English News Archive

News between December 31st, 1997, and February 7th, 1998, reversely ordered by date (i.e.: the newest can be found on top). For recent news select English News.


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German anti-Semites speaking out more - Jewish leader
01:57 p.m Feb 01, 1998 Eastern

BONN, Feb 1 (Reuters) - The number of anti-Semites in Germany has not risen in recent years but those who dislike Jews are no longer as likely to conceal their views, the leader of Germany's Jewish community said on Sunday.

About one-third of the population harbours some negative feelings towards Jews, Ignatz Bubis told Sueddeutsche Rundfunk radio.

He said the number of German anti-Semites has not risen in recent years even though the number of people who openly admit they don't like Jews has increased.

"What was once at most only whispered behind the hand by some people to friends is now being openly articulated," Bubis said.

"This is also a reason that there has been an increase in the acts of violence and right-wing incidents. There has not been an increase in the number of extremists."

Bubis said he estimates about 15 percent of the population harbours "manifestly" anti-Semitic beliefs while another 15 percent hold "latent" feelings of disdain towards Jews.

There are about 50,000 Jews living in Germany today, a small fraction of the 530,000 who lived in the country before the Nazis took power in 1933 and decimated the Jewish community in concentration camps.

Six million Jews died in the Holocaust. Historians estimate as many as 50 million people died during World War Two.

Germany was plagued by an upturn in right-wing racism that swept the country in the wake of its unification in 1990.

The attacks, aimed mainly at foreigners, included a firebombing attack on a Luebeck synagogue in 1994 that evoked memories of the 1938 "Kristallnacht" when Hitler's Nazis ransacked thousands of Jewish shops and burned hundreds of synagogues.

Bubis said he believes the construction of a central Holocaust memorial in Berlin in the next few years will help reduce tensions in German-Jewish relations. REUTERS


Neo-Nazi spectates at German probe, mocks "farce"
05:46 p.m Feb 04, 1998 Eastern

BONN, Feb 4 (Reuters) - A convicted neo-Nazi terrorist took his seat in the public gallery on Wednesday as a parliamentary committee tried to discover how he was allowed to address a training course for German army officers.

Photographers and camera teams swarmed around Manfred Roeder, who spent eight years in jail for neo-Nazi crimes, as he entered the parliament building and walked to the committee room. He told reporters the inquiry was a farce.

"They're not interested in explanations," he said. "They just want to spread propaganda."

Roeder, a former lawyer, was convicted in 1982 of leading a terrorist group and attempting to incite murder. He was also found guilty of responsibility for several bomb attacks.

He was released in 1990 and has remained active on the right-wing extremist scene.

Members of parliament launched the probe after it emerged in December last year that the army's prestigious staff training college in Hamburg had asked Roeder to give a lecture in 1995.

Committee members did not invite Roeder to testify as a witness, saying they did not want to give him a platform. But they were powerless to prevent him turning up to the public hearing as a spectator.

Rear Admiral Rudolf Lange, the academy's head who who took over after the Roeder incident, said mistakes had clearly been made in allowing the extremist to speak to the army elite.

"Things went wrong there," he told the committee.

Asked about if he could explain how Roeder's appearance at the academy could fail to set alarm bells ringing, and why it took so long to come to light, Lange replied: "I can't explain it. I don't think it's good."

The inquiry committee is probing a series of incidents linking soldiers and right-wing extremism which have badly damaged the modern German army's image over the past few months. REUTERS

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


Bonn rejects call to abandon Holocaust memorial
09:19 p.m Feb 05, 1998 Eastern

By Fiona Fleck

BONN, Feb 5 (Reuters) - The German government said on Thursday it would not abandon plans for a Berlin Holocaust memorial despite an appeal to Chancellor Helmut Kohl from 19 prominent writers to reconsider the project.

Germany's best known living writer, Guenter Grass, was among the signatories of the open letter sent on Wednesday.

It was addressed to Kohl, parliamentary speaker Rita Suessmuth, Berlin city authorities and a private group who initiated the project led by German television personality Lea Rosh.

A government spokesman said none of the addressees had changed their position.

"They have all agreed firstly that there will be a memorial to the Jews murdered in the Holocaust," he said.

"Secondly it will be on a plot of land set aside for this and thirdly, the decision on the form of the memorial will be one of the four blueprints which we have before us."

The planned memorial has been at the centre of an increasingly heated debate which goes to the heart of Germany's efforts to come to terms with its Nazi past.

What is certain is that it has been allocated a plot of land in Berlin's new federal government quarter, a 15 million mark ($8.4 million) budget and the groundbreaking ceremony is scheduled to take place on January 27, 1999 -- 54 years to the day after the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp.

But after years of deliberations over concept and design, critics began to question whether it should go ahead at all.

The blueprint that won the first competition to find a design was firmly rejected by politicians, historians and Holocaust survivors and the search began all over again.

The final results of a second competition will be announced in mid-March, but the signatories of the letter insisted none of the options was suitable and that the memorial was not a must.

"We do not see how an abstract installation of oppressively vast proportions -- on the field the size of a sports stadium -- can ever become the place of quiet grief and commemoration," the letter said.

The letter listed other Berlin memorials which it contended had succeeded in ensuring Germans do not forget the darkest chapter in their history.

The Wannsee Villa, outside Berlin where Nazi leaders drew up plans in 1942 for the Final Solution to exterminate Europe's Jewry, is today a study centre.

A historical documentation centre on the grounds where the feared Gestapo secret police headquarters stood was cited by the writers as another example.

"We fear, in comparison to these substantial places for remembrance, a gigantic 'national' memorial will be erected as a distraction and will remain a cold abstraction," they said.

"There is no compulsion, nothing should be automatic in this matter," it said.

The open letter also seemed to snub the design which Kohl had appeared to favour most last month at a public viewing of the four finalists.

The entry by U.S. artists Peter Eisenman and Richard Serra calls for a landscape of 4,000 concrete pillars each measuring 0.92 metres (three feet) wide by 2.3 metres (8.5 feet) long and with varying heights ranging up to 7.5 metres (24.5 feet).

The overall effect is that of a graveyard-like labyrinth that can be entered by the visitor from any of its four sides.

The first competition to find a design held in 1995 produced a short-list of two. After long deliberations, the panel picked a design by local artist Christine Jackob-Marks that featured a huge concrete slab engraved with some of the names of the six million Jews killed by the Nazis.

But Kohl accused it of "gigantism" and the project, which also unleashed other strong opposition, was soon abandoned. ($ - 1.791 German Marks) REUTERS


FEATURE-Bavarians face legacy of Hitler retreat
09:34 p.m Feb 01, 1998 Eastern

By Fiona Fleck

BERCHTESGADEN, Germany, Feb 2 (Reuters) - Adolf Hitler gloried in Berchtesgaden's dramatic Alpine views, celebrated his greatest victories there and later used it as a refuge from the chaos of war.

Now, U.S. troops have left the mountainside retreat after four decades and authorities must finally tackle a thorny issue; how to develop the largely ruined complex without creating a shrine for neo-Nazis.

Plans to modernise the resort overlooking Berchtesgaden have already upset a Jewish group and raised doubts that the site where Hitler's official summer residence once stood will ever emerge from the shadow of its past.

"No matter what you do, you will always be accused of trying to make money out of the Nazis," said Wolfgang Illner, of the Berchtesgaden authorities.

The area, already a draw to neo-Nazis, is such an embarrassment that even the most popular tourist destination in the former Nazi complex, the Eagle's Nest, is not mentioned in official tourist board brochures.

Today a state-run cafe 1,834 metres (6,000 feet) above sea level, the Eagle's Nest was built as a present for Hitler's 50th birthday. It is one of only a handful of surviving Nazi buildings on the mountain.

MUSSOLINI, CHAMBERLAIN STAYED AT BERGHOF

Former British prime minister Neville Chamberlain and Italian dictator Benito Mussolini were among state guests at Hitler's chalet, the Berghof, on the slopes of the Obersalzberg.

Photographs and film show Hitler lounging informally on the spectacular terrace here enjoying the view and laughing with other Nazi leaders and with his mistress, Eva Braun.

It was, however, also a place for business. Hitler is said to have planned Germany's 1941 invasion of the Soviet Union on the heights of Berchtesgaden.

In early 1945, however, he refused the pleas of some followers that he abandon Berlin in the face of a Soviet Army advance and make a last stand in the Bavarian Alps.

Allied bombers reduced the Berghof and chalets of top Nazis Hermann Goering and Martin Bormann to ruins. In 1952, U.S. military authorities razed these ruins and used the remaining buildings and grounds as a leisure complex until they withdrew in 1995.

The Bavarian government unveiled plans last year to build a historical documentation centre not far from where the Berghof once stood and commissioned Munich's Institute of Contemporary History to organise the exhibition. It is due to open in 1999.

The concept was approved by a panel of some of Germany's most respected historians, including Andreas Nachama, then head of a similar centre on the site of the Gestapo secret police headquarters in Berlin. Nachama has since become the head of Berlin's Jewish community.

"The centre should counteract the rather emotive, mystical portrayal of history. This cannot be done by destroying all traces of the past or by putting up a memorial," the Bavarian Finance Ministry, in charge of the project, said in a statement.

"Only a documentation centre can achieve this. It is necessary to put local history into its historical context."

HOTEL PLAN ANGERED WIESENTHAL CENTER

But a parallel scheme to convert three former Nazi buildings, which were later used by the U.S. military, into a four-star hotel complex and conference centre, angered the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center.

The centre's European director Shimon Samuels attacked what he called a scandalous concept to create a "luxury holiday resort," saying it trivialised the Nazis' crimes.

Investors have not shown much enthusiasm. The southern state of Bavaria has so far failed to find takers willing to risk the 80 million marks ($43.7 million) needed to convert the dilapidated Platterhof Hotel, which the occupying Americans renamed Hotel General Walker, in return for a lease of only 60 years.

Retaining control of the property is the only guarantee its Nazi past will not be used as a dubious selling point, Illner says.

"The main precondition is no Nazi motifs. We don't want a hotel with Adolf Hitler's or Eva Braun's bedroom," he said.

A living example of what the Bavarian authorities do not want can be seen at Hotel zum Tuerken, the only private property on the six- hectare (15-acre) plot of land Illner administers.

Its owners were hounded off their property in 1933 when the Nazis expropriated much of the mountainside. After the war they reclaimed it.

Hotel zum Tuerken does a brisk trade in books about Hitler and Eva Braun's life at the Berghof in six languages with colour photos, postcards of the Nazis' chalets and videos of old footage with titles such as "Hitler -- the unknown painter."

Historians compiling a catalogue for the planned historical documentation centre frown on these as "tasteless" at best, "politically suspect" and "dangerous" at worst.

Illner says the hotel and local publishers responsible had been warned in the past and since changed their approach. But some of the material comes close to violating Germany's strict laws banning any suggestion that the Holocaust did not take place.

"They tend to portray Hitler and the Nazis as private people," said Volker Dahm, a historian from the Munich institute. "We want to combat this by offering a better alternative putting the Obersalzberg in its historical context."

Hotel zum Tuerken also offers a unique side-show, the chance to visit part of the Nazis' bunker system of over four km (2.5 miles) of tunnels burrowed by an army of slaves through the mountain.

NEO-NAZIS MAKE BIRTHDAY PILGRIMAGE EACH YEAR

The walls are regularly painted white, but not often enough to cover all the neo-Nazi and anti-Semitic scrawl across them. You do not have to look far to find the authors.

Every year hordes of neo-Nazis make a pilgrimage to mark Hitler's birthday on April 20 here, but a stream of "pilgrims" continues throughout the year. They range from gangs of skinheads to elderly English gentlemen, Illner said.

"You can't deny it, people are interested in the bunker," said Illner.

The planned documentation centre would provide access to part of the underground complex which the German authorities have until now kept strictly off-limits.

Work on the bunker started in the late stages of the war in December 1943, said Iller: "It was not part of the Nazis' ideology. Hitler did not believe in building defences because this called into question his certain victory." ($ - 1.829 German Marks) REUTERS

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


FOCUS-German upper house backs bugging bill
12:57 a.m. Feb 07, 1998 Eastern

By Andrew Gray

BONN, Feb 6 (Reuters) - Germany's upper house of parliament on Friday approved a change in the constitution that gives police greater surveillance powers than at any time since the Nazi era.

Members of Chancellor Helmut Kohl's ruling coalition hailed the move as an important step in the battle against organised crime. The opposition Greens declared it was a "black day for civil rights."

The measure allows police, once they have obtained approval from a judge, to eavesdrop over an extended period on private homes using sophisticated surveillance devices such as directional microphones linked to transmitters.

Electronic surveillance is currently only allowed in Germany if there is an overwhelming suspicion that a crime is on the verge of being committed.

"This is about fighting professional crime committed by gangs," Interior Minister Manfred Kanther told the Bundesrat or upper house, which groups representatives from Germany's 16 regional states.

Civil rights groups hit back.

"One of the pillars of our free state based on the rule of law has been damaged -- the basic right that the home is inviolable," commented Ilse Bechtold, spokeswoman for one rights group, the Gustav Heinemann Initiative.

In a concession to the outraged rights lobby, the Bundesrat asked a parliamentary committee to look at possible exemptions from the eavesdropping law for groups such as journalists and lawyers.

The decision followed weeks of soul-searching by Bundesrat members, keen to fight organised crime but wary of the legacy of both Hitler's secret police, the Gestapo, and communist East Germany's Stasi.

The spectre of the Gestapo prompted West Germany's founding fathers to build strong human rights guarantees into the Basic Law, which became the constitution of united Germany.

But supporters of the amendment said the growing threat of organised crime meant it was time to give the state more power.

"The citizens of this country are demanding a signal from you that we are prepared to defend our country," Justice Minister Edzard Schmidt-Jortzig said. "This law is such a signal."

In the Bundesrat, each state receives a share of the 69 votes according to its size. The constitutional change scraped through the chamber with 47 votes in favour -- just above the two-thirds majority needed.

Support for the change, which has already been approved by the lower house, had looked shaky in the Bundesrat until the city-state of Bremen decided to back it on the eve of the vote.

Bremen mayor Henning Scherf agreed to cast his three votes in favour of the measure, provided parliament's mediation committee looked again at examptions for certain professions.

Journalists, doctors and lawyers have all insisted police should not be able to bug their conversations as this would compromise their position with informants or clients.

The German Journalists' Association said it was sceptical as to whether the committee would come up with an improvement.

"It's too early to talk of even a semi-success," said Hermann Meyn, the association's president.

As it currently stands, the draft exempts only priests in confessionals and parliamentary deputies from bugging. REUTERS

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


France's National Front kicks out dissdents
05:01 p.m Jan 30, 1998 Eastern

PARIS, Jan 30 (Reuters) - France's far-right National Front on Friday expelled seven of its 15 municipal councillors in the eastern Alsace region from the party "for treason and felony."

A statement issued by the anti-immigrant party of Jean-Marie Le Pen said the seven had made "slanderous comments" when they protested last week at being left out of the party's slate for regional elections due on March 15.

"They have just been excluded from the National Front for treason and felony," the party said.

The councillors had accused the Front's leadership of being anti-democratic in failing to consult them in making up the election slate, and six had already resigned from the party.

One of them, Aldo Zasio, also protested because Le Pen placed the brother-in-law of one of his own aides on the party's slate in Alsace.

He had criticised Le Pen for repeating last month in Munich that gas chambers used by the Nazis in the Holocaust were a mere detail in the history of World War Two.

Le Pen had been heavily fined for making the comment in France a few years ago. French human rights groups are seeking damages for the latest statement and prosecutors in Germany are pondering whether he can be prosecuted. REUTERS

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


French National Front deputy's election invalid
03:10 a.m. Feb 07, 1998 Eastern

PARIS, Feb 6 (Reuters) - France's Constitutional Council on Friday invalidated the electoral victory last year of Jean-Maire Le Chevallier, the only National Assembly deputy for the far-right National Front, officials said.

The council ruled that Le Chevallier, who is also mayor of the southern city of Toulon, had misused a municipal newsletter to attack his conservative rivals.

The extremist National Front, a law-and-order party that wants to deport immigrants from France, enjoys 15 percent support among the voters but usually fails to get the majority needed under the French system to win a parliamentary seat.

Le Chavallier's election last June was a rare victory on the national level for the Front, which otherwise has won seats only in local and regional councils.

A new election must now be held, from which Le Chevallier will be barred. REUTERS

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


Lawyer in dramatic climbdown in Papon war trial
01:11 p.m Feb 01, 1998 Eastern

By Bernard Edinger

PARIS, Feb 1 (Reuters) - The trial of accused Nazi collaborator Maurice Papon took yet another dramatic turn on Sunday when lawyer Arno Klarsfeld unexpectedly dropped a threat to ask for presiding judge Jean-Louis Castagnede's removal.

Klarsfeld and his father, Nazi-hunter Serge Klarsfeld, had declared themselves "at war" with Castagnede because he released Papon on bail for the length of the trial and they said they suspected him of wanting an acquittal.

The flamboyant Arno Klarsfeld, who roller-blades to court and regularly appears as an escort to beautiful film stars and top models, had said he would request Castagnede's removal in court on Monday.

He had cited the Klarsfelds' own discovery that Castagnede was distantly related to Jews deported from Bordeaux during the war and whose fate the court was to discuss.

But after a cascade of condemnation and incomprehension from other lawyers for the civil plaintiffs and families of Holocaust victims, Arno Klarsfeld issued a curt two-sentence communique saying he would leave it to Castagnede himself to decide how best to ensure that proceedings remained orderly.

Papon is being tried for crimes against humanity over his role in the deportation of more than 1,500 Jews from the Bordeaux region of Nazi-occupied southern France during World War Two.

Klarsfeld, nearly always available for the press with whom he is often on friendlier terms than with fellow lawyers, was not available for further comment.

Some experts noted the turnaround had come shortly after France's Central Israelite Consistory, the main body handling Jewish religious affairs, said it deplored the controversy.

The Consistory, like major anti-racist groups, said there were no grounds to suspect any partiality.

Such powerful opposition was believed to have swayed the Klarsfelds, whose fellow lawyers frequently complain that they fail to coordinate their tactics with them.

The umbrella body for French Jewish groups, CRIF, said it hoped the trial would now continue "with all necessary serenity."

The controversy began when Arno Klarsfeld disclosed that the judge had an uncle whose Jewish sisters-in-law and parents-in-law were deported from Bordeaux when Papon was an official in the collaborationist Vichy government there.

Castagnede, who is not Jewish, made no direct comment on the controversy. But he said through friends that he was unaware of the Jewish connection since he had lost contact with that side of the family since his father died.

The trial, first hailed as a major act in France's quest for the truth about its wartime conduct, suddenly swerved out of control on Friday into a family drama reminiscent of a French 19th-century novel.

Klarsfeld said Castagnede had shunned his uncle and his uncle's wife because they were both deaf-mute and poor, and possibly because of their Jewish background.

Castagnede made no mention of the controversy when the trial was in session on Thursday. But he suspended proceedings for four days without explanation after only an hour. REUTERS


French Resistance figures challenge book in court
03:59 a.m. Feb 06, 1998 Eastern

PARIS, Feb 5 (Reuters) - Two widely acclaimed heroes of the French Resistance during World War Two asked a Paris court on Thursday to ban a book suggesting that they secretly helped the Nazis.

Lucie and Raymond Aubrac, who joined the Resistance when Germany invaded France in May 1940, were the subject of a popular feature film which came out last year.

It focused on the 1943-44 period when Lucie, pregnant with their second child, risked her life to rescue her husband from jail.

But French historian Gerard Chauvy questioned their Resistance record in a book, entitled "Aubrac, Lyon 1943," which was published last year.

It suggested that the couple were Nazi collaborators who betrayed fellow Resistance hero Jean Moulin to Klaus Barbie, then chief of the Nazi Gestapo in Lyon.

Barbie, who was tracked down in Bolivia after the war and given a life sentence in 1987 for wartime crimes against humanity, died in a Lyon jail in 1991.

The Aubracs, who flatly deny any role in Moulin's arrest, want the book taken off the market. They also seek one million francs ($165,000) in damages. Raymond Aubrac is now 83 and Lucie is 85.

Chauvy told the court he had not intended to portray them as traitors but rather to raise questions. "It is the historian's role to ask questions. I do not go any farther than that. There are shadowy zones, explanations are needed," he said.

Judge Jean-Yves Monfort questioned whether the author had given too much weight to a document supposedly drafted by Barbie in 1990 naming the Aubracs as his agents.

The judge said the document might have been drafted by Barbie's lawyer in order to play down his client's role in the death of Moulin, France's most legendary Resistance hero.

The trial was expected to continue until next Thursday.

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


Saturday January 31 8:09 AM EST

Investigators Seek Witness in Clinic Blast

By Mike Cooper

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (Reuters) - Investigators probing the fatal bombing of an Alabama abortion clinic said Friday they were seeking a man whose truck was seen parked near the site.

A material witness warrant has been issued for Eric Robert Rudolph, a 31-year-old white male from Marble, North Carolina, U.S. Attorney Doug Jones said. He stressed Rudolph was only wanted as a witness, not a suspect.

An off-duty policeman guarding the New Woman All Women Health Care clinic near downtown Birmingham was killed and a nurse was critically wounded by the explosion of a homemade bomb early Thursday morning.

Rudolph's gray Nissan truck was seen near the clinic, Jones said.

"The investigators have not jumped to any conclusions. The media should not jump to any conclusions," Jones said. "(The truck) was seen in the proximity around the explosion site. We want to talk to Mr. Rudolph about the truck."

"We are looking for Mr. Rudolph only as a material witness," added Joe Lewis, special agent in charge of the FBI in Birmingham.

The homemade bomb was placed a few feet in front of the clinic entrance, investigators said.

Clinic owner Diane Derzis said police officer Robert Sanderson was killed as he escorted nurse Emily Lyons to the front door to open the clinic.

Lyons remained in a hospital in intensive care Friday, recovering from severe leg, abdominal and facial injuries. Doctors said she has lost sight in one eye.

Derzis said the clinic, which advertises that it offers to abort fetuses up to 22 weeks after conception, would continue to operate. "As soon as they finish the crime scene, we will reopen," she said.

James Cavanaugh, agent in charge of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) office in Birmingham, said the bomb was packed with nails, but gave no further details.

"We do feel confident that we will be able to reconstruct to some degree the explosive device," Cavanaugh said. "We have had a very aggressive, thorough certainly, indeed microscopic examination of the crime scene."

Federal authorities called in experts who have been trying to solve three bombings that have occurred in Atlanta, including one at a women's health clinic Jan. 16, 1997 that injured seven people.

Investigators have said that last year's bombing of a gay nightclub in Atlanta and the explosion that killed two people and injured 111 others during the Olympics July 27, 1996, were probably linked to the Atlanta clinic bombing.

"It's too early to make determinations on whether this device is connected to that or any other device," Cavanaugh said. "It would be speculation, at best."


