MTA pulls subway ads with Nazi-inspired imagery promoting Amazon’s ‘The Man in the High Castle’

The show depicts the U.S. having lost World War II.

Workers removed the contentious subway ads that showed an altered American flag with Nazi-inspired imagery after complaints from riders and elected officials, transit officials said Wednesday. 

The ads for the Amazon-produced television show “The Man in the High Castle,” which went up on Nov. 15 on the 42nd Street Shuttle, came down after rush hour on Tuesday night, said MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz. They had been scheduled to run through Dec. 14. 

Although Amazon had asked the MTA to remove the ads, Gov. Andrew Cuomo had reached out to the chairman of the authority to “ensure it happened,” Ortiz said. 

“We pulled it after rush hour when we could do it without dirupting service,” he said. 

Beth DeFalco, a spokeswoman for the governor, confirmed that Cuomo had called for the ads to be taken down Tuesday. 

“The governor spoke directly to the MTA chairman yesterday morning and told him that Amazon had until the end of the day to do the right thing and voluntarily remove the offensive ads or he’d order the MTA to rip them out,” DeFalco said. 

The governor had spoken out on the ads at a news conference Tuesday. 

“I understand the shock value of advertising and they’re trying to drive people to see their show so the controversy actually helps them,” Cuomo said. “But sometimes it’s not worth the price you pay. It’s the holiday season. To show people what could be really revolting symbols to them and bring back bad memories is not worth selling more viewership on their show.”

Other elected officials, including Mayor Bill de Blasio and Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, had also called for the ads to be removed. 

Amazon has not responded to several requests for comment. 

The 260 posters for the show  — based on a 1962 novel by Philip K. Dick in which the U.S. loses World War II to Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan —  inside stations will remain, transit officials have said. Those were put up on Nov. 9 and will run through Dec. 6.

Ken Shim, who rode the shuttle with the ads, said Monday he wasn’t entirely happy with them, but said he understood why they were there.

“It has to do with the movies and shows, it’s part of the commercial,” he said. “I don’t like to see the propaganda, signs of Nazis and imperialism.”

Many more people posted negative comments about the ads on social media.

“Get those damned Nazi insignia off the subway,” said Twitter user @jpaznik. “They are disgusting.” Another user, @EtepKcalb, wrote: “I get that they’re promoting a TV show, but that subway car decked out in Nazi German and Imperial Japanese imagery really creeps me out.”

Evan Bernstein, the Anti-Defamation League’s New York regional director, said the imagery was offered without details about what it was meant to promote. 

“On the television program, which explains this is the notion of an America controlled by Hitler, you get that context,” Bernstein said. “On the train, seeing the American flag paired with a Nazi symbol is viscerally offensive, because there is no context as to what it means.”

The ad featured one side of the subway train covered in American flags that had been altered with the stars replaced by an eagle bearing a striking resemblance to the Reichsadler, a Nazi coat of arms. The swastika in the original symbol had been replaced with a cross.

The other side of the train showed blue rays surrounding a red circle with small stars protruding from the center. It was meant to evoke Japan’s Rising Sun flag, which was all red and did not have any stars. 

The MTA had said the ads did ot violate the authority’s “content-neutral ad standards.”