- KFC apologised for sending a mobile push alert telling German customers to “treat yourself” on Kristallnacht.
- On Wednesday, the Yum Brands chain sent a notification that reportedly said “It’s memorial day for Kristallnacht! Treat yourself with more tender cheese on your crispy chicken. Now at KFCheese!”
- The fried-chicken chain said that it uses a bot linked to national observances to create notifications for its mobile app.
More than 80 years ago, on Nov. 9, 1938, mobs took to the streets across Nazi Germany, laying waste to Jewish homes, businesses and synagogues in riots that police and firefighters did nothing to stop. Over the course of two days, sometimes in broad daylight, rioters looted and ransacked thousands of Jewish homes and business, and killed at least 91 Jews.
Another 30,000 Jewish men were arrested and sent to concentration camps.
The riots became known as "Kristallnacht," a reference to the shattered glass in the streets afterward. Kristallnacht is widely considered the "turning point in the history of the Third Reich, marking the shift from antisemitic rhetoric and legislation to the violent, aggressive anti-Jewish measures that would culminate with the Holocaust," according to a history from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.
On Wednesday, the 84th commemoration of those brutal riots, KFC Germany sent out push notifications to users of the fried chicken chain's app. The notification suggested that for the "[c]ommemoration of the Reich pogrom night," customers could "[f]eel free to add more tender cheese to the crispy chicken," according to a Google translation of the original message. "Now at KFCheese."
The blow back was immediate.
"No, I don't want tender cheese with my crispy chicken on #9november," noted a DJ from Berlin on Twitter.
"KFC in germany remembering the national socialist november pogroms against jews, the prelude to the shoah, with some tender cheese and crispy chicken," noted one Berlin-based journalist, his words dripping with sarcasm.
"Is this some disgusting joke? Meat and Dairy on Kristallnacht? This is definitely not acceptable they are making jokes out of one of the most painful events for Jews. The beginning of the Holocaust," another journalist wrote.
Within an hour of that push notification, KFC Germany sent out another message, apologizing multiple times for what it said was a system error.
"Sorry, we made an error," according to a Google translate of the notification. "Due to an error in our system, we sent an incorrect and inappropriate message through our app. We are very sorry, we will check our internal processes immediately so that this does not happen again. Please excuse this error. Team KFC."
"On November 9, an automated push notification was accidently [sic] issued to KFC app users in Germany that contained an obviously unplanned, insensitive and unacceptable message and for this we sincerely apologise. We use a semi-automated content creation process linked to calendars that include national observances.
The fried-chicken chain said that it uses a bot linked to national observances to create notifications for its mobile app.
Contacted by The Washington Post on Thursday, the chain's media relations team relayed a more detailed explanation from KFC Germany. The statement reads:
"In this instance, our internal review process was not properly followed, resulting in a non-approved notification being shared. We have suspended app communications while we examine our current process to ensure such an issue does not occur again. We understand and respect the gravity and history of this day, and remain committed to equity, inclusion and belonging for all."
KFC's accidental promotion comes at a time when right-wing and antisemitic groups have increased their influence across Europe. The Alternative for Germany (AfD), a far-right populist party that some have branded an extremist group, had captured 94 seats in Germany's federal parliament in 2017, but lost 11 of them during last year's elections. Members of the AfD have downplayed the crimes committed during the Holocaust.
"In November 1938, Nazi leaders and members of the Hitler Youth used Kristallnacht as a violent tool to instill fear among Jewish families and communities in Germany.
"More than 90 Jews were killed, thousands of businesses looted, and hundreds of synagogues and homes destroyed, intensifying persecution in order to exclude Jews from public life and force emigration," Diane Saltzman, director of Survivor Affairs at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, said in a statement to The Post.
"Today, recent incidents misusing Holocaust history have been increasing in frequency and intensity," Saltzman continued. "Holocaust survivors, and everyone — especially in Germany — concerned about historical truth, should never have to see such a blatant attempt to minimize and capitalize on their pain. We hope people remember, learn from and study this history, and refrain from its misuse."