Sunday February 1, 5:21 pm Eastern Time

Company Press Release

SOURCE: Anti-Defamation League

ADL Claims Reports of Possible Birmingham Bombing Witness Views Consistent with Extremist Doctrine

ATLANTA, Feb. 1 /PRNewswire/ -- Claims from those that know a sought after material witness in the Birmingham abortion clinic bombing focus on his anti-government views and Holocaust denial ideas. A recent Anti-Defamation League (ADL) survey of today's anti-government extremists finds that these types of views are found in groups that pose a significant threat of violence and disorder in our society. Jay Kaiman, ADL Southeast Regional Director, observed:

"We hope law enforcement can locate Mr. Rudolph to see what he witnessed in Birmingham. Whatever this investigation uncovers, we are concerned with reports from his neighbors and teachers regarding supposed views that he believed the Holocaust did not happen. One press report quoted his English teacher's claim that his view of the Holocaust was weird but 'the paper was well-written ... He was intelligent.' Giving legitimacy to these types of conspiratorial views, simply because they are couched in an academic atmosphere, is disturbing."

The ADL report "Vigilante Justice" discusses the ever-increasing cross- fertilization between various strands of the extremist group, blurring the lines between them. Political and religious extremist views have come closer together finding common ground in pseudo-religious, racist doctrines. Their brand of extremist violence should cause concern, continuing to adopt the tactic of "leaderless resistance" in putting their views in the headlines.

The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world's leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.

SOURCE: Anti-Defamation League


Wednesday February 4 11:38 PM EST

FBI Issues Warning on Clinic Bomb Witness

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (Reuters) - Federal investigators Wednesday issued photographs of a North Carolina man sought as a material witness to the fatal bombing of an Alabama women's health clinic and warned the public he should not be approached if seen.

The FBI issued four photographs of 31-year-old Eric Robert Rudolph and a more detailed description of Rudolph and his pickup truck, which witnesses saw near the New Woman All Women Health Care clinic after it was bombed last Thursday.

"Although Mr. Rudolph is being sought only as a witness, due to the violence associated with this crime he should not approached by anyone outside of law enforcement," the FBI said in a statement.

The agency said Rudolph is a white male who has brown hair, blue eyes, is 5-feet and 10-inches tall and weighs 150 pounds. His birthdate is September 19, 1966.

The FBI, which had previously identified Rudolph's vehicle as a gray Nissan pickup truck, said it was a 1989 model with a white camper shell on the back.

The Murphy, N.C., man is named in a material witness warrant issued by a federal magistrate the day after the bombing of the clinic, where abortions are performed.

The FBI said anyone with information on Rudolph's whereabouts should contact investigators at 1-888-ATF-BOMB.

The Birmingham Post-Herald reported Wednesday that Rudolph registered his pickup truck using the address of a doctor who performs abortions at an Asheville, N.C. clinic owned by the same family that owns the Birmingham property where the New Woman clinic is located.

The newspaper said a brochure that has been circulating among abortion protestors for ten years lists several properties owned by the Harris Family Trust of Asheville, including the Asheville and Birmingham clinics.

The Birmingham explosion killed police officer Robert Sanderson and seriously injured clinic nurse Emily Lyons.

Lyons underwent 10 hours of surgery on the day of the bombing, during which her left eye was removed. She underwent over two hours of surgery to her remaining eye yesterday. Doctors said they are optimistic she will be able to see again.

Lyons also suffered severe leg, abdominal and hand injuries.

Letters sent to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Reuters in Atlanta on the day of the bombing claimed that an anti-abortion group called the Army Of God was responsible.

REUTERS


Holocaust as Therapy
Play for Students Is Strong on Material, Weak on Drama

By Lloyd Rose
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, February 7, 1998; Page B08

"Dear Esther," the Horizons Theatre production playing at the Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia, is designed to educate high school students about the Holocaust. I saw it with an audience of nearly 200 students, and they appeared to be quite absorbed.

Taking a leaf from Spike Lee, Richard Rashke's play starts with the actors reciting a list of ethnic and racial slurs. (The students were particularly entertained by the delivery of "white [obscene word for Oedipus]!") Soon we get to the particular ethnic slur with which this play is concerned, as the actors surround young Esther (Makela Spielman) and shout, "Jude! Jude! Jude!"

Also onstage is the present-day Esther (Marilyn Hausfeld), a woman in her sixties who is addressing a gathering of high school students. The play consists of arguments between her and her younger self about her memories, and the re-creation of those memories as scenes. This is the Holocaust-play-as-therapy: "Today's the beginning of hope, of healing," young Esther tells her older self.

"Dear Esther" isn't much of a play. What it has is extraordinary source material. Esther Terner Raab's experiences in and escape from the death camp Sobibor are terrible, piercing, impossible not to respond to. And her observations are often not what you'd expect, as when Esther says of war, "It's not so bad. Soldiers fight in the woods. They bring their wounded into town. You pray. You mind your own business. Then after a while they go away." She testifies to the importance of witnessing, noting that the deaths in Sobibor reached "a million -- and the historians give it a paragraph. Because if it's not in writing, it doesn't exist."

In spite of nice performances by Hausfeld and Spielman, the play is so weak that anyone out of adolescence would do better to read Rashke's book "Escape From Sobibor."

Dear Esther, by Richard Rashke. Directed by Leslie Jacobson. Set, Carl Gudenius; lights, Helena Kuukka; costumes, William Pucilowsky; original music, John Ward. With Taunya L. Martin, Stan Kang, Naomi Uyama, Daniel Eichner, Wyatt Fenner. At the Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia through Feb. 22. Call 703- 323-7965.


© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company


Silence of the Vatican: Some Clues
History: A book on a 'hidden' wartime encyclical is fanning the debate over whether the pope kept silent during the Holocaust.
By BOB KEELER, Newsday

The subject of a dry, scholarly new book is hardly bestseller material--the story behind the draft of a papal encyclical, commissioned nearly 60 years ago by a pope who did not live long enough to publish it. But the book is fueling a persistent and painful debate: Did the Vatican remain silent during the Holocaust and, if so, why?

Publication by Harcourt Brace of "The Hidden Encyclical of Pope Pius XI," written by two Belgians--a Benedictine monk and a Jewish historian--comes as that haunting question makes headlines. In recent months, a former Roman Catholic priest writing in the New Yorker condemned the church's wartime pope, Pius XII, for his alleged silence. But a cover story in the independent conservative magazine Inside the Vatican reported he is smoothly on the path to canonization.

Not long ago, the Catholic bishops of France publicly acknowledged, and apologized for, the silence of the church as the Nazis sent French Jews to death camps. The International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultation recently asked the Vatican to open its wartime archives in their entirety to scholars.

Late last year, Pope John Paul II said that a new document about the church and the Holocaust--first mentioned to Jewish leaders during the 1987 furor over the pope's meeting with Austrian President Kurt Waldheim, a former Nazi--is still not ready.

"Now it's 10 years and we're waiting," said Rabbi A. James Rudin, director of interreligious affairs for the American Jewish Committee.

These events underscore the incendiary nature of the "silence" issue more than 50 years after the end of the war. Now the book by Georges Passelecq, the monk, and Bernard Suchecky, the historian, examines the question's prewar roots. It focuses on Achille Ratti, who in 1922 became Pope Pius XI and under whom Vatican City in 1929 became an independent state.

In 1933, Pius XI made an agreement with the Nazis to protect the church in Germany. And in 1938, in the face of the Nazi threat, he commissioned the draft of an encyclical on the evils of racism and anti-Semitism. The encyclical, with its potential for explaining the church's conduct during the Holocaust, remained virtually unknown for three decades because, for reasons unknown, his successor, Pius XII, chose not to publish it.

Its story began to emerge in 1967 when Thomas Breslin, a Jesuit seminarian, was readying some papers of the late Rev. John LaFarge for some future biographer. LaFarge's convictions about the evils of segregation had been shaped while serving predominantly African American rural parishes and, beginning in the '20s, he had written extensively on the issue for the Jesuit magazine America. His 1937 book, "Interracial Justice," a condemnation of segregation, further enhanced his reputation as a Catholic committed to racial reconciliation.

An unassuming man, despite his Harvard education and his family's friendships with, among others, Theodore Roosevelt, Edith Wharton and Henry James, LaFarge nonetheless sensed the importance of his writings and, Breslin said, "He saved everything."

Breslin, now 53 and a vice president at Florida International University in Miami, entered the Society of Jesus only a year before LaFarge died, and they never met. He knew LaFarge by reputation but knew nothing about a long document in French that he found among LaFarge's papers, except that it was clearly important: It was marked as a draft encyclical, the most influential form of communication between popes and the universal church. Nor did Breslin understand the mysterious references to "Fisher Senior" and "Fisher Junior" in an accompanying series of letters.

As Breslin was meditating on the Gospel passage in which Jesus tells Simon (later Peter), a fisherman, to fish for people (proselytize), it dawned on him that Fisher Senior was Pius XI, Fisher Junior his successor.

Breslin worked on the papers into 1968, when he won a history fellowship to the University of Virginia and soon became enmeshed in his studies. But in the summer of 1972, when Breslin was a doctoral candidate, he read an article in the National Catholic Reporter about the recently deceased Cardinal Eugene Tisserant, prefect of the Vatican Library. It reported that, in a break with Vatican protocol, Tisserant's secretary had taken the cardinal's papers back to his native France, saying they contained intriguing information.

Those papers contained "two bombshells," Breslin recalled: The assertion that Pius XI had ordered the drafting of an encyclical against anti-Semitism, and the claim that Mussolini had arranged for the murder of the pope to prevent him from publishing it. Breslin has no inside information about the latter claim--the pope's death was officially attributed to a heart attack--but, he reasons, if Tisserant was right, and Pius XII knew that his predecessor had been killed, it could help explain his "silence."

* * *

Pius XII, born Eugenio Pacelli, was a lifelong diplomat accustomed to working quietly in the background as Pius XI's closest aide.

"If he suspected or knew that there had been a murder . . . if Pius XI could have been murdered, why not Pius XII?" Breslin asked. A few weeks after the National Catholic Reporter ran its Tisserant story, it published a report that the Vatican was moving quickly to deny both of the Tisserant claims. Breslin, "infuriated," wrote to the newspaper, verifying existence of the draft.

The Catholic Reporter interviewed Breslin and, in December 1972, broke a story that included a small excerpt from the encyclical.

"The Vatican basically kind of pooh-poohed it," said Breslin, who, for unrelated reasons, had by then left his order before ordination.

Intrigued, Passelecq decided to investigate, but had made little progress when, in 1987, he began working with Suchecky on a scholarly history of the encyclical that was to become their book. Breslin gave them microfilm of the draft encyclical and accompanying documents but, with little church cooperation, the two were unable to uncover much more.

What they have done is develop background that helps put the encyclical in context. This includes other public statements by Pius XI, including a 1937 encyclical, "Mit Brennender Sorge" ("With Burning Sorrow"), written in German and read from every Catholic pulpit in the Nazi Reich. It denounced anyone who "exalts race, or the people, or the State, or a particular form of State . . . and divinizes them to an idolatrous level." But the encyclical's primary concern was not racism, but Nazi violations of the 1933 concordat, or agreement, between the Vatican and the Reich.

In later years, critics of Pius XII would call him a Germanophile who cozied up to the Nazis. But Eugene Fisher, associate director of the Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, National Conference of Catholic Bishops, points out that the pope had sent him to Germany to protect the church's interests there and enforce the concordat.

What caused Pius XI "burning sorrow" was the violation of that concordat. Passelecq and Suchecky emphasize that "Mit Brennender Sorge" was neither a broad-brush condemnation of Nazism nor an expression of solidarity with its victims. "Neither was it a protest against anti-Semitism and the persecution of the Jews in Germany, which the text does not mention at all," the book says.

In 1938, the Italian government began imposing racial legislation on Jews. In response, Pius XI publicly denounced anti-Semitism as "a deplorable movement, a movement in which we, as Christians, must have no part." That same year, he privately commissioned drafting of his encyclical on racism. The man he chose for the task: John LaFarge. His instructions: Just say "what you would say if you yourself were pope."

LaFarge and three other Jesuits worked through the oppressive heat of Paris in the summer of 1938. They called their draft "Humani Generis Unitas" ("The Unity of the Human Race") and late in 1938 LaFarge went to Rome to deliver it. But a few weeks later, on Feb. 9, 1939, Pius XI died.

The draft deplored "a struggle for racial purity" that clearly targeted the Jews and its "systematic cruelty." But it condoned "the authentic basis of the social separation of the Jews from the rest of humanity," based on religious differences, and cited "the spiritual dangers to which contact with Jews can expose souls."

With its "theology of condemnation," it was severely flawed, said Eugene Fisher, key advisor to America's Catholic bishops on relations with the Jews, and allowed for "restrictions on Jews that we would never allow in this country."

"It's probably just as well that it never did get out," Fisher said, as it would have impeded Catholic-Jewish dialogue and probably would not have impacted the course of history.

Others argue that publishing the encyclical would only have enraged the Germans and brought further reprisals against Jews, as happened in the Netherlands when Catholic bishops spoke out.

But the American Jewish Committee's Rudin argues, "If one person had been saved, then it would have been worth it. And how much more angry would it have made the German Nazis?"

Had either Pius XI or Pius XII published it, Breslin believes, it might have injected confusion into Nazi ranks and "saved hundreds of thousands, or millions, of people's lives."

* * *

In tapping LaFarge to draft the encyclical, Pius XI had bypassed the Polish-born Jesuit superior general, Wladimir Ledochowski. Breslin suggests that Ledochowski "deliberately delayed it getting to [the pope's] desk," possibly hoping to keep the Germans friendly to the church as a bulwark against Bolshevism.

It is possible, too, that because of this delay Pius XI was finally just too ill to deal with it. But it seems clear that, when Eugenio Pacelli became Pius XII, he knew of the draft; he used some of its language in his first encyclical on the unity of human society.

Whatever Pius XII's reasons for keeping the encyclical a secret, there was little public criticism of him until the early '60s. His supporters contend that it is a question of attempting to find a culprit.

Indeed, at his death in 1958, Pius XII was praised by Jewish leaders, including Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir.

In his 1967 book, "Three Popes and the Jews," Israeli diplomat / journalist Pinchas Lapide wrote that "no pope in history has ever been thanked more heartily by Jews for having saved or helped their brethren in distress."

Lapide pointed out that when Israele Zolli, wartime chief rabbi of Rome, converted to Catholicism, he took the name Eugenio, presumably in gratitude for Pius XII's wartime succor to Jewish refugees. He estimates that Catholics saved as many as 800,000 Jews from the Nazis; others dispute the figure. But another book claims that Zolli converted to Catholicism out of pique after being removed from the chief rabbi post.

The controversy surrounding Pius XII seems likely to continue. There are Vatican documents still protected by its policy of waiting 75 years to make them public.

The American Jewish Committee, still waiting for that new Vatican document on the church and the Holocaust, wants the Vatican's wartime archives made available to teams of Jewish and Catholic scholars.

"That would put an end to all the charges and countercharges that are swirling," the AJC's Rudin said. "It's time for a final reckoning."

Copyright Los Angeles Times


Lithuania charges alleged war criminal
10:14 p.m. Feb 06, 1998 Eastern

By Jonathan Leff

VILNIUS, Feb 6 (Reuters) - Lithuanian prosecutors filed charges of genocide on Friday against alleged Nazi war criminal Aleksandras Lileikis, who is 91 and in poor health.

Lileikis, head of the Vilnius security police during the German occupation of Lithuania, is accused of handing over scores of Jews to Nazi death squads. He denies being a war criminal.

"Everything is going according to plan and I handed the case to the Vilnius district court today," Kazimieras Kovarskas, head of the Special Investigations Department at the General Prosecutor's Office, told Reuters.

The trial is likely to be in four to six weeks' time although no date has been set.

It would be the first trial for Holocaust crimes in the Baltic states since the three small countries quit the former Soviet Union in 1991 and comes amid pressure from Nazi-hunting opganisations and the Israeli parliament.

The penalty for genocide is five to 15 years in prison with confiscation of property, and in some cases a life sentence, but the prosecutor doubted a severe sentence would be imposed.

"He is sick, barely alive, and I doubt the court will give him a long punishment," said Kovarskas.

Lithuania had to change its penal code to allow the prosecution of individuals regardless of their state of health.

Lileikis had earlier escaped having charges brought against him as his lawyers and medical experts said he was too ill.

During World War Two, almost all of Lithuania's 220,000 pre-war Jewish community was wiped out by Nazi forces, who sometimes worked with local Lithuanians.

The prosecution says it has papers signed by Lileikis, authorising the transfer of more than 70 Jews into Nazi hands.

Lileikis' lawyer has said the papers were fakes made by the former Soviet security police, the KGB.

Lileikis fled Lithuania in 1944 and spent most of the past half-century in the United States.

In 1996, he was stripped of his U.S. citizenship for concealing his wartime activities and returned to Lithuania.

Nazi-hunters say Lithuania has stalled in prosecuting Nazi war criminals. Prosecutors maintain that it is nearly impossible to prove genocide five decades after the event.

Some 92 members of 120-strong Israeli parliament sent a letter to President Algirdas Brazauskas last February urging him to ensure the prosecution of alleged war criminals and members of the U.S. Congress have also urged Lithuania to act. REUTERS


Nazi-hunters welcome Lithuanian war crimes trial
07:07 p.m Feb 05, 1998 Eastern

VILNIUS, Feb 5 (Reuters) - A leading Nazi-hunting group on Thursday welcomed plans by Lithuania to charge and bring to trial an alleged war criminal but said it wanted quicker and further action.

Lithuanian officials on Wednesday said they would this week or early next week bring charges against 90-year-old Aleksandras Lileikis, saying he sent Jews to their deaths when he was head of the security police in Nazi-occupied Vilnius.

Lileikis denies that he is a war criminal.

"We welcome the declared intent of the Lithuanian government to press charges on Aleksandras Lileikis for genocide," said Efraim Zuroff, director of the Israel office of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, one of the leading organisations which tracks down alleged war criminals.

"At the same time we urge the government to speed up the process given Lileikis' poor health and the length of time that has elapsed since his arrival in Vilnius," Zuroff added.

Lileikis returned to Lithuania in 1996 after being stripped of his U.S. citizenship for concealing his wartime activities from immigration officials.

Investigators allege that as head of the Vilnius region security police he handed over scores of Jews to death squads during the German occupation of Lithuania from 1941 to 1944.

Lithuania's 220,000-strong Jewish community was all but eradicated in the Holocaust.

"We also urge the authorities to initiate proceedings against all the other healthy Nazi war criminals living in Lithuania, in particular against Lileikis' deputy, Kazys Gimzauskas," Zuroff said.

An investigation into Gimzauskas, Lileikis' second-in-command, began last autumn but no charges have been filed.

Nazi-hunters say Lithuania has dragged its feet in bringing alleged war criminals to trial, while the Baltic state says it is difficult to bring a watertight case 50 years after the fact. REUTERS


Italian separatist charged with insulting flag
01:09 p.m Jan 31, 1998 Eastern

By Abigail Levene

ROME, Italy, Jan 31 (Reuters) - The flamboyant leader of Italy's separatist Northern League has been ordered to stand trial for insulting the national flag after saying it belonged in the toilet, his spokeswoman said on Saturday.

Umberto Bossi urged a woman to "put the flag in the toilet, lady" after spotting the green, white and red tricolour hanging from her house during a Northern League rally in Venice last year.

"I've ordered a truckload of tricolour toilet paper to put in the toilet," he added. "There's a magistrate who says I can't have it...Come off it!"

Public displays of contempt for the Italian nation are a violation of the constitution and can carry a penalty of between one and three years in prison.

Bossi, who campaigns for an independent state in northern Italy, is already facing an array of charges including incitement to break the law and aggravated threats.

Scores of his supporters were massing in the northern Italian city of Bergamo on Saturday to protest against the accusations, League spokesman Nicoletta Maggi said.

"It's a demonstration against the magistrates, who have declared war on the Northern League. They are applying...a fascist code which needs to be changed," she told Reuters.

The first hearing is scheduled to be held in the Venetian magistrate's court on December 15, Italian media reported.

Earlier this month Bossi received a one-year suspended sentence for urging his supporters at a 1995 rally near Bergamo to hunt down followers of the far-right National Alliance party.

"If you know of someone who voted for the National Alliance, take down their names. I'm not joking about this. When the time comes, if necessary, the League will go from house to house and take them," Bossi had told the rally.

The firebrand leader was also ordered to stand trial for attacks made on Italian magistrates at a demonstration in 1996.

Those rulings came one day after the Chamber of Deputies, parliament's lower house, gave the green light to another investigation against Bossi for charges of incitement to violence, aggravated threats and defamation related to a 1995 rally in the northern town of Tolmezzo.

On that occasion, he was widely reported to have told his supporters to "identify and pursue, house by house, the members of the National Alliance" whom he branded "dirty fascists." That trial is set for March 27.

Bossi has already been sentenced to five months' imprisonment for defamatory remarks directed at a judge and to eight months for illegal party financing. But under Italian law, sentences of less than two years are rarely served, and he has served neither.

Bossi also faces trial in Milan for comparing Italy's devout president, Oscar Luigi Scalfaro, to Rasputin, the shadowy monk who captivated Russia's last tsarina. REUTERS

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


EU enlargement means "war" on Austria, Haider says
09:13 a.m. Jan 28, 1998 Eastern

By Rolf Soderlind

VIENNA, Jan 28 (Reuters) - Austrian far-right opposition leader Joerg Haider said on Wednesday that the European Union's enlargement plans amounted to a declaration of war on Austria.

He said enlargement would spark a wave of immigration from eastern Europe that would wreck the Austrian social and economic structure, with Austrians losing their jobs to cheap labour from former communist states.

"This is a declaration of war on Austria," said Haider, leader of Austria's largest opposition group, the Freedom Party, told a news conference.

"This is a declaration of war on all industrious and hard-working people here. We demand that the question of enlargement be removed from the EU agenda for now."

Haider said the EU should examine the consequences of massive immigration from eastern Europe before embarking on enlargement negotiations.

Austria shares borders with entry candidates Slovenia, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

The EU will begin negotiations with six front-runners -- Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Estonia and Cyprus -- at the end of March.

"Cheap labour will enter the country. At least 700,000 will come here," Haider said. "How are they all going to find work? Austrians will lose their jobs."

The figure would represent about one-fifth of the Austrian work force.

Haider, whose party became the second largest grouping on the city council in Graz in weekend elections, said tens of thousands of Austrian farms would be driven out of business by an onslaught of cheap agriculture products from the east.

He urged Chancellor Viktor Klima's government not to pursue membership talks when Austria assumes the EU presidency in the second half of this year.

"The government must make sure that the eastward expansion is postponed because Austria would have to carry most of the burden," he said.

Klima's government last week asked the European Union for regional grants to cushion its border areas from the economic impact of East European countries joining the community.

Austria officially supports enlargement but many industrialists fear domestic companies could lose business to low-cost, low-wage competitors in former communist countries.

Foreign Minister Wolfgang Schuessel said last week that industrial wages were 10 to 15 percent lower in the neighbouring former communist countries than in Austria.

Some five million of Austria's eight million people live within 100 km (60 miles) of their borders. REUTERS

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


EU giving $500,000 to Holocaust memorial in Israel
04:11 p.m Feb 02, 1998 Eastern

JERUSALEM, Feb 2 (Reuters) - The European Union said on Monday it would give Israel's Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum more than $500,000 to prepare a publication on non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during the Nazi genocide.

