertising the eatery and its menus would be removed.[2]

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