The book, titled "The Lexicon of the Righteous Among the Nations," will constitute "an invaluable resource," the EU said in a statement released in Jerusalem.

The Righteous Among the Nations is the term used to describe some 14,000 non-Jews who helped save Jews during the Holocaust.

The grant is part of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership which was launched in Barcelona in 1995 to advance security, economic and social cooperation between the EU and Mediterranean countries. REUTERS


CORRECTED - 4,000 Hungarian Jews receive Swiss holocaust money
10:38 p.m. Feb 05, 1998 Eastern

By Duncan Shiels

BUDAPEST, Feb 5 (Reuters) - More than 4,000 elderly Hungarian Jews out of an eligible 19,000 have been paid their first instalment from a $280 million Swiss bank fund for Holocaust survivors, a Jewish charity said on Thursday.

"About 4,000 people have already got their 400 dollars through the post," Israel Sela, Hungarian representative of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JOINT) told Reuters.

"The first instalment was given to the oldest people and eventually everyone will get their payment," he added.

The fund was set up last year amid a growing chorus of allegations that Switzerland used its neutrality to profit from the war.

Swiss banks were also heavily criticised for not doing enough to track down the holders of dormant bank accounts, which hold funds deposited by Holocaust victims.

An official ceremony marking the handover of the $2 million first instalment will held on February 12.

Hungarian, Israeli and Swiss dignitaries attending will include Jewish Agency head Avraham Burg as well as 99-year-old Hilda Barinkai, who re-opened JOINT's Budapest office on the day the Soviet Union entered the city in January 1945, Sela said.

Hungary's Jewish community, estimated to number up to 130,000, is by far the largest in Eastern Europe, mainly because World War Two Nazi deportations started later than elsewhere.

Sela said the logistics of contacting and paying the 19,000 Holocaust survivors were made easier by a public foundation set up by the Hungarian government last year to distribute four billion forints ($19.5 million) in monthly pensions.

"Hungary is the only country which has set up a public foundation to deliver compensation so we already have the computer system, the data base, and the mailing system to quickly deliver the money," he said.

Sela said the aim was for every victim to receive $1,000 once the full amount of money was in place and the total number of eligible beneficiaries was known.

About $11 million from the $280 million fund have been earmarked for eastern European Holocaust survivors, who have never received any compensation for their suffering.

Latvia handed over the first $400 cheque in November. ($ - 204.9 Hungarian Forints) REUTERS


House Passes Holocaust Aid Bill

Tuesday, January 27, 1998; 5:55 p.m. EST

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Organizations that assist Holocaust survivors would share up to $25 million under a bill the House sent President Clinton on its first day back to work Tuesday.

The measure, approved by voice vote, also authorizes an additional $5 million for archival research to help with the restitution of assets that were looted or extorted from Holocaust victims.

The funds would be distributed over a three-year period.

Rep. James Leach, R-Iowa, the House sponsor, said the measure will provide some "material redress" for the inadequate restitution of assets belonging to Holocaust victims that were seized by the American government during World War II.

"But most of all, this measure is a reminder (that) the past must never be forgotten and that it is often more controversial than issues of the present," Leach said.

The Senate passed the bill last November.

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press


Thursday January 29, 5:06 pm Eastern Time

Company Press Release

SOURCE: American Jewish Congress

'Right To Life' Does Not Mean the Right to Impose Death, Says AJCongress, In Condemnation of Birmingham Abortion Clinic Bombing

NEW YORK, Jan. 29 /PRNewswire/ -- "'Right to life' does not mean the right to cause death," declared the American Jewish Congress today, condemning today's bombing of an abortion clinic in Birmingham.

In his statement, AJCongress Executive Director Phil Baum called on "responsible leaders" of the Right to Life movement to "vociferously condemn today's bombing and to make it clear that they will not tolerate any further outrages."

The full text of the statement is as follows:

Once again, a "Right to Life" zealot has inflicted indiscriminate death.

The clinic that was bombed in Birmingham today has long been the site of protest demonstrations by anti-abortion zealots. Now, however, protests which are protected by constitutional guarantees of free speech have turned to indiscriminate violence. The judicial system has been swift and stern in its punishment of those responsible for abortion clinic violence elsewhere. We hope and pray that this example will be followed here.

It has been said that since the slavery issue was settled, abortion has been the greatest cause of discord on the American political agenda. Responsible disagreement is the American way of dealing with differences. Therefore, responsible leaders of the Right to Life movement must vociferously condemn today's bombing of an abortion clinic in Atlanta and make it clear that they will not tolerate any further outrages. "Right to life," they must say, does not mean the right to impose death.

The American Jewish Congress, founded in 1918 by Rabbi Stephen S. Wise, Justice Louis D. Brandeis and other distinguished Jews, specializes in combating all forms of bigotry through law and legislation. Considered the legal voice of the American Jewish Community, it works to safeguard Jewish interests, protect basic freedoms enshrined in the American Bill of Rights and to advance the security of Israel.

SOURCE: American Jewish Congress


Alleged Nazi Loses U.S. Citizenship

Tuesday, January 27, 1998; 3:02 p.m. EST

WASHINGTON (AP) -- An elderly Illinois man accused of participating in a massacre of Jews at a Nazi slave labor camp during World War II has lost a second court battle to retain his U.S. citizenship, the Justice Department said Tuesday.

A federal appeals court affirmed a lower court's decision to revoke the citizenship of Bronislaw Hajda, 73, a retired factory worker living in Schiller Park, Ill., the department said, citing court papers filed last Friday. The department is seeking to deport him.

Hajda denied the allegations during his trial, declaring, "I never killed anyone."

But the three-judge panel of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago said there was sufficient documentary evidence that Hajda served as an armed guard at SS Training Camp Trawniki and the Treblinka labor camp in Nazi-occupied Poland during World War II, activities he concealed when applying to immigrate to the United States after the war.

His attorney did not immediately return a call seeking comment on whether Hajda would appeal the latest decision.

A federal judge in Chicago stripped Hajda of his citizenship in April after finding that he participated in a July 1944 massacre of hundreds of Jewish prisoners at Treblinka, served in the SS Streibel Battalion guarding forced Polish laborers building fortifications against the Russian advance and then hid those actions. Those activities made him ineligible to enter the United States and ineligible for citizenship.

He came to America in 1950, the Justice Department said.

Hajda is one of 60 people who have lost their U.S. citizenship because of Nazi activities after being investigated by the Justice Department's Office of Special Investigations, created in 1979. Forty-eight have since been removed from the United States.

The office is investigating about 300 others.

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press


Thursday January 29, 1:14 pm Eastern Time

Company Press Release

SOURCE: American Jewish Congress

AJCongress Calls on Senate to Reject Partisanship and to Act on Clinton's Nominations for Federal Judgeships

NEW YORK, Jan. 29 /PRNewswire/ -- Deploring what it called the "politicization of the judicial appointment process," the American Jewish Congress today urged leadership in both the Senate Judiciary Committee and the full Senate to quickly approve or reject President Clinton's nominations for federal judgeships and to put an end to the gridlock in which 82 of 846 positions on the federal bench -- nearly 10 percent -- remain vacant.

"We believe that partisanship surrounding the vacancies throughout the federal judiciary must stop, as justice delayed is too frequently justice denied," AJCongress said, while also calling on President Clinton to increase the pace of his judicial nominations.

In a resolution approved unanimously on the "Slowdown in Judicial Confirmations," the AJCongress Governing Council, the organization's highest legislative and policy-making body, seconded the comments of Chief Justice William Rehnquist who recently declared that the confirmation process gridlock in the United States Senate cannot continue "without eroding the quality of justice that traditionally has been associated with the federal judiciary."

AJCongress agreed, noting that 17 of the 26 judgeships for which President Clinton has nominated candidates have remained vacant for 18 months or longer and are considered "judicial emergencies." In some cases, the resolution noted, the Senate Judiciary Committee never takes up the nomination; in others, the Committee approves the nomination but the full Senate is denied the opportunity for a floor debate and vote.

"We might disagree with the outcomes," the resolution said, "but it is the Senate's obligation to hold hearings on nominees, and then accept or defeat their nominations either in the Senate Judiciary Committee or on the Senate floor. But it is wholly unacceptable to deny a nominee his or her hearing year after year. There is no valid justification for partisan stalling tactics that threaten the functioning of the federal judiciary."

According to AJCongress Executive Director Phil Baum, in 1997 the Senate Judiciary Committee held only nine hearings -- an all-time low. Seven nominees have been waiting for Senate action since 1995, he said, one since 1992.

The AJCongress resolution also noted that the White House has been slow to send up candidates. "The President must increase the pace of his judicial nominations," declared the Governing Council. The resolution made clear, however, that Senate inaction is the major problem, citing the case of Margaret Morrow, the former President of the Los Angeles and California Bar Associations, whose nomination to the Central District of California has been stalled on the Senate floor for three years.

"We strongly urge the Senate Judiciary Committee and, through the Senate leadership, the full Senate to practice their key role -- advice and consent, not stall and dawdle -- without further delay," declared the AJCongress resolution.

"Given Chief Justice Rehnquist's comments," added Executive Director Baum, "the time is ripe for the Senate to clear up the backlog and to restore to the federal judiciary the capability of serving justice in as timely a fashion as possible, to the benefit of all Americans."

The full text of the resolution is as follows:

As of the end of 1997, 82 of 846 judgeships -- almost 10 percent -- remain vacant. Chief Justice William Rehnquist recently commented that the confirmation process gridlock in the United States Senate cannot continue "without eroding the quality of justice that traditionally has been associated with the federal judiciary."

This erosion is most apparent in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, where 10 out of 28 appellate judgeships remain vacant. Unfortunately, this situation has resulted in fewer oral arguments, cases being decided by semi-retired judges pressed into service, and cases being decided by judges from other parts of the country.

To be sure, as Chief Justice Rehnquist pointed out, the White House is not without blame in the current logjam, as the White House has not yet put forth nominees for 40 out of the 82 vacancies. But 17 of the posts for which nominees have been named (26 posts in total) have remained vacant for 18 months or longer, earning these vacancies the label "judicial emergencies." And for this the U.S. Senate is clearly to blame.

We might disagree with the outcomes, but it is the Senate's obligation to hold hearings on nominees, and then accept or defeat their nominations either in the Senate Judiciary Committee or on the Senate floor. But it is wholly unacceptable to deny a nominee his or her hearing year after year, or as in the case of Margaret Morrow, from the Central District of California, and others to repeatedly report the nomination favorably out of committee, only to be deny that nominee a vote on the Senate floor. There is no valid justification for partisan stalling tactics that threaten the functioning of the federal judiciary.

This politicization of the judicial appointment process, which we deplore, manifests itself in other ways as well. The appearance of fundraising letters on behalf of conservative political organizations and conservative candidates further threatens our vital tradition of an independent judiciary. And where political fights once broke out only over controversial and highly-visible Supreme Court nominations, they now surround nominations throughout the federal judiciary, down to district judgeships.

But the story of the increasingly political nature of this process is best told by the numbers from comparable years during each of the past three presidencies: In 1988, a Democratic Senate approved 41 of President Reagan's 64 nominees, and in 1992, it confirmed 66 of President Bush's 75 nominees. By comparison, in 1996, a Republican Senate confirmed only 20 of President Clinton's 48 nominees. This partisanship has also dealt a blow to diversity in the federal judiciary, as 13 of the 15 nominees delayed the longest are women or minorities.

We believe that this partisanship surrounding the vacancies throughout the federal judiciary must stop, as justice delayed is too frequently justice denied. The President must increase the pace of his judicial nominations. We strongly urge the Senate Judiciary Committee and, through the Senate leadership, the full Senate to practice their key role advice and consent, not stall and dawdle without further delay.

The American Jewish Congress, founded in 1918 by Rabbi Stephen S. Wise, Justice Louis D. Brandeis and other distinguished Jews, specializes in combating all forms of bigotry through law and legislation. Considered the legal voice of the American Jewish Community, it works to safeguard Jewish interests, protect basic freedoms enshrined in the American Bill of Rights and to advance the security of Israel.

SOURCE: American Jewish Congress


Wednesday January 28, 10:13 am Eastern Time

Company Press Release

SOURCE: Zionist Organization of America of Metropolitan Detroit

Zionist Organization of America and Three Other Jewish Organizations Condemn New York Times' Dual Moral Standard on Coverage of Middle East; Ask for Public Explanation of News Policy

DETROIT, Jan. 28 /PRNewswire/ -- The Zionist Organization of America and three other Jewish organizations have asked the New York Times to publicly explain its news policy as it relates to coverage of the Middle East.

In a letter to the Times' chairman, Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr., the organizations said they were appalled and shocked to learn that the Times uses a dual standard of morality in defining what is news in the Middle East.

The organizations were reacting to a letter written by Times news editor, William Borders, to a reader who had complained about bias against Israel in the Times' reporting. In his letter, Borders wrote:

"The whole point is that torture by Israel, a democratic ally of the United States, which gets huge support from this country, is news. Torture by Palestinians seems less surprising. Surely you don't consider the two authorities morally equivalent."

When the reader, in a second letter expressed shock at Borders' reply, he received a response from Joseph Lelyveld, the executive editor, who supported Borders' position.

In the letter to Sulzberger from the Zionist Organization of America, the Zionist Organization of America of Metropolitan Detroit, the Jewish Community Council of Metropolitan Detroit and La'Asot (To Do), the organizations wrote:

"We want to indicate how shocked and appalled we are to learn that the New York Times applies a dual moral standard to its news coverage of the Middle East.

"This policy violates every principle of objectivity supposedly followed by the New York Times and the media, and is an insult to Israel. Israel is held to a 'higher moral standard' than others -- whatever that means. We know of only one moral standard -- and we believe Arabs should be insulted as well because your paper does not expect moral behavior from them.

"Further, the policy means you publish a flawed product since readers do not know that you accentuate violations by Israel and ignore or play down those of the Palestinians, since abuses by the Palestinians are 'less surprising.'

"Obviously, this policy has many other serious implications as it pertains to influencing public policy and public opinion.

"We respectfully request an immediate review of your policies defining news, particularly as they pertain to the Middle East, and look forward to a public statement on this policy.

"Given the seriousness of your policy, we are issuing a press release on this letter to you.

"We respect and revere the First Amendment; we have no quarrel with the Times' right to use a dual moral standard. But if that is the case, then we believe you will agree, the public has a right to know the criteria for the Times' decision-making processes in the reporting of news in such a volatile area such as the Middle East.

"We look forward to hearing from you on this vital issue."

SOURCE: Zionist Organization of America of Metropolitan Detroit


Wednesday January 28, 9:45 am Eastern Time

Company Press Release

SOURCE: Pennsylvania Insurance Department

Pennsylvania Insurance Department to Host Insurance Forum for Holocaust Survivors, Heirs

HARRISBURG, Pa., Jan. 28 /PRNewswire/ -- On behalf of Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, Insurance Commissioner M. Diane Koken announced today that the state Insurance Department will host a special forum next month for survivors of the Nazi Holocaust and their heirs.

Recent published reports have cited evidence the former Nazi government in Germany defrauded victims of insurance proceeds. The forum will explore that issue and related concerns.

"Although it pales by comparison to the millions of lives that were lost in the Holocaust, Gov. Ridge believes the financial ruin that was inflicted on victims and survivors should not be ignored," Koken said.

The forum will be held Feb. 6 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Penn Tower Hotel, Civic Center Boulevard, in Philadelphia. The event is sponsored by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners' (NAIC) Holocaust Insurance Issues Working Group.

The working group, of which the Pennsylvania Insurance Department is a member, was formed to explore how to resolve outstanding claims, and to develop a strategy for dealing with the insurance industry.

The NAIC estimates that there are more than 1,700 Holocaust survivors who are citizens of Pennsylvania, but the actual number may be higher. Pennsylvania volunteered to host a meeting of the working group, in part, because of its large population of survivors.

SOURCE: Pennsylvania Insurance Department


Butler to speak to Jewish group today

NEW YORK, Jan. 27 (UPI) _ United Nations Ambassador Richard Butler is slated to discuss the status of the U.N. inspection program with a New York Jewish group this afternoon. Event organizers say the executive chairman of the U.N. Special Commission is expected to speak with members of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations at a luncheon in Manhattan this afternoon.


Friday January 30, 3:40 pm Eastern Time

Company Press Release

SOURCE: Assicurazioni Generali, S.p.A.

Generali Invites Yad Vashem to Coordinate Information Transfer; Progress Praised by Knesset Member Ravitz

WASHINGTON, Jan. 30 /PRNewswire/ -- Today, Assicurazioni Generali invited the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem, Israel to begin agreed upon coordination on the transfer of Holocaust information between the two organizations. Mr. Guido Pastori, the company's Vice Director General, has invited museum Chief Information Officer Mr. Michael Lieber to the company's offices in Trieste to "witness the process and discuss the computerization and programming of retrieval of data for Yad Vashem's purposes."

In a letter praising Generali on a number of fronts, Rabbi Abraham Ravitz, Chairman of the Knesset's Finance Committee, noted the "positive spirit and good will" in Generali's ongoing efforts to computerize historic materials in the company's Trieste archives. (see attached) Ravitz also praised Generali for inviting Yad Vashem to Trieste in advance of completing the data input process. (see below)

Technical coordination with Yad Vashem comes in the context of the agreements by Generali executed in Israel in June, 1997 upon the purchase by Generali of Israel's Migdal Insurance, the largest ever foreign investment in an Israeli financial institution. Once the process of computerizing the company's archives is complete -- in mid-to late February -- Yad Vashem representatives will begin collecting information from Generali as part of the museum's ongoing effort to compile names of Holocaust victims.

This material is distributed by Chlopak, Leonard, Schechter and Associates, Inc., 1850 M Street, NW, Suite 550, Washington, D.C. 20036, on behalf of Assicurazioni Generali, S.p.A., Piazza Duca degli Abruzzi, n. 2, 34132, Trieste, Italy. Additional information is available at the Department of Justice, Washington, D.C.

Rabbi Abraham Ravitz, Chairman of the Finance Committee of Knesset, sent the following letter, dated Jan. 29, to Assicurazioni Generali, S.p.A.:

re: Agreement with Generali Company

I noted your statement that the process of the manual computerization of the materials in your archives in Trieste which required many months is to be completed in accordance with your estimate within a month.

I greatly appreciate that you have invited a representative of "Yad Vashem" to Trieste to observe the process of manual feeding and computerization even before it has been completed. This invitation reflects good will on your side and a readiness to cooperate with "Yad Vashem" as had been agreed with you.

I know that Generali transferred the amount designated to fund the Trust to an account which has been opened by Fund Trustees within 2 days from the day on which the Trustees designated to it the bank account of the Trust, thus fulfilling its part in the agreement.

I wish to note the positive spirit and the good will of Generali, which found its expression also in its readiness to place at its disposal of the fund established by it, an amount to cover the start-up and administrative activities of the Trustees during the first year, beyond its obligation under the agreement.

I hope that this will open the way for the commencement of the activities of the Fund in realization of the important agreement of its ex gratia payments to beneficiaries of policies of Generali issued before the Holocaust in Eastern and Central Europe and if possible -- to the eternalization of communities which have been eliminated and the extension of assistance to families of Holocaust victims: and other important purposes.

Assicurazioni Generali, S.p.A., sent the following letter, dated Jan. 29, to Mr. Avner Shalev the Chairman of the Board of Yad Vashem:

As you have been advised by Mr. Ben-Porath, the manual feeding of the information from the Archives into our computer system, at the Information Center, is expected to be completed soon.

Accordingly, we would like to coordinate with you a visit of your Chief Information Officer, Mr. Michael Lieber, to Trieste, to witness the process and discuss the computerization and programming of retrieval of data for Yad Vashem's purposes, as agreed.

We suggest that Mr. Lieber contact our Mr. Aldo Cappuccio or Mr. Daniele Di Loreto (tel. 39-40-671814 fax 39-40-671006) to make arrangements for the visit.

SOURCE: Assicurazioni Generali, S.p.A.


Cowboy rabbi at nude bar?

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Students at a Jewish seminary in Jerusalem want their rabbi dismissed because he was spotted at a nude bar dressed as a cowboy, the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth reported on Thursday.

The mass-circulation tabloid said a customer recognized the rabbi at the bar, photographed him and distributed the pictures among his students.

The newspaper named neither the seminary nor the rabbi.

Seminary officials, who have been trying for two months to keep the incident quiet, described the rabbi's visit as part of an "educational mission."

"The rabbi gave up his soul and went to this abominable place to check whether students from the seminary tended to go there," the newspaper quoted one official as saying.


Americans Jailed Over Nazi Salute

By Davrell Roberts Tien
Tuesday, January 27, 1998; 7:28 p.m. EST

STOCKHOLM, Sweden (AP) -- Three Americans convicted of violating Sweden's hate laws by giving Nazi salutes during a rock 'n' roll concert said prison won't change their views.

"I've never hurt a Jew in my life, but now I'm in prison for what the Nazis did in the Holocaust," Shawn Sugg, 30, of Otter Lake, Mich., said in an interview at Kronoberg Remand Prison.

Sugg is the author of songs titled "Romantic Violence," "White Man" and "Fight to be Free."

"The prosecutor tried to make me look like some evil guy, but I'm just a singer in the band," he said.

The Michigan-based group Max Resist appeared at a Jan. 3 concert outside Stockholm. They performed for free, with local sponsors reimbursing travel expenses, guitarist Andrew Miokovic said.

Police arrested about two dozen fans and band members after some began shouting the Nazi salute "Sieg Heil!"

Convicted with Sugg were Miokovic, 21, of Fort Wayne, Ind.; Danielle Reda, 26, of Royal Oak, Mich.; and Eric Dobbs, 23, a Swedish fan living in San Diego. Two other Swedes also reportedly await trial.

The one-month prison sentence ends Feb. 3. Defense attorney Lennart Hane filed an appeal to overturn the conviction, alleging the application of the law was politically motivated. The contention is scheduled to be heard on Feb. 3.

Dobbs, a clean-cut graphic designer, claimed he made no Nazi salute, but "even if I got two years (in prison), my views would have remained the same."

Miokovic, a construction worker with a swastika tattoo, admitted that some of his views were racist. His solution for America's economic and social problems is racial separation in a "semi-police state."

He said that authorities, in arresting him and the others, were only promoting his message.

"The courts didn't understand they were making us legends, doubling the number of our fans and record sales," he said.

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press


Panel Attacks WWII Jewish Sale

By Mike Corder
Associated Press Writer
Thursday, January 29, 1998; 1:14 p.m. EST

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands (AP) -- The sale by Dutch civil servants of valuables that belonged to Holocaust victims was legal but "insensitive," an independent commission reported Thursday.

Finance Ministry employees auctioned off -- among themselves and at bargain-basement prices -- jewelry and other valuables belonging to Dutch Jews killed in World War II Nazi concentration camps, the commission said in its report.

The 1968 sale came to light in December, shocking and angering the Dutch Jewish community and prompting the government to establish the panel to look into it.

"I can say that it was shortsighted ... and that there was an insensitivity," commission leader Frans Kordes said after presenting his report to Finance Minister Gerrit Zalm.

The former employees, who were not identified, worked for an agency that oversaw the return of Nazi spoils to Holocaust survivors or their heirs.

But because about three-quarters of Dutch Jews -- more than 100,000 people -- died in the Holocaust, many of the 200 items went unclaimed.

It was not immediately clear what became of the $900 in proceeds from the sale of watches, wedding rings, earrings and the like, many of them gold or silver.

Revelations about the sale came after journalists uncovered records from a Dutch bank used by Nazis during World War II as a repository for property stolen from Dutch Jews before their deportation.

Although the articles were not valuable, the very idea that they were sold deeply offended survivors of the Holocaust and relatives of victims.

"The behavior of the civil servants was immoral," said Ronny Naftaniel, a spokesman for a prominent Dutch Jewish organization, the Center for Information and Documentation on Israel.

The commission's report concluded that there was no way of returning the articles to relatives of the original owners because they would be too difficult to trace.

Instead, Kordes suggested, the government should initiate a broad discussion about the treatment of Jews in the Netherlands during the Nazi occupation.

Zalm, the finance minister, supported the findings and said he would discuss the report with Cabinet colleagues.

Dutch history books generally focus on their country's resistance to the Nazis and efforts to hide Jews, including Anne Frank and her family.

Naftaniel said he was disappointed that the government had not made a symbolic donation of the sale proceeds to a Jewish welfare organization.

"It is only 1,800 guilders ($900). It's nothing. But it would have been a gesture," he said.

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press


Friday January 30, 11:57 am Eastern Time

DAVOS- US urges end to Swiss bank sanction threats

DAVOS, Switzerland, Jan 30 (Reuters) - U.S. Undersecretary of State Stuart Eizenstat on Friday called for an end to threats of economic sanctions by U.S. state and local governments against Swiss banks over activities during World War Two.

"I urge an end to threats of sanctions against Swiss banks beyond just a postponement of those threats," Eizenstat told a news conference during the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum here.

In December, U.S. local officials said they would postpone any economic sanctions against Swiss banks until the end of March but said the banks must act by then to address U.S. and Jewish concerns about their handling of Holocaust victims' accounts.

"We believe this moratorium (March 31) should become permanent in the months ahead," Eizenstat said. "Sanctions will not only retard further progress to come to closure, they are also unjustified based upon the concrete and courageous actions Switzerland and Swiss banks have taken."

Copyright © 1998 Reuters Limited.


Poland Property Restitution Begins

By Andrzej Stylinski
Associated Press Writer
Friday, January 30, 1998; 2:35 p.m. EST

WARSAW, Poland (AP) -- A year after Poland passed a law dealing with the return of Jewish cemeteries, synagogues and other communal property seized during World War II, work has begun on the first claims.

The first three cases were immediately adjourned Thursday because of poor preparation or missing documents -- illustrating just how difficult the task will be.

"The work will involve some difficulty, regardless of the good will of the people involved," said Pawel Wildstein, a Jewish community leader who sits on the committee set up last year to rule on the property claims.

The most difficult part, he said, was proving Jewish ownership of the property.

"Along with the people, everything that made up the documentation -- the written history of this community -- perished" in the Holocaust, Wildstein said in a telephone interview.

The first three cases in the southern city of Bielsko Biala involved a public school building the claimants say was once a Jewish school, court offices that were once a Jewish community center and an empty plot of land said to have contained a synagogue.

The committee, which acts as an arbitration court, adjourned the proceedings until March, said Andrzej Czochara, head of the Interior Ministry's religion department.

He said the committee will have to take into account whether the properties are currently in use and, if so, local authorities may offer alternative sites instead.

"When we have a hospital or a school occupying the building it is hard to close them down," he said.

The six-member panel of three government lawyers and three Jewish community representatives was set up under a February 1997 law that deals with communal property. Separate legislation is planned to cover Jewish private property that was confiscated.

So far, the committee has received 40 claims, but Jewish community leaders suggest as many as 2,000 could be filed.

About 3.5 million Jews lived in Poland before World War II. About 3 million perished at the hands of the Nazis. Many of the survivors left Poland in the 1960s amid a communist-sponsored anti-Semitic campaign. About 20,000 Jews live in Poland today.

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press


Nazi-Resistance Display Opens

Sunday, January 25, 1998; 10:43 p.m. EST

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) -- An exhibit on German resistance within the wartime army that opened here Sunday aids understanding of the Nazi period, the regional governor said Sunday, a day after clashes over a separate but related display.

Hundreds of leftists and neo-Nazis brawled Saturday on a train to Dresden, where a traveling show contains evidence that regular soldiers within Hitler's Wehrmacht army committed atrocities alongside special units like the SS.

Speaking at Sunday's opening here, Gov. Hans Eichel said: "It was more than simply victims and perpetrators. There were resisters."

"It's not true that there was nothing one could do at the time. There were those who did something, who stayed true to humanity."

The exhibit, "Rebellion of Conscience," was produced in 1984 by German army historians. It provides background on the failed assassination attempt of Hitler on July 20, 1944, and lists officers who refused to comply with orders to kill Jews or send them to their deaths. Accompanying documents show how commanders deemed such officers defiant of the Nazi regime's attempts to handle "the Jewish question."

The show also profiles resistance rooted in political groups, including communist ones, that drew soldiers as members, and examines motives for resistance.

For example, Lt. Gen. Theodor Groppe, a devout Catholic, is said to have had religious reasons for refusing Nazi orders. He spoke out against the Nazi regime in 1939 because it urged SS soldiers to father children out of wedlock to boost the country's potential for future soldiers.

The controversial exhibit in Dresden, which has been making the rounds among German cities for three years, drew more than 1,400 demonstrators for competing protests Saturday.

Right-wing critics argue that the exhibit unfairly brands the entire Wehrmacht, which they maintain simply fought the enemy.

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press


Wednesday January 28, 1:57 pm Eastern Time

German Degussa makes payments to ex-slaves

(releads with Degussa confirmation of payments)

By Andrew Marshall

FRANKFURT, Jan 28 (Reuters) - German chemicals and metals group Degussa AG (DGSG.F) said on Wednesday it was making payments to former slave labourers who were forced to work in a Degussa factory in Poland during World War Two.

"Degussa is helping some individuals," a Degussa spokeswoman told Reuters, confirming a newspaper report. "They are former slave labourers from eastern Europe who during World War Two worked in the factory in Poland."

She declined to comment on the number of people who would receive compensation, or the amount of money involved. The nationality of the former slaves was also not released -- the spokeswoman would say only say they were eastern Europeans.

The spokeswoman made clear that Degussa did not consider the payments compensation, but rather humanitarian help.

The news came as Degussa marked its 125th anniversary on Wednesday with a statement reviewing its history, including the "difficult chapter" of the Nazi era.

Degussa did not mention the payments in the statement, but it said it was investigating its activities during World War Two, and would publish its findings.

The company acknowledged in June that it had melted down gold and silver taken from Holocaust victims during the Nazi era. It is co-operating with the Jewish World Congress to discover the whereabouts of precious metals taken from Jews during the 1930s and 1940s.

Degussa said it had also appointed U.S. historian Peter Hayes to investigate its chemicals activities during the war.

"In this area too, the National Socialist economic system determined the company's policy," Degussa said.

"Problem areas here include, among others, the acquisition of companies from Jewish ownership within the scope of Aryanisation, the use of forced labour, (and) the role of Degesch in which Degussa held an interest, in connection with the abuse of Zyklon B," the company said.

Zyklon B gas was used in the gas chambers of the Nazi death camps. Degesch was a company owned by the huge IG Farben chemicals group, which produced Zyklon B.

Degussa said it was also investigating its co-operation with the army's supreme command in connection with explosives and uranium.

Copyright © 1998 Reuters Limited.


Research: Nazi Doc Used Kid's Bodies

By George Jahn
Associated Press Writer
Friday, January 30, 1998; 2:21 p.m. EST

VIENNA, Austria (AP) -- A Vienna doctor accused of the Nazi-era killings of disabled children used the remains of the victims for research up to the mid-1960s, researchers said Friday.

The case of neurologist Heinrich Gross, who is being investigated on possible murder charges, was the subject of much of the discussion Friday at a conference on Nazi euthanasia in Germany and Austria.

Like many other professionals, Gross evaded punishment for his alleged crimes after the war and went on to achieve prominence in his field. His case has come to symbolize a fresh attempt by the Austrian capital to grapple with the Nazi past and decades-long attempts to protect those involved in its atrocities.

Gross stood trial in 1950 in connection with the euthanasia of some of the hundreds of children ordered killed by the Nazis at what is now Vienna's main psychiatric institute -- the site of the two-day symposium. But the case was thrown out on a legal technicality and the state prosecutor's office dropped the charges without explanation.

German historian Mathias Dahl said his research showed that Gross published five articles between 1955 and 1965 based on research using the preserved brains of children killed because they were deemed handicapped or anti-social. Six other articles published by him also likely used the same specimens, Dahl said.

Gross again was brought to trial in the 1980s, but evaded punishment because of a 30-year statute of limitations on manslaughter. After the war, he had gone on to head Vienna's main psychiatric institute and was sought as an expert witness at trials up to last year.

Gross lives just outside Vienna but refuses to talk to journalists. He has argued he was not present at the Vienna neurological hospital at the time in the 1940s when most of the children were killed.

But Austrian historian Wolfgang Neugebauer cited a letter in late 1944 from the head of the hospital asking for a bonus for Gross for coming to work at the hospital voluntarily while being on leave from the German Wehrmacht.

"This ... voluntary participation in children's euthanasia negates the argument of Dr. Gross that he was opposed to euthanasia and had reported to the Wehrmacht" instead, said Neugebauer.

Prosecutors are now investigating possibilities of a new trial on murder charges, which are not covered by a statute of limitation.

The new investigations were launched after the city last year publicized the existence of hundreds of preserved brains taken from the children after their death and used in medical research well into the post-war era. Their existence had not been widely known.

Austrians long were taught they were victims of Hitler's Germany, but many now believe that the country must shoulder a large part of the blame for the Holocaust and other Nazi horrors.

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press


Thursday January 29, 9:30 pm Eastern Time

U.S. State Dept. welcomes Israeli plan to cut aid

WASHINGTON, Jan 29 (Reuters) - The State Department Thursday welcomed a proposal by Israel to cut back U.S. civilian economic aid but said it remained "unshakeably committed" to the security of the Jewish state.

Israeli Finance Minister Yaakov Neeman is in Washington this week discussing a plan to phase out the annual $1.2 billion in civilian aid over 10-12 years. Israel would like half of this to be shifted to U.S. military aid, which currently stands at $1.8 billion a year.

"We welcome the Israeli government's initiative on this and we will be working closely with Israel and the Congress as the concept develops," State Department spokesman James Foley said.

Foley declined to discuss details of the plan, including the proposed increase in military aid, saying it was for the Israeli government to comment.

"But I would like to make clear that we reiterate our unshakeable commitment to Israel's security needs," he told a news briefing.

Neeman's talks with U.S. officials and members of Congress carry out a pledge by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in a speech to Congress in 1996, to wean Israel from more than two decades of reliance on an annual infusion of U.S. funds.

The details of the gradual reduction are to be worked out over the next two months, after which Neeman will return to Washington to discuss the agreement, Israeli embassy spokesman Gadi Baltiansky said.

A spokeswoman for the House of Representatives Appropriations Committee, Elizabeth Morra, said Neeman's talks with members of the committee were "very constructive" and they had applauded Netanyahu for following up on his pledge.

Aid to the Middle East has come under close scrutiny by U.S. lawmakers who have seen the region consume a larger percentage of the shrinking U.S. foreign aid budget.

Egypt and Israel together receive $5.1 billion a year in military and economic aid, the largest shares of the $13 billion U.S. foreign aid package.

Copyright © 1998 Reuters Limited.


Germans Mark Holocaust Victim Day

By Tony Czuczka
Associated Press Writer
Tuesday, January 27, 1998; 3:07 p.m. EST

BONN, Germany (AP) -- Germans marked a national memorial day Tuesday for 6 million Jews who died in the Holocaust, and lawmakers and historians alike urged the country to take measures to prevent renewed Nazi-style racism.

First observed two years ago, the Day of Remembrance of Victims of Nazism marks the Jan. 27, 1945, liberation of the Auschwitz death camp, where more than 1 million people, mostly Jews, died at the hands of the Nazis.

Ceremonies at former concentration camps and schoolroom discussions of Nazism were among the day's events. Though not a legal holiday, the day is Germany's official tribute to victims of Adolf Hitler's regime.

Against a backdrop of rising anti-foreigner violence, especially in Germany's depressed eastern states, the day's speeches stressed the importance of educating every generation about Nazi horrors.

"We have to carefully watch developments in our country and defend against the first signs of trouble," said Ignatz Bubis, head of Germany's Central Council of Jews.

Bubis helped dedicate a memorial at the Berlin Grunewald train station, from which almost 56,000 Berlin Jews were sent to Nazi forced labor and death camps.

At a ceremony in parliament in Bonn, lawmakers heard a string trio perform music written by Holocaust victim Gideon Klein while he was at the Theresienstadt camp. Klein, a Jew, also spent time in Auschwitz and later died in a Nazi camp in what is now the Czech Republic.

Parliament speaker Rita Suessmuth urged Germans to reflect on "the roots of dictatorship and terror" and not to look away when they see racism.

"This remembrance causes pain," she said. "Auschwitz may have happened decades ago, but it remains with us."

One Israeli Holocaust scholar, Yehuda Bauer, said recent genocides in Rwanda and Bosnia indicated that the world has learned little from the Holocaust.

"Remembering the Holocaust is only a first step," he told parliament. "To teach and to learn about everything that happened in World War II, about racism and anti-Semitism is the next, responsible step."

More than five decades after World War II, how to deal with the Nazi legacy remains an almost daily topic in Germany.

Attacks by right-wing extremists -- especially despondent youths in former communist East Germany -- rose last year for the first time in five years. The German military has been under fire after revelations of neo-Nazi activities in its ranks.

Chancellor Helmut Kohl, academics and artists have argued for years over the design of a planned Holocaust Memorial in Berlin, which will become Germany's seat of power again next year.

Critics used the occasion Tuesday to accuse Kohl's government of not giving enough compensation to frail Holocaust survivors in eastern Europe.

Instead, Germans and their politicians worry mainly "about esthetic aspects of remembrance such as the design of the Berlin Holocaust memorial," said the Association for the Information and Counseling of Nazi Victims.

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press


Nazi Hunter: Remove Papon Judge

By Marilyn August
Associated Press Writer
Friday, January 30, 1998; 4:24 p.m. EST

PARIS (AP) -- France's top Nazi hunter said Friday he will seek the removal of the chief judge in Maurice Papon's war crimes trial, who he contends is related to Jews caught in a roundup Papon allegedly ordered.

Serge Klarsfeld said earlier this week he has evidence that presiding Judge Jean-Louis Castagnade is related by marriage to a woman whose mother and two sisters died at Auschwitz after being sent there as part of a December 1943 roundup of Jews.

The woman, Esterina Benaim, went on to marry Castagnade's uncle, Klarsfeld says. Castagnade has made no public comment on the assertion.

Klarsfeld said he plans to enter a request Monday for Castagnade to step down. An appeals court will have one month to consider the request.

"Guilty or innocent, any verdict is colored if the judge handling the case is found to be related to a party in the trial -- in this case, to victims of the accused," Klarsfeld said in an interview.

Papon, 87, the highest-ranking official of the pro-Nazi Vichy regime ever to be tried for crimes against humanity, is alleged to have signed arrest orders that led to the deportation of 1,690 Jews, including 233 children, from Bordeaux. Most of them perished at Auschwitz.

Since his trial began in October, Papon has consistently claimed he only followed orders and was not directly responsible for the roundups and deportations.

Klarsfeld, and his German-born wife Beate, are top Nazi hunters who have brought many German war criminals to trial, including Klaus Barbie, the "Butcher of Lyon."

Their work in French and German wartime archives has led to a new understanding of the role former Vichy officials played in executing Hitler's Final Solution in France, and is largely responsible for the nation's postwar trials of Nazi collaborators.

Klarsfeld said Friday he believes Castagnede is steering jurors toward acquittal.

"He is indifferent to the victims and has been partial to Papon from the beginning," Klarsfeld said, referring to the judge's decision to release Papon from prison for the duration of the trial.

But the Klarsfelds stand alone in their attack on Castagnede's integrity. The defense, the state prosecutors and the other 26 civil party lawyers said Thursday they would not seek the judge's resignation.

"Castagnede ... is unquestionably impartial," said Adam Nossiter, an American author who has attended hearings daily since the trial opened Oct. 8 in Bordeaux.

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press


Goebbels' Bunker May Have Been Found

By Paul Geitner
Associated Press Writer
Tuesday, January 27, 1998; 7:08 a.m. EST

BERLIN (AP) -- Workers preparing the site for the future national Holocaust Memorial have uncovered what may be the long-forgotten bunker of one of the Third Reich's most virulent anti-Semites: Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels.

The three-room, 1000-square-foot underground space was apparently attached to an adjacent villa -- long since gone -- where Goebbels lived with his wife and six children.

Workers who broke through last week found rusted helmets, munitions and two empty safes. "Nothing special, unfortunately," project director Lutz Leupolt said in an interview Tuesday.

City officials say the discovery will not affect plans to build a national monument to the memory of the 6 million Jews killed in the Holocaust on the site. The land was donated by the federal government for the memorial in conjunction with its return to Berlin from Bonn in 1999.

A new design is to be chosen in mid-March and the cornerstone for the $8.3 million project is to be laid early next year.

"I think it's very appropriate, even exemplary," city culture department spokesman Axel Wallrabenstein said of putting the Holocaust memorial over the Goebbels bunker. It was Goebbels' hate-mongering against the Jews that helped pave the way for the Holocaust.

Officials believe Goebbels and his family used the bunker during World War II. But as Soviet troops closed in, they moved in with Hitler in his bunker, a few hundred yards away.

Goebbels and his wife committed suicide -- after first killing their children -- in Hitler's bunker on May 1, 1945, a day after their leader.

The land where the Goebbels bunker was found was for decades part of the no-man's land of the Berlin Wall.

The city will decide whether the bunker will be blown up, filled in or turned into a museum.

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press


Gypsies Push Holocaust for Claims

Wednesday, January 28, 1998; 8:59 p.m. EST

BONN, Germany (AP) -- Germany's Gypsies pushed the German government Wednesday to award monthly compensation to about 200 Gypsies who survived the Holocaust but haven't been able to qualify for restitution.

Romani Rose, head of Germany's Gypsy council, met in Bonn with Friedrich Bohl, government chief of staff, to press the government to loosen criteria so that more survivors can receive pensions.

Peter Berneiser of Germany's Gypsy council said some Gypsies have failed to qualify because they were imprisoned in places other than concentration camps or were not German citizens during World War II.

Failing to compensate Gypsies, who prefer to be called Roma, is especially unfair since the government has just set up a big pension fund for Eastern European Jews, Berneiser said.

Earlier this month, Germany said it would pay $110 million over five years to provide pensions of about $128 a month to Jewish Holocaust survivors in Eastern Europe.

Like Jews, Gypsies were rounded up, brutalized, interned, deported, and killed by Nazi Germany. Between 200,000 and half a million died, although the exact number is uncertain because many Gypsies were unregistered either in their native lands or by the Nazis and many deaths occurred in transit.

Bohl said many German Gypsies receive pensions under existing programs, which also pay pensions to Western European Jews. But he said government statistics don't show how many recipients are Gypsies.

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press


Berlin scholar unveils new Final Solution theory
04:20 p.m Jan 19, 1998 Eastern

By Fiona Fleck

BONN, Jan 19 (Reuters) - Adolf Hitler personally gave the order for the Final Solution, the Nazis' plan for the systematic extermination of Europe's Jews, according to new research by a young, unknown Berlin historian.

Christian Gerlach's findings, which have had a positive response from fellow historians, were presented to the public on Monday, on the eve of January 20 -- the day in 1942 when the Nazis drew up the Final Solution at the Wannsee Conference.

Historians say the first documentary evidence of a plan for the Final Solution, that resulted in the destruction of six million Jews, appears in the minutes of the 1942 conference.

These included plans for setting up extermination camps in Poland with the sole aim of industrial-scale killing of Jews, Gypsies and other groups Hitler was determined to eradicate.

Hitler did not actually attend the conference and so scholars are divided over whether he actually gave the order for the Final Solution himself before his Nazi lieutenants gathered at Wannsee or whether they were acting on their own initiative.

Using new findings from Russian archives, Gerlach argues Hitler gave the controversial order at a secret meeting with top Nazi officials and Gauleiters (district chiefs) in his Berlin chancellery a month earlier, on December 12, 1941.

"Gerlach has researched this extremely well. It is a very clever, very refreshing essay, but it does not entirely convince in some places," said Norbert Kampe, head of the research centre at the Wannsee villa where the notorious conference took place.

Gerlach also supports his theory with a new interpretation of entries from the diary of Nazi propaganda minister Josef Goebbels and a note in SS chief Heinrich Himmler's appointments diary which he says refer to the alleged meeting, Kampe told Reuters.

Gerlach, 34, is an independent researcher working at the Wannsee villa memorial and study centre.

His findings were published in the latest edition of a German historical periodical, called "Werkstatt Geschichte" (History Workshop).

The findings were due to be presented at the centre to an audience of about 200 people including historians, school classes and other members of the public, Kampe said.

"Hitler reached a turning point in December 1941 connected with the United States' entry into the war...and the Blitzkrieg in the Soviet Union was in a rut," historian Kampe said.

"Now perhaps for the first time, Hitler may have realised it was impossible to win the war...There is a sudden change in the direction of the war towards a victory -- that was possible -- over Europe's harmless and defenceless Jewish population.

Many historians believe Hitler must have given the order, citing his virulent anti-Semitism in his book "Mein Kampf" (My Struggle) outlining his theory of racial superiority.

But right-wing revisionists, notably British historian David Irving, have taken the lack of concrete evidence against Hitler to argue he was not responsible for the Holocaust.

The Nazis' extermination camps were equipped with gas chambers. They were in addition to a network of concentration camps, where some inmates were also slave labourers in factories while others were "selected" to die in the gas chambers. REUTERS


Fresh allegations of German army Nazi links-report
01:00 p.m Jan 17, 1998 Eastern

By Fiona Fleck

BONN, Jan 15 (Reuters) - A television programme reported on Thursday that a charity formed by ex-members of Hitler's elite SS force after the war had secured trucks from the German army for a "humanitarian" project tending German war graves.

The Defence Ministry confirmed the "Kameradenwerk Korps Steiner" (Steiner Comrades' Corps) had received two ex-service trucks from the army.

ARD television's Panorama programme said the organisation grouped ex-SS volunteers and neo-Nazi sympathisers and was named after Nazi icon SS General Felix Steiner.

Panorama said the Foreign Ministry responsible for vetting applications for humanitarian aid had failed in its duty to recognise undeserving recipients, such as the unrepentant Nazis, and that it was a scandal this had been possible.

It drew a parallel with the case of convicted neo-Nazi bomber Manfred Roeder who is currently at the centre of a scandal that badly damaged the army's reputation last year.

Bonn launched an inquiry after it emerged Roeder had given a talk at an elite military academy in 1995. Roeder had also secured army vehicles for "humanitarian" aid to Koenigsberg, a German city that passed to Russia when borders were redrawn after World War Two.

The Defence Ministry played down the importance of the Panorama report, saying it was already probing the group's background.

It said the group had applied for transport for a mission to look after the graves of German soldiers who died in Estonia during World War Two and that these and other details were still being investigated.

A string of incidents linking the German army with right-wing radicalism have damaged efforts to distance itself from the aggressive militarism of its Nazi past.

Incidents included reports that German soldiers on a peace mission in Croatia chanted "Sieg Heil," the Nazis' battle-cry, and the Nazi greeting "Heil Hitler."

In another report in the same programme, Panorama revealed what it described as new evidence of incidents linking the German army with right-wing extremism.

It quoted a recruit, named only as Boris T, as saying racist and anti-Semitic remarks were routine at a barracks in the north German city of Varel and his complaints about them were ignored by superior officers.


U.S. entry for Holocaust monument examined by Kohl
07:47 p.m Jan 22, 1998 Eastern

BERLIN, July 22 (Reuters) - An entry by two U.S. designers for Berlin's planned Holocaust memorial attracted particular attention from Chancellor Helmut Kohl at a viewing this week, people who were present said on Thursday.

"Kohl paid much attention to the work of (Peter) Eisenman and (Richard) Serra," said Lea Rosh, a German television presenter who has led a 10-year campaign for a monument to the six million Jews murdered during the Nazi regime.

She added that the final decision on the monument -- which was to be next Tuesday -- had been put back to mid-March to allow for changes to the Serra-Eisenman entry that Kohl suggested during the viewing on Wednesday.

The designers' plan calls for a landscape of 4,000 concrete pillars each measuring 0.92 metres (three feet) wide by 2.3 metres (8.5 feet) long and with varying heights ranging up to 7.5 metres (24.5 feet).

The overall effect is that of a graveyard-like labyrinth that can be entered by the visitor from any of its four sides. The proposed site is just south of the Brandenburg Gate.

Participants at the viewing said Kohl asked that the Serra-Eisenman entry be made smaller and that it be bordered, for example, by trees.

Rosh said all four of the final entries were still being considered. Berlin's top culture official, Peter Radunski, added that Kohl had not spoken out against any of the four.

The final decision is to be made by a panel of representatives from the federal government, the Berlin city authorities and the citizens' group chaired by Rosh.

Kohl's personal influence has however in the past proved decisive. In 1995 he vetoed a plan to erect a concrete slab the size of a football field, engraved with the names of millions of Jewish Holocaust victims.

Building work on the memorial is due to start at the beginning of 1999. REUTERS


German far-right violence rising, watchdog says
12:23 a.m. Jan 23, 1998 Eastern

BONN, Jan 22 (Reuters) - The number of violent incidents in Germany involving right-wing extremists rose more than 10 percent in 1997, the head of the country's constitutional watchdog agency was quoted as saying on Thursday.

Peter Frisch, president of the Federal Agency for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), described the development as a "slight but significant increase."

Acts of violence against foreigners and minorities almost doubled in the eastern states of Brandenburg surrounding Berlin and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Frisch was quoted as saying in an interview with the Cologne Stadt-Anzeiger newspaper released ahead of publication on Friday.

No absolute figures were given. Statistics last year showed however that far-right acts of violence were running at around 180 a month.

Frisch said a number of factors were behind the increase, including the weak economic situation and signs of a general increase in violent crime. REUTERS

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


Dresden court lifts ban on far-right rally
01:56 a.m. Jan 23, 1998 Eastern

DRESDEN, Germany, Jan 22 (Reuters) - A court in the eastern German city of Dresden on Thursday lifted a previously-issued ban on a protest by the right-wing National Democratic Party (NPD) planned for this weekend.

The NPD has said it plans to mobilise supporters across the country against a touring exhibition that highlights atrocities committed by Nazi-era German soldiers against Jews and other victims.

Dresden's Administrative Court lifted a ban on a protest previously issued by town authorities, saying the NPD was a political party permitted under the constitution.

The court upheld a ban on a counter-demonstration that was also planned for the city centre, but added that it could not prevent anti-rightist demonstrators rallying elsewhere in the city.

The exhibition, "War of Annihilation: Crimes of the Wehrmacht," has already toured Hamburg, Berlin, Munich and Frankfurt to angry and often violent protests by neo-Nazis and extreme right-wingers.

Dresden's town authorities said they would fight to have the ban reinstated. REUTERS


Clashes ahead of Dresden far-right rally-police
08:15 a.m. Jan 24, 1998 Eastern

By Deborah Cole

DRESDEN, Germany, Jan 24 (Reuters) - German police reported outbreaks of violence between right-wing extremists and counter-demonstrators on Saturday ahead of a planned far-right rally in the eastern city of Dresden.

Police said members of extreme-right groups threw stones at a train carrying leftist demonstrators as it pulled into a regional network station between Leipzig and Dresden.

The far-rightists boarded the train and there were scuffles during which several people were slightly injured, police said. The train had to make one emergency stop before completing its journey to Dresden.

The right-wing National Democratic Party (NPD) says it is planning a major protest in the city centre against a touring exhibition that highlights atrocities committed by Nazi-era German soldiers against Jews and other victims.

A counter-demonstration by left-wing groups has also been announced for Saturday. A police spokesman said around 3,000 policemen were assembled in the city by late morning.

The NPD said it was expecting around 1,500 protesters, a figure which would leave them heavily outnumbered by police. "We have sent information through all the usual channels to attract a heavy presence here," NPD chairman Udo Voigt told Reuters.

Dresden police chief Eberhard Pilz said on Friday hundreds of reinforcements were being brought in from other east German states and the large southern state of Bavaria to prevent outbreaks of violence between rival groups.

By around midday, the scheduled start of the rally, only several hundred NPD supporters had gathered at a square in the city centre. Around 1,000 left-wingers had assembled about a mile (two km) away.

The exhibition, "War of Annihilation: Crimes of the Wehrmacht," has already toured Hamburg, Berlin, Munich and Frankfurt to angry and often violent protests by neo-Nazis and extreme right-wingers.

Dresden's Administrative Court last week lifted a ban on the NPD protest previously issued by town authorities, saying the NPD was a political party permitted under the constitution.

The NPD has said the event would mark the start of its 1998 election campaign.

The anti-rightist demonstration, registered by the youth wing of the German Trade Union Federation (DGB) and expected to draw support from across the left-wing political scene, has been allowed to go ahead as long as it stays away from the NPD rally.

The planned march routes of the two groups do, however, cross at one point in the city centre.

((Bonn newsroom, +49 228 260970 fax +49 228 26097125, bonn.newsroom+reuters.com)) REUTERS


Thousands of police await Dresden far-right rally
07:39 a.m. Jan 24, 1998 Eastern

DRESDEN, Germany, Jan 24 (Reuters) - Thousands of police gathered in the eastern German city of Dresden on Saturday to control a demonstration planned by right-wing extremists.

The right-wing National Democratic Party (NPD) has said it plans a major protest in the city centre against a touring exhibition that highlights atrocities committed by Nazi-era German soldiers against Jews and other victims.

A counter-demonstration by left-wing groups has also been announced for Saturday. A police spokesman said around 3,000 policemen were assembled in the city by late morning.

The NPD said it was expecting around 1,500 protesters, a figure which would leave them heavily outnumbered by police. "We have sent information through all the usual channels to attract a heavy presence here," NPD chairman Udo Voigt told Reuters.

Dresden police chief Eberhard Pilz said on Friday hundreds of reinforcements were being brought in from other east German states and the large southern state of Bavaria to prevent outbreaks of violence between rival groups.

The exhibition, "War of Annihilation: Crimes of the Wehrmacht," has already toured Hamburg, Berlin, Munich and Frankfurt to angry and often violent protests by neo-Nazis and extreme right-wingers.

Dresden's Administrative Court last week lifted a ban on the NPD protest previously issued by town authorities, saying the NPD was a political party permitted under the constitution.

The NPD has said the event, which is due to start around 1100 GMT, would mark the start of its 1998 election campaign.

The anti-rightist demonstration, registered by the youth wing of the German Trade Union Federation (DGB) and expected to draw support from across the left-wing political scene, has been allowed to go ahead as long as it stays away from the NPD rally.

The planned march routes of the two groups do, however, cross at one point in the city centre.

  ((Bonn newsroom, +49 228 260970 fax +49 228 26097125,
bonn.newsroom+reuters.com)) REUTERS


FOCUS-Clashes, arrests at Dresden far-right rally
10:14 a.m. Jan 24, 1998 Eastern

By Deborah Cole

DRESDEN, Germany, Jan 24 (Reuters) - Outbreaks of violence between rival political groups accompanied a rally by hundreds of right-wing extremists in the eastern city of Dresden on Saturday, German police said.

The rally was held by the right-wing National Democratic Party (NPD) to protest against a touring exhibition that highlights atrocities committed by Nazi-era German soldiers against Jews and other victims.

Police said the worst trouble occurred when members of extreme-right groups threw stones at a train carrying counter-demonstrators to the rally as it pulled into a station between Leipzig and Dresden.

The far-rightists then boarded the train and there were scuffles during which several people were slightly injured. The train made an emergency stop.

Police then accompanied around 150 demonstrators from both sides back on a train to Leipzig.

The rally itself passed off relatively peacefully in central Dresden within view of some 3,000 police, including heavy reinforcements from neighbouring states. Nineteen arrests were made, including some for weapons offences.

Police said there were around 1,000 NPD supporters, outnumbered both by police and the estimated 1,200 anti-right-wing demonstrators, made up of groups from across the left-wing political scene.

The exhibition, "War of Annihilation: Crimes of the Wehrmacht," has already toured Hamburg, Berlin, Munich and Frankfurt to angry and often violent protests by neo-Nazis and extreme right-wingers.

"Our fathers were not criminals and we are proud of them," NPD chairman Udo Voigt told the rally to cheers, referring to allegations in the exhibition that ordinary soldiers and not just elite SS units took part in Nazi war crimes.

Voigt also mentioned the bleakest event in Dresden's history, the carpet bombing of the city by U.S.and British warplanes in February 1945. Historians broadly agree that at least 35,000 people were killed in several waves of bombing, although rightists put the figure at hundreds of thousands.

Voigt said that if anyone should be labelled a war criminal, it was the chief of Britain's Bomber Command, Sir Arthur "Bomber" Harris.

Aside from the protest against the Wehrmacht exhibition, the NPD styled the event as the start of its 1998 election campaign.

Banners at the rally included references to the NPD's domestic political agenda, with slogans such as "Jobs for Germans First."

  ((Bonn newsroom, +49 228 260970 fax +49 228 26097125,
bonn.newsroom+reuters.com)) REUTERS

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


German police break up illegal neo-Nazi concert
08:04 a.m. Jan 18, 1998 Eastern

BERLIN, Jan 18 (Reuters) - Police in the eastern German town of Pirna broke up a banned neo-Nazi concert and searched some 450 skinhead youths, confiscating propaganda leaflets, CDs and cassettes, authorities said on Sunday.

The police action took place late on Saturday.

Police said the concert-goers had shouted Nazi slogans between songs.

A relatively new genre of neo-Nazi rock music has been banned in Germany for inciting racist and religious prejudice.

But an underground black market for CDs and concerts of groups such as the "Boesen Onkels" (Bad Uncles) flourishes among right-wing youth.


Germany's Kohl urges ethical boundaries in biotech
02:03 p.m Jan 21, 1998 Eastern

BONN, Jan 21 (Reuters) - German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, recalling the past crimes of Nazi doctors, on Wednesday called on scientists to recognise moral boundaries in the pursuit of new therapies based on genetic engineering.

At a conference on innovation sponsored by his Christian Democratic (CDU) party, Kohl said if Germany was to secure economic prosperity in the future it could not allow itself to fall behind in competition in key technologies.

But in a comment on advances in biotechnology such as the ability to clone humans, Kohl said there must be a limit.

"Everything that is scientifically possible is not morally acceptable," he said.

"We have experienced this ourselves at the beginning of this century. "We are not completely independent on the road to scientific progress."

Kohl said a broad discussion was necessary in the light of advances in genetic engineering such as the cloning of sheep in Britain.

The German cabinet on Tuesday adopted a list of measures to promote genetic research and development, but maintained strict opposition to cloning humans and experimenting on embryos.

The measures are aimed at making Germany more competitive in the fast-growing bio-technology industry.

German genetic research has suffered for years from public opposition that is linked to disclosures at the end of World War Two of racially-motivated experiments on humans and euthanasia programmes conducted by Nazi doctors.

Hoping to promote new industries that could create jobs as German unemployment hits record levels, the government has stepped up aid to the bio-technology industry and it is beginning to attract investment by international firms.


FOCUS-Kohl eyes election win with help from euro
08:24 p.m Jan 20, 1998 Eastern

By Steve Pagani

ROME, Jan 20 (Reuters) - Chancellor Helmut Kohl, firing an early shot ahead of Germany's general election campaign, said on Tuesday the introduction of Europe's single currency, the euro, would help him return to power in the September poll.

Kohl, in Rome for talks with Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi, said he did not know whether the majority of Germans favoured the single currency or not, but he was sure its planned launch would boost his bid for a record fifth term in office.

"The introduction of the euro will give me a big hand in winning this year's elections," the chancellor, Europe's veteran Europhile, told a news conference.

"This is why my political rivals have shied away from the issue," he said, in jocular mood.

Kohl, Germany's longest-serving chancellor this century, wants to crown his political career by clinching the September 27 poll and seeing in the single currency.

He scorned the endless debate, notably in the media, about which EU states will make the grade for membership of the euro and counselled patience until the final decision is made in May.

"At the moment there is little sense in philosophising on what others will do. We must wait calmly for the fateful date," he said. "Everyone must do his homework for EMU. The date is decided and the grades will be given that day and not before."

The chancellor said the progress Europe had made towards political and economic integration would have been unthinkable in the days following what the called the barbaric Nazi period during World War Two.

"The European caravan will continue down its road and no one will stop it," he added.

After the news conference, Prodi and Kohl continued their 90-minute talks in a restaurant near Rome's ancient Pantheon building, dining on four types of pasta, lamb, veal, artichokes, mixed fruit, tiramisu and cheesecake.

The meeting came a day after European finance ministers approved projections for Italy's public finances. The EU said measures outlined in Italy's 1998 budget should keep the country's deficit below the three percent of gross domestic product (GDP) required for the single currency.

Prodi, buoyed by the cautious endorsement of his hard-fought economic overhaul, is acutely aware of lingering concern in some German and EU circles about the size of Italy's public debt, which is double the ceiling set for EMU entry.

"Monetary union must be born of coherence and rigour and be born solid, without inflation and with the goal of development, which affects all participating countries," Prodi told the news conference. "That's not just in Germany's interests but is particularly in the interests of Italy."

Germany's business daily Handelsblatt remained sceptical over Italy's eligibility following Monday's meeting of EU finance ministers. Citing Italy's 1997 Euro-tax and revaluation of its gold reserves, the paper said Rome had resorted to creative accounting to get in shape for EMU.

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper said Rome had still to prove its budget consolidation was sustainable.

Kohl declined to comment on Italy's public debt, which is currently at 123.2 percent of GDP. The Italian government has pledged it will halve its debt mountain within 10 years and drag it below 100 percent of GDP within the next five or six years.

The leaders discussed coordinated EU action to stem the flow of Kurd immigrants into Europe. In 1997 nearly 2,000 Kurds arrived in boats on Italy's southern coast.

Germany has criticised Italy's lax immigration laws, which leave illegal immigrants at large for 14 days before they can be deported. Many have fled accommodation centres to head for northern Europe, especially Germany, to join family or friends.

Prodi and Kohl said a plan to improve communications and exchanges of information between police and border guards of countries belonging to the EU's Schengen accord should help to clamp down on illegal immigration. REUTERS


FEATURE - Kohl banks on Bavarians to bring home the bacon
12:43 a.m. Jan 21, 1998 Eastern

By Andrew Gray

WILDBAD KREUTH, Germany, Jan 21 (Reuters) - To many Germans, Bavarians are a rather strange lederhosen-clad race whose idea of a good time involves large mugs of beer and oom-pah music.

To Chancellor Helmut Kohl, the scenic southern state means one thing above all -- the home of his closest allies, the arch-conservative Christian Social Union (CSU), whose fortunes are central to his efforts to win a record fifth term.

Kohl is certain to have watched with interest when the CSU's members of parliament met in the idyllic snow-covered resort of Wildbad Kreuth, perched on the edge of the Bavarian Alps, earlier this month to plot election strategy.

"We have the right people and the right issues," concluded CSU parliamentary leader Michael Glos confidently at the end of the three-day meeting.

Europe's longest-serving head of government is banking on Glos being right.

The CSU deputies' recipe for success in this September's general election is pretty simple -- tough law and order policies, a hard line on immigration and never miss the chance to play on the Bavarians' strong sense of regional identity.

As befits a party which cultivates the image of folksy straight-talkers, their goals for the year are also unambiguous.

"Our aim is to win an absolute majority of votes in the elections for both the parliament and the (Bavarian) state assembly," declared Theo Waigel, the party's bushy-eyebrowed leader, who is also Kohl's finance minister in Bonn.

The CSU faces the voters in a Bavarian state poll on September 13 and again two weeks later in the general election.

That the CSU can even aim for such ambitious targets says a lot about its continuing strength in Bavaria, where it has run the state government and won an absolute majority of votes in every general election since the 1950s.

"The CSU is seen in Bavaria as a sort of state party," said Wichard Woyke, a political science professor at Muenster University. As such, it tries to be all things to all people.

INDISPENSABLE FOR KOHL

The party projects the image of high-tech modernisers for the state's big companies like Siemens and carmaker BMW but also sees itself as guardian of the traditional Bavarian way of life for feather-capped farmers and rural dwellers.

"The opinion polls show us performing better than we did four years ago," Waigel said after the meeting. "But that's no reason to be self-confident or lie back. We have to fight."

Under a deal between the two sister parties, the chancellor's own Christian Democratic Union (CDU) campaigns for the conservative camp in the rest of Germany but leaves the field clear for the more right-wing CSU in Bavaria.

The two parties then pool their members of parliament to form the bedrock of Kohl's coalition.

The CSU is already the second strongest party in the alliance of CDU, CSU and liberal Free Democrats (FDP). With opinion polls showing the FDP struggling badly, Kohl needs all the help he can get from Waigel and company.

"The CSU is indispensable when it comes to forming a government, and the CDU knows that," Woyke said.

This means Kohl, a past master at coalition horsetrading, has to tolerate Bonn-bashing from the party bosses in Munich -- above all from Bavarian premier Edmund Stoiber.

The populist Stoiber's favourite pastime is warning of the dangers of Europe's planned single currency -- the project Kohl sees as the crowning glory of his long political career.

Glos and other Bonn leaders in the party had hoped Kreuth would herald a more euro-friendly stance from the CSU.

Stoiber put paid to that, turning up half an hour early for a meeting with the deputies to tell assembled camera crews and reporters outside all about his reservations about the euro.

UNITY IN DANGER

A certain tension between the grassroots in Bavaria and the parliamentary party in Bonn is normal but commentators believe Kreuth exposed splits which could prove costly at the polls.

"The CSU's legendary unity is a thing of the past," concluded the Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper.

"For a long time now, this has not been about the usual animosities and vanities of the leadership. There are deep differences about questions of policy," the liberal daily said.

In addition to the well-publicised row over the euro, the Munich and Bonn groups are also at odds over plans to reform the social security system.

Kohl will have watched events in Kreuth with a certain degree of concern but even he may have raised a smile at a remark made by one of the congress guests, Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker.

Juncker had been invited to talk about European policy but he demonstrated a deep knowledge of the German domestic political scene when he commented that Kreuth was "known for decisions which are not always put into practice."

At the very first Kreuth meeting in 1976, CSU deputies decided to dissolve their alliance with the CDU.

The move sent shockwaves through Germany and could have spelled the end of the CDU's leader, who had then only been in the post a few years -- a certain Helmut Kohl.

Fortunately for Kohl, the CSU's grassroots rebelled against the decision and it was never carried out. He went on to gain power in 1982 and win four general elections.

Although he might be concerned about splits in the CSU, at least the chancellor knows that this time that no one is seriously contemplating leaving the fold. "We see no alternative to this coalition," Glos made clear at the closing news conference.

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


Kohl backs controversial plan for oath ceremony
04:36 p.m Jan 22, 1998 Eastern

BERLIN, Jan 22 (Reuters) - German Chancellor Helmut Kohl on Thursday backed a controversial proposal to hold a public swearing-in ceremony for army recruits on the anniversary of the construction of the Berlin Wall.

In a row that goes to the heart of Germany's efforts to come to terms with its history, the plan has prompted threats by anarchists and left-wing groups to picket the event, while opposition politicians charge it is tactless and ill-conceived.

Kohl said he expected Berlin state officials and deputies to support the proposal to hold the ceremony in eastern Berlin on August 13 -- 37 years to the day after construction started on the Wall which divided the city for nearly three decades.

"The chancellor thinks August 13 is an appropriate and correct date," government spokesman Peter Hausmann said.

"What is important for him is that the Berlin government and state assembly clearly commit themselves to the German army and to the public swearing-in," Hausmann said in a statement.

Fellow conservatives have backed the idea too, saying the day and the Cold War division it came to represent should not be forgotten just as Germany commemorates days linked with the Holocaust and Nazi crimes.

But critics have attacked the plan, saying August 13 evokes the bitterest memories for Berliners, many of whose families were divided by the now-dismantled Wall.

Opposition Social Democrats (SPD) and Greens said it would be more fitting to hold the ritual on another day.

They suggested July 20, the day Wehrmacht army officers attempted to assassinate Hitler in 1944.

"Swearing-in ceremonies require a sensitive approach, particularly concerning the choice of time and place," said Walter Kolbow, the SPD defence spokesman in the Bonn parliament.

"Public swearing-in ceremonies should not divide society, nor should they lead to major riots," Kolbow said, referring to the hostility of anarchist groups to the plan.

The former East Germany used to celebrate the day it erected what it called its "anti-Fascist protection wall" on August 13, 1961 with a large military parade. REUTERS


World War Two historian denies he "Swiss-basher"
07:33 p.m Jan 23, 1998 Eastern

By Irwin Arieff

PARIS, Jan 23 (Reuters) - An historian studying Switzerland's treatment of Jews during World War Two denied on Friday he was a "Swiss-basher" and said he only wanted to determine the truth about a painful era.

"In Switzerland, they call me a 'Swiss-basher'. They say I am dishonest (but) there are blank pages in Swiss history that must be written," U.S. historian Alan Schom told a Paris news conference.

"I am told that the young people of Switzerland are outraged. They are outraged because their fathers and grandfathers hid the truth," said Schom.

In a report released in Los Angeles earlier this month entitled "The Unwanted Guests - Swiss Forced Labor Camps 1940 - 1944," Schom said thousands of Jews entering Switzerland during the war years were forced into Swiss labour camps where they toiled at gunpoint for little or no compensation.

The report was prepared for the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center.

At the January 13 news conference at which the report was released, the center's dean and founder Rabbi Marvin Hier asked Switzerland to apologise publicly to the Jews held in its labour camps.

Instead, special Swiss envoy Thomas Borer, who heads a Swiss task force looking into the country's World War Two past, called Schom a "Swiss basher" while a task force spokeswoman dismissed his report as "outrageous and dishonest."

During the Paris news conference, sponsored by the Wiesenthal Center's Paris office, Swiss journalists peppered Schom with hostile questions, saying he had failed to prove the Swiss treated Jews differently from other refugees.

Shimon Samuels, the center's director for international liaison, responded that the report's findings were "preliminary" and deserved further study by the Swiss themselves.

He urged the Swiss to look into their official archives rather than launch personal attacks on Schom.

Schom said he planned to meet President Flavio Cotti, at Rabbi Hier's request, in early March to ask that the mandate of the Swiss task force be expanded to look into the allegations concerning the labour camps.

Schom said he was now at work on a broader study of the Swiss examining anti-Semitism there during the war years. The report is to be made public in March in Los Angeles, he said.

"I know I am not very popular in Switzerland now. I think I will be even less popular when that report comes out. But it is important for the young people of Switzerland," he told Reuters. REUTERS

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


Sweden, Yugoslavia agree on return of citizens
05:29 p.m Jan 20, 1998 Eastern

STOCKHOLM, Jan 20 (Reuters) - Sweden said on Tuesday it signed an accord with Yugoslavia over the return of Yugoslav citizens, mostly Kosovo-Albanians, to their home country.

The foreign ministry said the agreement, reached after two years of negotiations, removed an obstacle in bilateral relations between Sweden and Yugoslavia.

"The agreement establishes an important principle: the right of every individual to be received by his or her native country," Swedish deputy foreign minister Pierre Schori said in a statement.

"We consider that the principle must apply to all who want to be part of the European family," he said.

The agreement concerned some 1,800 Yugoslav citizens in Sweden -- mostly Kosovo-Albanians -- who were being denied entry into Sweden but allowed to stay for the time being, the foreign ministry said.

The accord would take effect as soon as Yugoslavia ratified it.

Sweden, once considered a haven for migrants, has cracked down on immigration in recent years. REUTERS

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


Four Americans jailed in Sweden for Nazi salutes
07:51 a.m. Jan 20, 1998 Eastern

STOCKHOLM, Jan 20 (Reuters) - A Swedish court has sentenced four Americans to one month in jail for making Nazi salutes during a rock concert near Stockholm earlier this month, a court official said on Tuesday.

He said U.S. citizens Eric Dobbs, Andrew Miokovic, Danielle Reda and Lee Sugg were among a group of 20 foreigners and almost 300 Swedes who were detained by police for shouting racist and neo-Nazi slogans during the concert on January 4.

The official said two of the Americans belonged to a band called Mex Resist and one of them raised his arm in the Nazi salute while on stage. The other salutes were made in separate incidents.

All the other foreigners, Germans and Norwegians, were released from custody without being charged.

Nazi sympathies have been on the rise among young people in Sweden, blemishing the country's image as a promoter of racial tolerance and champion of human rights. REUTERS


Gaza protests back French writer in Holocaust trial
02:40 p.m Jan 19, 1998 Eastern

By Nidal al-Mughrabi

GAZA, Jan 19 (Reuters) - Palestinian intellectuals demonstrated in Gaza on Monday in support of French Moslem writer Roger Garaudy, facing trial in France for arguing that the World War Two Nazi killing of Jews was no Holocaust.

"We condemn the trial of the Moslem writer Roger Garaudy and we ask all believers in human rights and freedom of expression to back him," said Palestinian Telecommunications Minister Imad al-Fallouji.

The protests coincided with a high-profile Arab-Jewish flap in which an angry Palestinian President Yasser Arafat was reported to have cancelled a planned visit to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum after museum officials refused him an official reception.

Garaudy, 84, was brought to trial after several anti-racism groups accused him of denying the Nazis had committed crimes against humanity.

He rejects the charges, filed after he said in a book that the wartime killings amounted to "pogroms" or "massacres" but that it was an exaggeration to call the Nazi crimes "genocide" or "Holocaust." He also denies six million Jews were killed.

Carrying banners through Gaza's streets accusing French authorities of surrendering to "Zionist cultural terrorism" for putting Garaudy on trial, writers, academics, clerics and politicians marched on Monday to the French Cultural Centre.

The Palestinian Writers Union and university professors joined in the protest and gave out leaflets urging the French authorities and courts to acquit Garaudy.

"We express our bitterness and anger against the prosecution of the philosopher Garaudy on charges of thinking in a loud voice," a leaflet handed to the French centre read.

The Palestinian campaign joined similar efforts in the Moslem world to show backing for Garaudy during the trial.

"No one has contested all the films and books that have told what happened to the Jews by Hitler in an unbelievable and exaggerated manner, so why not give Garaudy the right to state his point over the issue?" Ahmed Abdel-Rahman, general secretary of the Palestinian Authority, told Reuters.

Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, founder of the militant Islamic Resistance Movement Hamas, which has killed scores of Israelis in suicide attacks, accused Western states of adopting double standards and siding against Moslems.

"Why do these contradicting Western regimes which embraced and gave all support to (the English writer of Indian origin) Salman Rushdie, who insulted the Prophet Mohammad in his writings, now seek to punish a writer because of his views over an issue related to the Jews?" Yassin told Reuters.

The U.S. Holocaust museum's snub to Arafat was reported to have followed protests by right-wing American Jews who likened Arafat, a former guerrilla chief, to Adolf Hitler.

Garaudy's lawyer Jacques Verges has termed the French trial a witch-hunt. He has condemned a French law forbidding the denial of crimes against humanity as "fascist, racist, wicked and against freedom."

The prosecution urged the court on Thursday to fine Garaudy 150,000 francs ($24,500) and also recommended a six-month suspended jail term and a fine of 150,000 francs for Pierre Guillaume, publisher of Garaudy's book. The court will give its judgment on February 27. ^[email protected]


Arabs decry trial of Frenchman doubting holocaust
11:03 a.m. Jan 20, 1998 Eastern

By Rawhi Abeidoh

CAIRO, Jan 20 (Reuters) - Arab intellectuals, human rights activists and professionals have launched a campaign in solidarity with French Moslem author Roger Garaudy, on trial in a Paris court for trivialising the Holocaust against Jews.

They have set up funds to gather donations, issued statements and formed a team of lawyers to defend Garaudy, a strong critic of Israel's Middle East policies.

"We are trying to mobilise world public opinion in support of Garaudy because this is a case of racism," Mohammed Fayek, head of the Arab Organisation for Human Rights (AOHR), told Reuters on Tuesday.

Garaudy, 84, who denies any wrongdoing, was brought to trial after several anti-racism groups accused him of denying crimes committed against humanity, itself a crime under French law, in his book "The Founding Myths of Israeli Politics."

He has argued that Hitler's killing of the Jews amounted to "pogroms" or "massacres" but that it was an exaggeration to call the Nazi crimes "genocide" or "Holocaust."

He has also denied that six million Jews were killed and called for a public debate among specialists on the issue.

Iranian President Mohammad Khatami on Monday became the first Middle Eastern leader to voice support for Garaudy, saying he was being prosecuted because the West objected to his ideas.

"In France a scientist writes a book about Zionism which the West doesn't like and for this reason they are prosecuting him," the official Iranian news agency IRNA quoted Khatami as saying.

In Gaza, a group of Palestinian writers, academics, clerics and politicians marched on Monday to the French Cultural Centre to express support for Garaudy.

Some Moslem commentators have blasted France for what they see as double standards in the way it has dealt with the case.

Egypt's Press Union said in a statement that "racist Zionist pressures" had prompted France to bring Garaudy to trial.

"French society is a secular society that has great respect for intellectual achievement. All issues, even God's existence, are open to question. How come it does not tolerate an examination of Zionist beliefs?" the union's chairman Makram Mohammed Ahmed told the English-language al-Ahram Weekly.

"Why has the West...not resorted to the civilised liberal means which it is forever attempting to impose on the peoples of the Third World?" Hassan Nafaa, professor of political science at Cairo University, wrote in the same newspaper.

"The West, with its long liberal legacy, has fallen hostage to a political movement of which (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu is the official spokesman," he added.

Farouq Abu Issa, Secretary-General of the Arab Lawyers Federation, said five attorneys had flown to Paris to join Garaudy's defence team led by French lawyer Jacques Verges and his federation was collecting money for Garaudy's costs.

Al-Khaleej newspaper in the United Arab Emirates has also set up a fund to which Sheikha Fatima, wife of UAE president Sheikh Zaid bin Sultan al-Nahayan, has contributed $50,000.

Abu Issa said he had written to Arab leaders seeking support for Garaudy and was awaiting their response. He described popular reaction as overwhelming.

Abu Issa said Arab professional unions -- lawyers, journalists, writers, workers and doctors -- had agreed in Cairo on Sunday to set up a committee in support of Garaudy.

"The aim of the committee is to expose legal gaps in the law under which Garaudy is being tried," he added.

A spokesman for the annual government-run Cairo International Book Fair, where Garaudy's books are usually prominently displayed, said on Tuesday the author had been invited to attend the event that opens on February 5.

"We are preparing a big welcome for him in Cairo," Abu Issa said.

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


Palestinian Holocaust views on show in museum flap
08:47 p.m Jan 21, 1998 Eastern

By Daniel Sternoff

JERUSALEM, Jan 21 (Reuters) - Controversy over a possible visit by Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to the Holocaust Museum in Washington has highlighted complex Palestinian attitudes towards the Nazi genocide of Jews.

Palestinians often equate Israel to a Nazi state, drawing angry responses from Jewish leaders who balk at comparisons between Israeli treatment of Arabs and the slaughter of six million Jews in the Holocaust.

In one recent protest in the West Bank, Palestinians burned an Israeli flag daubed with a Nazi swastika.

Such symbolism implicitly recognises Nazism as evil.

But, at the same time, Palestinian media have carried remarks which Israel says smack of anti-Semitic Nazi propaganda, or trivialise the Holocaust.

Arab and Israeli analysts say such seeming contradictions reflect sheer historical ignorance of the persecution of Jews in World War Two -- and prove the old adage that "my enemy's enemy is my friend."

"The Holocaust does not register much in Palestinian consciousness," said Khalil Shikaki, director of the Centre for Palestine Research and Studies (CPRS). "People don't talk much about it and they don't know much about it.

"The trend in the past has been to characterise Israelis and Jews in a negative light, including as Nazis.

"Nazism in general is correlated with evil, the enemy. But for most people, why it is evil, why it is the enemy is not really known," Shikaki said.

Which is why many Jews and Arabs say a landmark visit -- if it goes ahead -- by Arafat to the Holocaust Museum while in Washington for talks with U.S. President Bill Clinton on Thursday could be a historic step.

Israeli author Tom Segev, whose book "The Seventh Million" explores the Holocaust and Israel's creation in 1948, agreed with Shikaki and said that the main issue was Palestinian education -- not use of "anti-Semitic rhetoric."

"They simply don't have knowledge of the Holocaust. There are no books in Arabic. The important books have not been translated. They don't study it in universities. They don't have films," Segev said.

"Many think it is all a Zionist campaign. Why? They have good reason. The Holocaust proved that there was a need to create a state for the Jews.

"The Palestinians are so uninformed that they can accept Holocaust deniers with open arms...because if the Holocaust encourages Israel, then let's support the people who deny the Holocaust," Segev said.

He cited as an example Palestinian protests this week in support of French Moslem author Roger Garaudy, facing trial in France for arguing in his book, "The Founding Myths of Israeli Politics," that Hitler's crimes did not amount to genocide.

Arafat said on Tuesday he would be "keen" to visit the museum after its directors reversed an earlier decision to snub him out of concern of offending some Jews who have called the former guerrilla leader "Hitler incarnate."

"I see Arafat in a revolutionary position if he goes to the museum," said Dr Mahdi Abdul Hadi of the Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs.

"It is at once saying 'I recognise your suffering' and also saying 'I am here too, are you ready to recognise my suffering?"' Abdul Hadi told Reuters.

Some of Arafat's Palestinian critics oppose a visit.

"If I were him, I would refuse it because it means the recognition of the Zionist allegations over the massacres that happened to them," said Sheikh Ahmad Yassin, founder of the militant Islamic group Hamas.

"There are some intellectuals in the world who doubt the truth of these allegations," Yassin said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday was dismissive of a possible Arafat museum tour.

"I would hope that the first thing that would happen is that there would be an immediate change in the unfortunate habit of the controlled Palestinian press to both deny the Holocaust and denigrate it by casting aspersions on Israel as a Nazi state," he told reporters in Washington.

Both Shikaki and Segev said a museum visit -- now or in the future -- would be a step to educate Palestinians and to begin to counter the misgivings of Netanyahu and other Jews.

"As long as the Palestinians don't understand the tragedy of the Israelis and as long as the Israelis don't understand the tragedy of the Palestinians it is impossible to make peace," Segev said. REUTERS


Holocaust as Political Weapon in Israel

Saturday, January 24, 1998

Arafat's planned visit to U.S. memorial museum ignites latest furor in long-running controversy over whether pain of Nazi genocide is exploited to sway public opinion.

By MARJORIE MILLER, Times Staff Writer

JERUSALEM--Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat's on-again, off-again, on-again invitation to Washington's Holocaust Memorial Museum has ignited a firestorm of debate in Israel, as might be expected in a Jewish state where 20% of the people are Holocaust survivors or their offspring.

Israelis, like American Jews, have divided into two main camps: those who hoped that a tour of the memorial would teach Arafat about Jewish suffering and let him acknowledge it to Palestinians who see the Holocaust as Zionist propaganda, and those who view Arafat as an unrepentant killer of Jews whose presence in the museum would make a mockery of the worst chapter in Jewish history.

But across the divide, Israelis have united in charging that the Shoah, as the Nazis' attempt to annihilate European Jewry is called in Hebrew, is being exploited for political gain.

"The Americans who started this wanted to use it. Arafat said yes because he wanted to use it. And the American Jews who said no wanted to use it too," John Lemberger, director of Amcha, a center for Holocaust survivors, said of the planned visit. In the end, Arafat said his tight schedule this week did not leave him time to tour the museum but that he will do so the next time he comes to Washington.

"It was a kidnapping of the the Shoah for political ends," Lemberger said.

In fact, using the Holocaust is nothing new in Israel's polarized national politics and feverish public discourse. Activists on the left and right, as well as secular and religious militants, frequently invoke the language of the Nazis to attack their political enemies. Holocaust memories--and the fears they awaken in Jews--are evoked to sway public opinion in the Jewish state.

Israeli leaders going back to Menachem Begin have called Arafat a "Hitler" and compared the Palestine Liberation Organization to the Nazi SS. Various Likud Party leaders have referred to Israel's 1967 borders as the borders of Auschwitz.

On the left, a prominent physics professor and political commentator named Yeshayahu Liebowitz once said that Israeli soldiers putting down the intifada, or Palestinian rebellion, in the occupied territories were "Judeo-Nazis."

More recently, ultra-Orthodox demonstrators trying to close Jerusalem's Bar Ilan Street on the Jewish Sabbath by throwing rocks at motorists called the intervening Israeli police "Nazis." And after a wave of suicide bombings by Islamic extremists in 1996, opponents of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process said the Labor Party government that signed the agreements was leading Israelis "to slaughter like sheep."

Violent Hyperbole in Political Debate

While such terms are used in many other countries, it is not with such frequency and does not have the same resonance as in Israel. The use of such violent and vulgar hyperbole in Israeli political debate, the experts say, is part of the trauma of the Holocaust. For Jews, the Nazi era represents the total collapse of human values and the death of 6 million brethren. Hitler is evil incarnate, and his name is the worst epithet a Jew can use against an enemy.

"No one accuses their enemy of being Saddam Hussein, Mussolini or Hirohito," said Yehuda Bauer, director of education at Yad Vashem, Israel's Holocaust museum.

"It is a social and psychological trauma. . . . After all, these analogies reflect unrealistic attitudes. What the Nazis did in Europe cannot be compared to anything that has happened here," Bauer said.

In the last 30 years, there have been 2,000 Palestinian deaths in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Bauer said. "That is one-sixth of one train from Hungary to Auschwitz. It is too many, but it cannot be compared. The same is true on our side. We have had 600 to 700 casualties. That is horrible, but a comparison is ridiculous. This is two people fighting. The intention of the Nazis was to annihilate every single Jew."

Israelis have a more complicated relationship with the Holocaust than outsiders might expect. In British Palestine and the early years of the state of Israel, as the starved and broken Holocaust survivors poured in, open discussion of the tragedy that had befallen the Jewish people was taboo. Many Jews were ashamed that their kin had been led so easily to slaughter. Many were angry that the victims had not put up a greater fight, and they felt guilty that they had not done more to save their own.

"There was a great deal of shame, and people did not know how to deal with it," said Tom Segev, author of "The Seventh Million," a book about Israel's treatment of the Holocaust.

That the state of Israel was established largely as a result of the Holocaust only made things more difficult.

"It would not be unreasonable to say that the U.N. resolution on the establishment of the state would not have passed were it not for the trauma of the genocide which took place on European soil," commentator Ran Kislev wrote in the daily newspaper Haaretz this week. "Even the mass immigration to Israel might not have occurred without the Holocaust. This is the close political connection between the Holocaust and the state of Israel, part of whose population is Holocaust survivors and their children and grandchildren."

Although the country held an official commemoration of the Holocaust each year, the emotional turmoil led to an official silence about its horrors, much like the one that prevailed in Germany between the generation that filled the Nazi ranks, or turned a blind eye to what happened, and that generation's children and grandchildren.

For ultra-Orthodox Jews, grappling with the Holocaust was even more difficult. They had been among the hardest-hit groups of European Jews because they were the least able to emigrate or to blend in and hide among the Gentiles. On top of their losses, they had to confront the deepest of theological issues: Why had God allowed this to happen? Many chose to blame the secular Zionists who moved to Israel and established a secular state in the Jewish Holy Land.

"For the ultra-Orthodox, secularization is identical to the annihilation of the soul," said Menachem Friedman, a respected sociologist. "You prevent a person from inheriting heaven; you kill him spiritually. What the Nazis did to the body, secular Jews did to the soul. Only that was worse, because the soul is eternal."

The secular Zionists, then, were as bad as the Nazis and were attacked as such in the ultra-Orthodox press.

While many ultra-Orthodox may still believe this, their rabbis and media are somewhat more careful about saying so today, aware that likening Jews to Nazis hurts many people in Israel

.

Holocaust Passed On 'Almost in Our Genes'

Meanwhile, among secular Israelis the painful silence on the Holocaust has been breaking down over the last decade, and gradually the tragedy has become part of the nation's collective identity. The majority of Israelis find the use of the Holocaust by political and religious extremists abhorrent.

There are about 360,000 survivors of the Holocaust and an estimated 700,000 offspring in Israel, according to the Amcha organization. Many of the survivors now feel comfortable enough to roll up their sleeves in public to reveal the bruise-like concentration camp numbers tattooed on their forearms, or to tell the story of seeing their parents marched off to the gas chambers, to evaporate into smoke and ashes.

Today, thousands of Israeli students visit the Polish and German concentration camps each year and go to Yad Vashem to learn about the Holocaust. Robert Wistrich, a history professor at Hebrew University, said he has to turn students away from his overcrowded course on Nazism and the "final solution."

Many Israelis who never experienced the Holocaust now feel that they are survivors themselves.

"Each of us carries something of the Holocaust inside, and it is passed almost in our genes from generation to generation," Kislev wrote in Haaretz. "Our collective memory is based on this. But this does not justify turning the Holocaust into a political tool, whether by politicians or parties, to attack their enemies. And this is so not only because it is wrong, but mostly so as not to cheapen the Holocaust, thereby minimizing its importance and terrible significance."

Kislev called the controversy over Arafat and the Holocaust museum "foolish" and said, "One may choose to accept or reject Arafat as a partner in the peace process; one may even reject the entire process--but please, leave the Holocaust out of it."

Shevah Weiss, a Labor Party member of the Knesset, Israel's parliament, and its former speaker, is not one to let political abuses of the Holocaust experience go unpunished. But he acknowledges that just about everything in Israel is political, and the Holocaust often comes into play.

Weiss, who spent some of his childhood hiding from Nazis underground in Ukraine, called a halt to Knesset deliberations over one of the Israeli-Palestinian peace agreements in 1995 after learning that protesters had brandished pictures of then-Labor Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin wearing a Gestapo uniform. He demanded an apology from then-opposition Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu, who had spoken at the downtown rally where the poster appeared.

Netanyahu apologized, although he said he knew nothing about the offensive picture held up at the back of the crowd. It turned out that the drawing had been distributed by a right-wing activist and informant for Israel's secret service who also was a friend of the man who assassinated Rabin a month later over peacemaking with the Palestinians.

Weiss supports the peace process and said he hoped that a visit by the Palestinian leader to the museum could contribute to an atmosphere of forgiveness between Israelis and Palestinians.

"Arafat was our enemy and a very cruel enemy, but today he is a partner in making peace. With [the peace agreements], we have an historic obligation to know more about each other's history, suffering and dreams," he said. "A visit by Arafat would be a dramatic step."

Acknowledging each other's suffering is a step that neither Israelis nor Palestinians usually are willing to take. To do so would be to acknowledge the other's rights, as well, while the two sides are still locked in a political battle over land. Many Israelis fear that Palestinians--and the Arab world--want to annihilate them and feel they still are fighting for survival.

Author Segev says that the country has used the "final solution" as proof of the validity of Zionist theory. "The Zionist lessons of the Holocaust are that we ought to be strong and make sure nothing like that ever happens again," he said.

In other words, the Holocaust proved the need for Jews to leave the Diaspora to form a country of their own with a strong army and defensible borders in the Holy Land.

Denial Among Palestinians

For Palestinians, however, the Holocaust became a justification for the Jewish occupation of land they saw as their own. They resented it and taught their children that the Holocaust was part of Zionist propaganda, without teaching facts of the Holocaust as well.

Even today, the details of Nazi Germany and the "final solution" do not appear in most Palestinian schoolbooks as anything more than the tragedy they posed for Palestinians--Jewish settlement in Palestine. This has led to a great deal of Holocaust denial among Palestinians. Even as debate raged over the proposed Arafat museum visit, some Palestinians were demonstrating in the Gaza Strip on behalf of Roger Garoudy, the French philosopher on trial in France for Holocaust denial.

Salim Tamari, director of the Institute of Jerusalem Studies, notes that the Holocaust took place as the Palestinians were fighting for national independence from British and French rule.

"The dimensions of the Holocaust were not clear to the Palestinians, and they were also compounded by the fact that the solution for the Holocaust and the victims would come at the expense of the Palestinians," Tamari said.

He noted that some major Palestinian writers, such as Emil Habibi and Edward Said, have called for more sensitivity toward persecution of Jews and the Holocaust and have criticized Garoudy. But, he said, most Palestinians "feel the Holocaust was used to justify what happened to them."

Hatem Abdel Qader, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council who represents Jerusalem, opposed Arafat's visit to the memorial for that reason.

"I am not against Jews, and I am against the massacre of Jews and strongly condemn it. But why should Arafat have to visit the museum? We have paid for Jewish persecution in Europe even though we did not cause it. Our people here are persecuted by Jews, and no one seems to pay attention to them," Abdel Qader said.

Bill Would Outlaw the Rhetoric

Such prevailing attitudes were used to bolster the arguments of those Israelis who also objected to an Arafat visit to the museum. The Israeli government keeps a running list of quotes by Palestinian officials and remarks in the Palestinian media that it considers to be anti-Semitic.

A 13-page report was issued last month with examples of anti-Semitic stereotypes, Holocaust denial and comparisons of Israel with Nazis and fascists. For many Israelis, the only thing worse than a Jew calling a fellow Jew "Hitler" is for a Palestinian to do so; many felt that until the anti-Semitism stops, Arafat should not go to the museum or, at least, not be treated as a head of state.

"There is no question that if he goes, it is to see how this can be utilized for his own ends and prove what he wants to prove," Lemberger said. "The argument [for his going] is that maybe if he is exposed to the sights and sounds, maybe he can understand the pain of the Jewish people. I don't think on a political level it works.

"The history of this neighborhood, and dealing with Arab countries and governments, the PLO and Arafat, is that it is a different mind-set. Their way of using words and images is not the Western way. This is not Jacques Chirac or Tony Blair," Lemberger said, referring to the French president and British prime minister.

Whether in politics or other fields, he said, invoking the memory of the Holocaust in Israel for anything other than education is playing with the emotions of survivors.

Hai Shaki, a member of parliament from the conservative National Religious Party, recently revived a bill he had introduced that would make it a crime, punishable by financial sanctions, to engage in hurtful Holocaust rhetoric.

"The use of the Holocaust and Nazi language is wrong and abominable, regardless of the political direction it comes from and the agenda it is used to promote," Shaki said.

The abuses must stop, he added.

But even as he urged this, a bitter debate was erupting in the Knesset over Arafat's planned visit to the Washington museum. Rehavam Zeevi, of the extreme-right Moledet Party, stood at the podium and said: "What is Arafat looking for in the Holocaust museum? . . . Is he looking for the deeds of the original Adolf to learn from him?"

Upon stepping down, Israel Radio reported, Zeevi turned to the Arab members of the Knesset and muttered that Arafat was not a neo-Nazi but a Nazi, pure and simple.

* * * Efrat Shvily and Maher Abukhater of The Times' Jerusalem Bureau contributed to this report.

Copyright Los Angeles Times


Violinist Menuhin sees Nazi "illness" in Israel
10:22 p.m. Jan 22, 1998 Eastern

PARIS, Jan 22 (Reuters) - Violinist Yehudi Menuhin, in a statement likely to cause uproar in Israel, was quoted on Thursday as comparing the current atmosphere in the Jewish state with that of Nazi Germany.

"Israel's mission is no longer that of a Promised Land for a persecuted people. That's over," the celebrated Jewish violinist told the French daily Le Figaro during a brief visit to Paris this week.

"Israel's mission now is more important...it is to make peace in the Middle East. But it increasingly seems to me this is not possible.

"Those who insist on war should remember that those who want Jerusalem for themselves alone were always defeated, because it is a city for eternity," he said in an apparent reference to Israeli claims over both sides of the Holy City.

"What's extraordinary is that some things never die completely, even the illness which prevailed yesterday in Nazi Germany and is today progressing in that land (Israel)," Menuhin was quoted as saying.

The New York-born Menuhin, 81, who has British nationality and an honorary knighthood, has long been moderately critical of Israeli policies.

His father, the late Moshe Menuhin, was a virulent critic of Israel, where he was considered an ally of the country's worst enemies.

In Jerusalem, Menuhin's comments drew an a angry response from Efraim Zuroff, Israeli director of the Nazi-hunting Simon Wiesenthal Centre.

Zuroff said the violinist's comparison of the current atmosphere in Israel with that of Nazi Germany "borders on the obscene."

"The statement is obvious proof that violin virtuosity is no guarantee of knowledge and understanding of history," Zuroff told Reuters. REUTERS


U.S. peace group says threatened by Jewish group
03:31 p.m Jan 20, 1998 Eastern

HEBRON, West Bank, Jan 20 (Reuters) - A private American peace team monitoring Palestinian-Israeli tensions in the mainly Moslem city of Hebron said on Tuesday it had received death threats from an outlawed Jewish extremist group.

Pierre Shantz, a member of the Christian Peacemaker Team (CPT), said the anti-Arab Kach movement had issued the warning in a telephone message to the CPT office in Chicago and in a note on the internet.

"Kach accused us of helping terrorists," Shantz told Reuters in the divided West Bank town.

"We're taking this seriously because the Kach movement as we understand has killed people before. They are very dangerous. We have been aggressively pushed by them."

"We work with peace groups, Israeli groups, and we're against violence. I am afraid," he said.

The peace team moved into volatile Hebron in 1994 after a Jewish settler massacred Palestinian worshippers in a mosque in the city.

CPT members monitor the treatment of Palestinians in Hebron.

Israeli soldiers detained a CPT member in December after he tried to film troops arresting Palestinians.

Hebron, revered by Moslems and Jews as the burial place of Abraham, is home to more than 100,000 Palestinians and 400 Jewish settlers who live in heavily armed enclaves.

An Israeli-PLO interim peace deal divided the city into Israeli- and Palestinian-rule sectors. ^[email protected]

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


Israeli, 91, gets seven years for killing wife
11:45 a.m. Jan 21, 1998 Eastern

JERUSALEM, Jan 21 (Reuters) - A 91-year-old survivor of the Nazi Holocaust, convicted of murdering his wife by stabbing her 60 times, was sentenced on Wednesday to seven years in prison, Israeli court officials said.

"I lived with her for 47 years, but not one day did I know any rest," said Kopel Potechnik. Police said he had continued to stab his wife Hannah "in rage" long after she was dead.


Holocaust Museum Invites Arafat After All
04:17 p.m Jan 20, 1998 Eastern

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. museum devoted to the memory of six million Jews killed in the Nazi Holocaust said Tuesday it had reversed itself and offered a special tour to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

The chairman and vice chairman of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum board, in a turnaround, "are making every effort to encourage Mr Arafat to visit the museum," a museum spokeswoman, Mary Morrison, said.

Arafat is to meet President Clinton in Washington on Thursday as part of the latest U.S. effort to revive stalled Middle East peace talks. An ex-guerrilla leader, Arafat was Israel's implacable foe until a U.S.-brokered Israeli-Palestinian peace deal in 1993.

Miles Lerman, chairman of the Holocaust Memorial Council, was quoted in The Washington Post as saying he had listened to bad advice in withdrawing an initial invitation to Arafat.

"He acknowledges that he should have listened to his own instincts to begin, which were to extend a full welcome to Mr. Arafat," Morrison told Reuters in a telephone interview.

The renewed invitation, which was conceived as a gesture of reconciliation. Arafat canceled an earlier plan to visit the museum after being denied an official welcome.

"I am keen to visit this museum," Arafat told a news conference Tuesday in Paris upon learning of the museum's turnaround.

At one point Lerman voiced concern that an Arafat visit would divide the constituency of the Holocaust museum.

The idea for the visit reportedly came from the office of the U.S. State Department's special Middle East coordinator, Dennis Ross, himself a member of the governing board.


Israeli aide glad Arafat avoided Holocaust museum
08:55 a.m. Jan 24, 1998 Eastern

JERUSALEM, Jan 24 (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's cabinet secretary said on Saturday he would have been "ashamed" had Palestinian President Yasser Arafat visited a U.S. museum devoted to Jews killed in the Holocaust.

Danny Naveh said a visit by Arafat to the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington would have been a sham because the Palestinian leader failed to curb anti-Semitism in his own administration.

"I would have been ashamed had it come about," Naveh told Israel's Channel One television.

"I'm talking about instances of racism and anti-Semitism which are an inseparable part of the Palestinian Authority's administration."

The museum invited Arafat to a tour during his trip to Washington this week for talks with President Bill Clinton, then withdrew the invitation and later reinstated it when U.S. officials said the visit would be a good idea.

Arafat left Washington on Friday without visiting the museum.

Ahmed Abdel-Rahman, secretary-general of the Palestinian cabinet, said Netanyahu scuttled Arafat's visit to the museum and accused the Israeli government of persecuting Palestinians.

"Denying the rights of the Palestinian people is no less severe than anti-Semitism," Abdel-Rahman told Reuters. ^[email protected]

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


Supreme Court to Decide Suspected Nazi Case
02:35 p.m Jan 18, 1998 Eastern

By James Vicini

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Supreme Court says it will use the case of a suspected Nazi collaborator to decide whether a witness may invoke the legal right against self-incrimination based on a fear of foreign prosecution.

The court agreed Friday to hear a Justice Department appeal arguing that the right not to testify under the Constitution's Fifth Amendment applies only when the witness fears prosecution in the United States.

It said that extending the right to foreign prosecutions would create "a substantial impediment to domestic law enforcement, particularly where the government seeks to obtain testimony from accomplice witnesses in the growing number of cases involving criminals who operate internationally."

The case stems from a 1993 subpoena issued by the Justice Department requiring Aloyzas Balsys, a resident alien born in Lithuania, to answer questions about his activities during World War II and his immigration to the United States.

At his deposition Balsys refused to testify, invoking the privilege against compelled self-incrimination.

Balsys, 84, who lives in Woodhaven, New York, said his answers could subject him to prosecution in Lithuania, Israel and Germany.

On his immigration application in 1961, Balsys admitted serving in the Lithuanian Army from 1934 to 1940, but said he was in hiding in Plateliai, Lithuania between 1940 and 1944.

The Justice Department's Nazi-hunting Office of Special Investigations suspected he really was living in Vilnius and was a member of the Lithuanian security police which persecuted Jews in collaboration with the Nazis.

The United States has no legal power to bring criminal cases for alleged Nazi activities, but can file civil cases stripping Nazi collaborators of their U.S. citizenship and deporting them if they lied about their past.

A federal judge ordered Balsys to testify, but a U.S. appeals court in New York ruled that his right against self-incrimination applied to a civil proceeding, even if he had no fear of criminal prosecution in this country.

The ruling "deprives the government of an important tool in immigration and other civil matters," Solicitor General Seth Waxman of the Justice Department said in the appeal.

He predicted that many witnesses in deportation and denaturalization cases may refuse to testify, claiming they are subject to foreign prosecution.

The Supreme Court will hear arguments in the case in April, with a decision due by the end of June.


ADL to Honor Eckerd Corp. CEO Frank Newman with Achievement Award
12:06 p.m. Jan 23, 1998 Eastern

NEW YORK--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Jan. 23, 1998--The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) will honor Frank A. Newman, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Eckerd Corp., with its 1998 Man of Achievement Award at a gala dinner on Thursday, Feb. 12, at the New York Hilton.

Newman is being recognized for his tireless and unwavering dedication to making positive and lasting change in his company and the communities it serves.

"It is with profound respect and admiration for his outstanding business leadership and his commitment to the highest ethical and moral standards in both his personal and professional life that ADL proudly honors him with its 1998 Man of Achievement Award," said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL national director.

Industry Chair Ronald L. Ziegler, National Association of Chain Drug Stores, added that "Frank Newman is a dedicated professional, committed to the highest values of his industry and his community."

Newman became president and chief operating officer of Eckerd in July 1993. Other impressive titles followed; in February 1996 he was elected chief executive officer and in February 1997 he became the chairman.

A student of the retail industry, he started his career as a management trainee for Value Fair, a small California discount chain. During his career he has been instrumental in the development of high productivity store formats in the food, stationery, general merchandise and drug store segments. As senior vice president of merchandising for F.W. Woolworth Co. Inc., Newman spearheaded the development of two new specialty store divisions, and while executive vice president of Household Merchandising Inc., led the development of two new francished retail stores. As president and chief executive officer of F&M Distributors Inc., he expanded that chain five-fold and took it public.

Newman serves on several boards including Students in Free Enterprise; The Children's Miracle Network; All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg, Fla.; United Way of Pinellas County, Fla.; and University of Texas at Austin, College of Pharmacy.

The executive dinner chair is Roy Benjamin, ACI Inc., and the vice chairs are Dan Wassong, Del Laboratories Inc., and Martin Grass, Rite Aid Corp. Dinner chairs are Thomas M. Ryan, CVS Corp., and Robert J. Kwait, Robert J. Kwait & Associates Inc. Edward W. Kelly, Eckerd Corp. is the journal chair.

Eckerd Corp., a wholly-owned subsidiary of JCPenney Co. Inc., is one of America's largest retail drug store chains with 2,800 stores in 23 states and more than 700 Eckerd Express One-Hour Photo labs in 12 states.

The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world's leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry. (See also: http://www.businesswire.com)

Copyright 1998, Business Wire


Brazil army downplays Hitler's appeal to cadets
07:41 p.m Jan 20, 1998 Eastern

BRASILIA, Jan 20 (Reuters) - Brazil's army played down a report on Tuesday that Adolf Hitler was the most admired historical figure among a group of its cadets, saying their preference revealed a "youthful irreverence."

"We don't honor any cult to a crazy man like Hitler, whom we fought against in World War Two," army spokesman Col Helio Barcellos told Reuters.

Hitler was the most cited figure among 84 cadets at a military college in southern Brazil who were interviewed in 1995 by Hyloea magazine.

The magazine waited two years to publish the story because it has financial problems and publishes very irregularly.

Barcellos said the cadets' responses "were the result of youthful irreverence," adding that some also named Dracula, Hercules and Attila the Hun among their most revered figures.

Of the 49 people listed by the cadets, Hitler was cited eight times, ahead of Brazilian national hero Joaquin da Silva Xavier, better known as Tiradentes, late Brazilian race car legend Ayrton Senna, Jesus Christ and Gandhi, Hyloea said.

The report drew sharp criticism from Brazil's Jewish community and President Fernando Henrique Cardoso said through a spokesman that the report, if true, disgusted him. REUTERS

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


UK to crack down on crooked immigration advisers
02:34 p.m Jan 22, 1998 Eastern

LONDON, Jan 22 (Reuters) - Britain said on Thursday it would crack down on unscrupulous immigration advisers preying on vulnerable people applying to stay here.

Home Secretary Jack Straw said he planned legislation to regulate what he called the "immigration industry."

Officials say there are about 180,000 people in Britain awaiting decisions on their immigration, asylum and citizenship applications.

Straw published a consultative paper setting out options for either compulsory accreditation of advisers or a voluntary self-regulation scheme.

"For too long, unscrupulous immigration advisers have been able to prey on the vulnerable, causing genuine misery and clogging up the immigration and asylum system," he said.

"Many of the unfounded or abusive claims for immigration or asylum received by the Home Office are the result of misleading advise given by unregulated immigration advisers," he said.

The Home Office paper said there were more than 250 companies or individuals offering immigration advice whose activities gave cause for concern.

"Of these, 38 are firms of solicitors, and five claim to be solicitors," it said.

Fifty companies were suspected of involvement in bogus or doubtful asylum applications and another 16 companies suspected of involvement in bogus marriages.

The paper gave examples of unnamed advisers who intimidated, deceived and stole from their clients, many of whom could not speak, read or write English.

Some charged between 2,000 and 6,000 pounds ($3,280 and $9,850) for an asylum application and similar sums for arranging sham marriages.

One solution would be to make it a criminal offence for a lawyer to present himself as a qualified immigration adviser without proper accreditation, the paper suggested.

($ - 0.609 pounds)^REUTERS

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


Two sides in France's jobless crisis draw breath
05:38 p.m Jan 23, 1998 Eastern

By Francois Raitberger

PARIS, Jan 23 (Reuters) - The two sides in France's unemployment crisis marked time on Friday as protesters and a shaken left-wing government sought their second wind.

Jobless groups, who have achieved some kind of social status through their six-week-old movement, said they planned only symbolic protests during the day.

They were focusing on preparing for a nationwide demonstration next Tuesday, their fourth since the crisis began.

Trying to quell differences within his ruling coalition, Socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin met Communist Party chief Robert Hue who has criticised his refusal to give in to the protesters' demands for hikes in welfare benefits.

"We are together, we are moving forward," Hue told reporters after the 75-minute talks at Jospin's Matignon office.

"The coming period will be marked by...a very strong determination to let the plural coalition move ahead in a better way," he said.

In an interview with the popular daily France-Soir, Hue said the Communists were full-fledged partners in the coalition and would not pull out of the seven-month-old cabinet.

"We want the experience begun in June to succeed," he said.

But he repeated that he believed Jospin had "not gone far enough" in concessions to the jobless protesters and called for a significant hike in benefits, pensions and low-scale wages.

"I do not agree that aid to the jobless contradicts efforts to create jobs," he said.

Hue has also come into conflict with Jospin by demanding a referendum before France joins the single European currency.

Jospin, in a 50-minute television interview last Wednesday, warned his Communist and Greens partners against the temptation to expose differences and weaken the government.

Gaullist Philippe Seguin, head of the RPR main conservative opposition party, riled at the government over the dispute.

"I am worried," he said in a television interview. "(Jospin) must be firm at the helm, but we are seeing various people fighting for the helm to go their own ways."

The Socialist premier has offered only minor increases in jobless benefits, ruling out new taxes that could derail job-creating growth or a higher budget deficit incompatible with membership of the euro.

His latest offer to index-link benefits triggered another row in the cabinet, with Socialists Finance Minister Dominique Strauss-Kahn and Employment Minister Martine Aubry disagreeing over how much the measure would cost.

Jospin got an unexpected boost on Friday from conservative ex-prime minister Raymond Barre, a respected economist who praised his "realism and responsibility" in refusing to give in.

The protesters have rejected Jospin's proposals as falling far short of their demands for an immediate 1,500-franc ($250) increase in monthly benefits with an estimated price tag of 70 billion francs ($11.5 billion).

But after occupying the headquarters of the Socialist Party in Paris on Thursday, they appeared to have run out of ideas ahead of next Tuesday's marches coinciding with a parliament debate on Jospin's plan to cut the legal working week to 35 hours from 39 to create jobs.

They received support from the major FO trade union which said it was pondering campaigning against unemployment and possibly calling a general strike.

The protesters also received support from a group of intellectuals headed by film director Bertrand Tavernier.

"By their revolt, the jobless are taking a stride towards dignity and hopes for other values," said the group, which last year led a snowballing movement against harsh immigration laws.

Sociologist Jerome Jaffre, head of the Centre of Public Opinion Studies, said the protests had turned the politically apathetic jobless into a social group of their own.

"At stake in the current movement could be their emergence to that rank in the collective conscience," he said.

Europe's first such large-scale protests against massive unemployment, the movement could extend beyond France's borders.

A group representing the unemployed in Germany, the Coordination Centre for Trade-Unionised Unemployed Groups, has said it was planning on February 5 a series of demonstrations similar to the wave of protests hitting France. ((paris newsroom + 33 1 4221 5339 fax + 33 1 4236 1072 paris.newsroomreuters.com))

((Paris newsroom, +33 1 4221 5339, fax +33 1 4236 1072, paris.newsroom+reuters.com)) REUTERS

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


Le Pen says he'll refuse French judge's call
02:05 a.m. Jan 23, 1998 Eastern

PARIS, Jan 22 (Reuters) - French ultra-rightist Jean-Marie Le Pen will refuse an order to appear before an investigating judge over his remark that World War Two gas chambers were a mere detail of history, his National Front party said on Thursday.

"It is clear that such a proceeding is an attack on his freedom of expression and opinion and reflects political persecution," the party said in a printed statement.

Le Pen is in any case not required to appear because he is immune from prosecution as a member of the European parliament, the statement added.

Le Pen was ordered by investigating judge Jean-Paul Valat to appear before him on suspicion of "disputing crimes against humanity," a charge that carries up to a year in jail, a fine of 300,000 francs ($50,000), and possible ineligibility for public office.

Le Pen, the firebrand president of the anti-immigrant National Front, made the remarks during a visit to Munich last December, and prosecutors there said they also were considering a criminal investigation against him on suspicion of inciting racial hatred.

According to media reports, Le Pen called the gas chambers used in Nazi death camps a "mere detail" of World War Two -- remarks he had already made in France 11 years ago and for which he had been convicted and fined 1.2 million francs ($200,000).

Under French law, being formally probed may but does not automatically lead to trial.

In a civil suit over the remarks last month, Le Pen was ordered by a Paris court to pay 300,000 francs ($50,000) to finance publication of the ruling in six French weekly publications.

The National Front has seen a tremendous rise in popularity over recent years with its anti-immigrant platform under the banner "France for the French" and now has about 15 percent support among the French electorate.

Le Pen denies he is racist or anti-Semitic and argues that he and those who vote for his party have been misunderstood. REUTERS

Have you noticed this last line keeps appearing over and over in these stories? ..JW


Swiss Reject Criticism of Wartime Camps
04:43 p.m Jan 14, 1998 Eastern

ZURICH (Reuters) - Switzerland Wednesday rejected as "outrageous" allegations that it treated Jewish refugees like slaves in forced labor camps during World War Two.

"We think that the term 'slave labor camps' is outrageous and dishonest," said a spokeswoman for the government task force handling charges about the neutral country's wartime past.

She was responding to a highly critical historian's report compiled for the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center and released Tuesday.

Titled "The Unwanted Guests -- Swiss Forced Labor Camps 1940-1944," the report by U.S. historian Alan Schom said thousands of Jews entering Switzerland were forced into labor camps where they toiled at gunpoint for little or no pay.

"Refugees had to work hard in Swiss camps but got housing and food and a modest remuneration for this," Linda Shephard added, noting refugees were able to leave the camps in the evenings and at weekends and that many attended university.

Jews were treated no differently than any other refugees, she said. "Labor camps in Switzerland were by no means concentration camps and they were not prisons. We reject any comparison with concentration camps or prisons," she said.

Schom's report said: "Men were handed shovels, pick-axes and saws and sent to work from dawn to dusk, month after month, even through the winter, on road gangs, forestry work or, in some cases farm work.

"There was little or no payment for this hard manual labor, executed well out of sight in the mountainous back regions."

Shephard said the report was a rehash of old information that contained historical errors and oversimplifications.

For example, she said, all Swiss refugees -- not just Jews -- had to pay a special tax first levied in 1941 to help finance their upkeep. The report said Switzerland imposed a "Jew tax" on Jewish fugitives, forcing the Jewish community to pay for them.

Swiss officials have acknowledged in the past that Jewish groups had to help pay for the upkeep of Jewish refugees allowed into the country, but Shephard said the state also meet some of their costs.

She also took issue with the report's conclusion that Switzerland turned back 100,000 Jews while the Holocaust raged. The latest Swiss research indicated a total of 30,000 people, including Gentiles, were refused admission, she said.

She declined to comment on a demand from Rabbi Marvin Hier, head of the Wiesenthal Center, that Swiss President Flavio Cotti apologize to Jews held in labor camps during the war.

"We have still not received Hier's letter so for the time being we cannot comment on it," she said.


Swiss deny running labor camps for Jewish refugees

By Associated Press, 01/15/98

GENEVA - Jewish refugees were forced to work during World War II as all Swiss citizens were, but the country never ran slave-labor camps, the government said yesterday. Prominent Swiss Jews also defended their nation, saying the forced labor must be understood in its wartime context.

In a scathing report released Tuesday, the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center accused Switzerland of running slave labor camps for Jews, and of telling the Jews they would be handed over to the Gestapo if they complained.

Swiss officials have long acknowledged that refugees were required to work during the war in the interest of the country's survival, but say all Swiss were required to do so.

They rejected allegations that the practice, in which Jews and others were made to work in a range of institutions, including hotels, amounted to "slave labor" or that conditions were similar to those in prisons.

A commission of international experts is investigating Switzerland's treatment of refugees as part of an overall examination of whether the nation collaborated with Nazi Germany at Jews' expense.

During the war, the Swiss took in nearly 30,000 Jews fleeing Nazi terror in surrounding countries. But they turned away an equal number, and many of them were later killed.

Guido Koller, the federal archivist, said the work in many labor camps was "strict and hard," including clearing land, building roads or improving soil to assure enough food for the surrounded country.

This story ran on page A09 of the Boston Globe on 01/15/98.
© Copyright 1998 Globe Newspaper Company.


Diplomat says Swiss taking steps to polish image
06:46 p.m Jan 08, 1998 Eastern

ZURICH, Jan 8 (Reuters) - Switzerland is making efforts to improve its image abroad that could include setting up a "Swiss-American Institute" in Washington, Swiss special envoy Thomas Borer on Thursday.

Such said an institute would offer seminars, conferences and exchange programmes in areas such as economics, politics, culture, social welfare and science.

"The planning is already underway," said Borer, the head of the Swiss task force co-ordinating the response to a welter of unflattering and critical international reports about Swiss activities, especially those of banks, before and during and after World War Two.

Swiss must learn that they are not isolated from international issues, Borer said in remarks prepared for a Swiss bank forum in Basle, Switzerland.

"What happens yesterday when Holocaust survivors in Brooklyn, disappointed by Swiss banks... file a class action suit, will affect our entire nation today," Borer said.

Switzerland's big banks have been hit by class action law suits seeking damages by some Holocaust survivors for allegedly bungling the handling of wartime accounts left for safekeeping.

Some 50 years after the end of World War Two, banks have finally made a concerted effort to find owners of thousands of accounts left on their books from that era.

Borer said strengthening cultural cooperation and educational exchange programmes could also help the Swiss.

Even setting up a "Swiss Forum" in the Orlando, Florida Epcot Centre, a U.S. science attraction run by Walt Disney Co, could be a way to reach the "man on the street," Borer said.

Neutral Switzerland has rejected accusations that it collaborated with the Nazis, but following intense criticism, last year its government proposed setting up a "Solidarity Fund" based on revalued Swiss gold reserves, to be used for charitable purposes. Swiss banks and industry last year set up their own fund to compensate Holocaust survivors.

Borer said the often reticent Swiss must learn to be more like Americans -- more confident, relaxed and optimistic -- and they must also lead the efforts to repair their country's image.

Otherwise "our image vacuum will be filled by others, and this will be done in a damaging way," he said. REUTERS

Copyright 1997 Reuters Limited.


U.S. local officials say Swiss "poisoned" ban freeze
08:30 p.m Jan 12, 1998 Eastern

NEW YORK, Jan 12 (Reuters) - A group of U.S. public finance officials led by New York City Comptroller Alan Hevesi said on Monday the Swiss president had "poisoned" their three-month moratorium on any new sanctions against that nation's banks.

In a letter to Swiss President Flavio Cotti, the group also called on him to apologize for remarks they said he made to Swiss daily newspaper Tribune de Geneva on Dec. 31, reportedly saying that continuing criticism over how his country was handling bank accounts that belonged to Holocaust victims "...come from limited geographic areas, for example, the East Coast of the United States, and in particular, New York."

The letter, which the group released, said: "Your remarks are particularly egregious following so closely the agreement to establish a moratorium. Your words have poisoned that effort."

The group said no further steps against Swiss banks were under consideration at present.

Accusing the Swiss president of "belittling and minimizing" criticism of his country's role in World War II, the letter read in part, "By singling out in your remarks the East Coast of the United States and New York as the source of restitution efforts, your perceived intent borders on anti-Semitism."

About 200 public finance officers in early December agreed not to take any further steps against Swiss banks until March 31, 1998, to give the banks time to reach a global settlement on accounts deposited by Holocaust victims.

It was signed by Hevesi, New York State Comptroller H. Carl McCall, Pennsylvania treasurer Barbara Hafer, California treasurer Matt Fong, and Denise Ducharme, who serves as Abandoned Property Manager for Maine's Department of Treasury.

A spokeswoman for the Swiss embassy in Washington had no immediate comment.

Hevesi in October took the first action against a Swiss bank, cutting Union Bank of Switzerland (UBS.S) from a short-term note syndicate, to signal his disapproval with how it was treating Holocaust survivors and their heirs. He also organized the informal group of public finance officers, whose meeting in New York was attended by representatives from 16 states and 'dozens of local jurisdictions," according to a statement by its five leaders.

Several public finance officials followed Hevesi's lead in reprimanding Swiss banks, although the U.S. State Department clashed with the New York City Comptroller, calling such bans counterproductive. California later rescinded a ban halting dealings with Swiss banks.

((--Joan Gralla, 212-859-1654)) REUTERS

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited. A


Document suggests Swiss knew source of Nazi funds
08:09 p.m Jan 06, 1998 Eastern

WASHINGTON, Jan 6 (Reuters) - The Swiss Army and Swiss federal financial authorities thought in early 1945 that at least one Swiss bank was moving large amounts of suspect money from Germany to Switzerland on behalf of leading Nazis, according to a document released by a U.S. senator on Tuesday.

The Swiss army high command was convinced that some of the funds originally belonged to French citizens killed in German concentration camps or elsewhere, the alleged letter showed. It said it was written on Feb. 16, 1945, by General Staff officer Colonel Mueller and addressed to a Dr. E. Reinhardt, director of the Federal Finance Administration in Bern at the time.

It was released by Sen. Alfonse D'Amato, a New York Republican who has been campaigning on behalf of people seeking compensation from the Swiss for property stolen by the Nazis.

"This is really one of the better documents I have seen in this case. The Swiss always said they didn't know. This shows that they did," said an aide to the senator.

The letter says: "Schulthess, the director of the Swiss Agricultural Bank (Bodenkerditanstalt), is currently shifting considerable amounts of capital from Germany to Switzerland, and that for people who play a significant role in the Nazi regime or who are at least close to it."

Colonel Mueller said the Army command had this information from an unnamed reliable source who alluded to a sum of 11 million, presumably in Swiss francs.

The letter goes on to say that some of the title deeds bear the names of French owners "who doubtless died in concentration camps or were otherwise murdered." It says the bank's legal consultant was worried that this might cause problems.

The aide to D'Amato said researchers dug the document out of the Swiss federal archives. He declined to give details.

The senator himself wrote on Tuesday to Jean-Francois Bergier, the chairman of a commission of independent historians investigating Swizterland's role in World War Two, urging him to investigate the allegations in the letter.

"If this document is true," D'Amato wrote, "it is a chilling indictment of this particular Swiss banker and raises serious questions concerning the activities of other Swiss bankers from the period."

The commission of nine Swiss and foreign historians, backed by a federal decree lifting bank secrecy laws, is separate from a panel which Swiss banks and Jewish groups set up last year to sweep bank records for accounts left by victims of the Nazis. REUTERS

Copyright 1997 Reuters Limited.


Swiss bank has no comment on Holocaust suit report
11:29 a.m. Jan 14, 1998 Eastern

ZURICH, Jan 14 (Reuters) - Union Bank of Switzerland (UBS) had no immediate comment on Wednesday on Swiss news reports that ex-security guard Christoph Meili was suing the bank in U.S. courts for $2.56 billion in damages.

Meili was fired by a private security company after revealing last year that UBS was shredding old bank documents that might have helped an independent inquiry into the fate of assets left by Jews and others murdered in the Holocaust.

Swiss news agency SDA reported that Meili had filed the suit against UBS in the United States, where he now lives after fleeing Switzerland with his wife and two young children.

"We have not received anything in written form so we cannot comment at this stage," a UBS spokeswoman told Reuters.

SDA said the suit was announced by attorney Edward Fagan, who also heads one of three New York class-action suits against Swiss banks filed by Holocaust survivors who say the banks are withholding their assets.

SDA said Meili would present details of his suit at a news conference outside the UBS branch office in New York City later on Wednesday.

Meili has repeatedly demanded an apology from UBS and from the Swiss government, which he said allowed him to be hounded out of Switzerland for blowing the whistle on the one of the country's Big Three globally active banks.

Meili said he received death threats in Switzerland before taking up an offer by U.S. critics of Swiss banks, headed by Senator Alfonse D'Amato, to come to America, where he was granted a green card residency permit by a special act of Congress.

UBS, set to merge with Swiss Bank Corp shortly to form the world's second-biggest bank, has said it regretted any troubles Meili went through but has stopped short of apologising to him.

D'Amato, Republican of New York and chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, last month said Union Bank of Switzerland owed Meili restitution.

Zurich prosecutors last October dropped an inquiry into whether Meili broke Swiss bank secrecy laws by making the shredding public, and a parallel probe into whether UBS had violated a government decree banning destruction of any documents that could shed light on the Holocaust era.

Switzerland's financial role as a neutral banking centre during World War Two, including business with Nazi Germany, and the fate of assets left by individual Holocaust victims are being probed by two independent commissions. REUTERS

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


Swiss president will not apologise for remarks
10:24 p.m. Jan 14, 1998 Eastern

GENEVA, Jan 14 (Reuters) - Swiss president Flavio Cotti will not apologise for remarks which have led to accusations of Swiss anti-Semitism in the United States, the Swiss government said on Wednesday.

"Federal President Flavio Cotti will not apologise for his interview remarks at the end of last year," the Swiss Federal Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Cotti incurred the wrath of local U.S. officials, and the World Jewish Congress in New York, after he said in a newspaper interview in the Tribune de Geneve that he believed attacks on Switzerland "come from limited geographic areas, for example the east coast of the United States, and in particular from New York."

He also expressed understanding for Swiss who were angered over "unjustified" attacks on their country's image.

The Swiss foreign ministry said the treasurers of five U.S. states had sent a letter asking for an apology.

Cotti, who took over Switzerland's one-year presidency at the start of this year, has handed over the matter to special Swiss envoy Thomas Borer, the Foreign Ministry said.

Borer was appointed to head a Swiss task force dealing with his country's efforts to look into its World War Two past and criticism it profited from its ties to Nazi Germany.

Borer, in a letter to U.S. Ambassador to Switzerland Madeleine Kunin on Wednesday, rejected any allegation of anti-Semitism in Cotti's remarks.

"In his letter, Borer categorically rejects the charges of anti-Semitism which the U.S. politicians have levelled at President Cotti as an 'absurd accusation'," the Federal Foreign Ministry said.

It also said that Borer has underscored that "Switzerland will continue on its way, in order to achieve 'truth, justice and solidarity'. These efforts by Switzerland are also recognised internationally," the Federal Ministry said.

The latest upset for Switzerland is only part of a new round of accusations which have flared up since the start of this year.

In Los Angeles on Tuesday, a U.S. rabbi asked Switzerland to apologise publicly for allegations that Switzerland kept Jews seeking refuge from Nazi Germany in World War Two in work camps.

The allegations followed the release of a report compiled for the Simon Wiesenthal Centre in Los Angeles, called "The Unwanted Guests - Swiss Forced Labor Camps 1940 - 1944."

"We think that the term 'slave labour camps' is outrageous and dishonest," said a spokeswoman for the Swiss task force, in response to the report by U.S. historian Alan Schom.

"Refugees had to work hard in Swiss camps but got housing and food and a modest remuneration for this," she said.

Jews were treated no differently than any other refugees, she added.

A former Swiss security guard, Christoph Meili, has said he is seeking $2.65 billlion in damages from Union Bank of Switzerland (UBS), one of Switzerland's largest banks, after he was fired from his job at a security firm last year after removing some Holocaust-era documents from UBS's shredding room. He gave the documents to a Swiss Jewish organisation.

The Neue Zuercher Zeitung newspaper reported that Meili's attorney said that Meili was seeking $60 million for himself and his family, and that the rest would be used for a Swiss charitable fund for victims of human rights abuses. REUTERS


FOCUS-Ailing Swiss economics minister to step down
09:13 a.m. Jan 14, 1998 Eastern

BERNE, Jan 14 (Reuters) - Swiss Economics Minister Jean-Pascal Delamuraz, who made headlines by describing as "blackmail" Jewish demands for quick compensation to Holocaust survivors, said on Wednesday he would resign due to poor health.

"The position of cabinet member demands full command of one's abilities. I am leaving in the interests of the country. I made the decision on Sunday with my family," he told a news conference, saying he would step down at the end of March.

A 14-year veteran of the cabinet, Delamuraz, 61, underwent a heart operation in 1995. Doctors removed a malignant tumour from his liver last year.

Delamuraz's blackmail remark, which stirred angry protests from international Jewish groups, came in an interview with Swiss newspapers in December 1996, as he was finishing his one-year term in the rotating Swiss presidency.

He said any compensation by Switzerland to Jews who might be entitled to money left in Swiss banks during World War Two should await the findings of a panel investigating the neutral country's role during the Nazi era.

He later apologised for his remarks, saying they had been based on inaccurate information he had received.

Delamuraz's Radical Democratic Party (FDP) said it regretted his decision to step down from the seven-minister cabinet that serves as the collective Swiss executive branch.

But the pro-business party said it fully understood the move given Delamuraz's health.

"The FDP lays claims to the vacant seat in the Federal Council (cabinet)," it said in a statement, noting it would nominate a successor candidate -- like Delamuraz, someone from French-speaking western Switzerland -- later this week.

Switzerland's relative weak federal government has comprised the same four-party coalition since 1959. Its composition is set by a so-called "magic formula" that allots seats based on party affiliation and cultural background in the multi-ethnic country.

Delamuraz had limited influence on the Swiss economy given the decentralised system of power that gives individual cantons (states) a major say in how to run their affairs.

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


Paris trial opens of man said to deny Holocaust
10:11 a.m. Jan 08, 1998 Eastern

PARIS, Jan 8 (Reuters) - French author Roger Garaudy went on trial in a Paris criminal court on Thursday on charges of trivialising the Nazi Holocaust against the Jews in World War Two.

Garaudy, who denies any wrongdoing, was brought to trial after several anti-racism groups accused him of denying crimes against humanity, itself a crime under French law, in his book "The Founding Myths of Israeli Politics."

Garaudy has argued that Hitler's killing of Jews amounted to "pogroms" or "massacres" but that it was an exaggeration to call the Nazi crimes "genocide" or a "Holocaust."

He denies that six million Jews were killed.

Garaudy is represented by controversial Paris lawyer Jacques Verges, who also defended for a time Carlos the Jackal, the guerrilla mastermind recently condemned to life in prison for the murder of two French secret agents in 1975.

The controversy over Garaudy's book in 1996 also tainted Abbe Pierre, a Roman Catholic priest devoted to the poor and the homeless who shocked his admirers by defending Garaudy as an honest man.

He hailed Garaudy for questioning the commonly accepted view and said that it was "completely excessive" to compare the author's work to revisionism.

The 83-year-old priest later sought to distance himself from Garaudy, urging his long-time friend to admit that he had made a mistake.

Garaudy told the French daily Le Figaro, however, that Abbe Pierre had not changed his views and continued to support him.

Garaudy is best known for the radical changes in his views through a life that saw him successively be a devout Christian, an atheist leader of the French Communist party and, when he was expelled from its ranks, a convert to Islam. REUTERS

Copyright 1997 Reuters Limited.


French author asks court for Holocaust debate
07:14 p.m Jan 08, 1998 Eastern

PARIS, Jan 8 (Reuters) - French author Roger Garaudy, accused of trivialising the Holocaust against the Jews, told a court on Thursday that he was not anti-Semitic and demanded a public debate on whether Nazi gas chambers had existed.

Garaudy was brought to trial after several anti-racism groups accused him of denying crimes against humanity -- a crime under French law -- in his book "The Founding Myths of Israeli Politics."

Garaudy, 84, has argued that Hitler's killing of Jews amounted to "pogroms" or "massacres" but that it was an exaggeration to call the Nazi crimes "genocide" or a "Holocaust."

He has also denied that six million Jews were killed, but at the first day of the trial on Thursday Garaudy agreed that he was not in a position to judge the historical truth of the gas chambers.

"I do not have the competence (to prove) the existence of the gas chambers. I ask that there should be a public debate between specialists on the issue," he said.

He denied he was anti-Semitic, an attitude he described as "a crime and imbecilic," and said he was anti-Zionist.

Garaudy is represented by controversial Paris lawyer Jacques Verges, who defended the late Nazi officer Klaus Barbie who died while serving a life sentence in a French prison.

The controversy over Garaudy's book in 1996 also tainted Abbe Pierre, a Roman Catholic priest devoted to the poor and the homeless who shocked his admirers by defending Garaudy as an honest man.

He hailed Garaudy for questioning the commonly accepted view and said that it was "completely excessive" to compare the author's work to revisionism.

The 83-year-old priest later sought to distance himself from Garaudy, urging his long-time friend to admit that he had made a mistake.

Garaudy told the French daily Le Figaro, however, that Abbe Pierre had not changed his views and continued to support him.

Garaudy is best known for the radical changes in his views through a life that has seen him successively as a devout Christian, an atheist leader of the French Communist party and, when he was expelled from its ranks, a convert to Islam.

Copyright 1997 Reuters Limited.


UAE paper begins solidarity move with French writer
04:43 p.m Jan 13, 1998 Eastern

By Youssef Kassem

DUBAI, Jan 13 (Reuters) - A United Arab Emirates newspaper has launched a solidarity campaign with French Moslem intellectual Roger Garaudy on trial in Paris for questioning the Nazi Holocaust against Jews in World War Two.

Under the slogan "Garaudy, you are not alone," Al-Khaleej, a leading Arabic-language newspaper, asked Gulf readers on Tuesday to donate money and send messages of support to the French author.

"The campaign is receiving an overwhelming response...It is natural for us as Arabs to support the man (Garaudy) who is pursuing a just cause," Omran Matar Taryam, the newspaper's managing editor told Reuters.

"Donations have exceeded $75,000 and we are expecting more," he said.

In a letter of gratitude addressed to the newspaper and its readers, Garaudy said the support he was receiving "makes our common struggle against Zionism more dynamic."

"Zionism with its aggressive colonialist policies and claims to 'eternal' control over Jerusalem could detonate a new world war," he said in the letter published in al-Khaleej on Tuesday.

Israel claims Jerusalem as its undivided capital, while Palestinian regard the eastern part of the city -- site of Islam's third holiest shrine -- as the capital of a future Palestinian state.

"Islam is now its (Zionism) target and our unity is a decisive factor for success," the letter said, adding that "truth cannot lose a court case."

Garaudy, 84, who denies any wrongdoing, was brought to trial after several anti-racism groups accused him of denying crimes committed against humanity, itself a crime under French law, in his book "The Founding Myths of Israeli Politics."

He has argued that Hitler's killing of the Jews amounted to "pogroms" or "massacres" but that it was an exaggeration to call the Nazi crimes "genocide" or "Holocaust."

He denies that six million Jews were killed.

Known for his radical views, Garaudy's letter described Israel as "the only racial and aggressive state in the world."

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


Iran rights body backs Frenchman doubting Holocaust
08:15 p.m Jan 14, 1998 Eastern

TEHRAN, Jan 14 (Reuters) - An Iranian human rights group has backed French Moslem intellectual Roger Garaudy on trial in Paris for questioning the Nazi Holocaust against Jews in World War Two, a newspaper said on Wednesday.

The English-language Tehran Times quoted an Islamic Human Rights Commission statement as saying: "This trial is a demonstration of disrespect and nonconformity to the practice of freedom of speech in association with a scholar who intends to make public his research works to the community of mankind."

The commission -- formed in 1995 by lawyers, parliament members and senior state officials -- is formally independent of the government.

State-run Tehran radio blasted Western groups defending writers for not backing Garaudy.

"These associations seem to be totally controlled by Zionist groups because they are active supporters of the apostate Salman Rushdie...but are silent on Garaudy," it said in a commentary.

British author Rushdie has been living in hiding since 1989 when Iran's late spiritual leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a religious ruling condemning him to death for alleged blasphemy in his novel "The Satanic Verses."

Garaudy, 84, who denies any wrongdoing, was brought to trial after several anti-racism groups accused him of denying crimes committed against humanity, itself a crime under French law, in his book "The Founding Myths of Israeli Politics."

He has argued that Hitler's killing of the Jews amounted to "pogroms" or "massacres" but that it was an exaggeration to call the Nazi crimes "genocide" or "Holocaust."

He denies that six million Jews were killed.

A leading Arabic-language newspaper in the United Arab Emirates recently launched a campaign in Garaudy's support.

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


Paris prosecutor wants Holocaust doubter fined
05:08 a.m. Jan 16, 1998 Eastern

PARIS, Jan 15 (Reuters) - The prosecution urged a Paris court on Thursday to fine French Moslem intellectual Roger Garaudy 150,000 francs ($24,500) for questioning the Nazi Holocaust against Jews in World War Two.

Prosecutor Francois Reygrobellet also recommended a six-month suspended jail term and a fine of 150,000 francs for Pierre Guillaume, publisher of Garaudy's 1995 book "The Founding Myths of Israeli Politics."

The trial of the two men, which began last week, was expected to wrap up on Friday after defence lawyers present their closing arguments.

Garaudy, 84, has denied any wrongdoing. He was brought to trial after several anti-racism groups accused him of denying crimes committed against humanity, itself a crime under French law.

He argues in his book that Hitler's killing of the Jews amounted to "pogroms" or "massacres" but that it was an exaggeration to call the Nazi crimes "genocide" or "Holocaust." He also denies that six million Jews were killed.

Garaudy's cause was taken up in some Arab states during the trial.

A leading Arabic-language newspaper in the United Arab Emirates recently launched a campaign in Garaudy's support.

In addition, state-run Tehran radio blasted Western groups defending writers for not backing Garaudy, and an Iranian human rights body defended him as a scholar whose free speech rights were being violated.

"This trial is a demonstration of disrespect and nonconformity to the practice of freedom of speech in association with a scholar who intends to make public his research works to the community of mankind," said the Tehran-based Islamic Human Rights Commission, the English-language Tehran Times reported on Wednesday.

The commission -- formed in 1995 by lawyers, parliament members and senior state officials -- is formally independent of the government.

  ((Paris newsroom, +33 1 4221 5339, fax +33 1 4236 1072,
paris.newsroom+reuters.com)) REUTERS

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


Le Pen probed in France over Holocaust remarks
06:44 p.m Jan 08, 1998 Eastern

PARIS, Jan 8 (Reuters) - A Paris magistrate on Thursday ordered that French far-rightist Jean-Marie Le Pen be investigated for saying World War Two gas chambers were a mere detail of history --remarks that have already earned him heavy fines.

Investigating magistrate Jean-Paul Valat said Le Pen must be formally probed on suspicion of "disputing crimes against humanity," a charge that carries up to a year in jail, a fine of 300,000 francs ($50,000), and possible inelegibility for public office.

Under French law, being formally probed may but does not automatically lead to trial. In a civil suit over the remarks last month, Le Pen was ordered by a Paris court to pay 300,000 francs ($50,000) to finance publication of the ruling in six French weekly publications.

Le Pen, the firebrand president of the anti-immigrant National Front, made the remarks during a visit to Munich last December, and prosecutors there said they were considering a criminal investigation against him on suspicion of inciting racial hatred.

A spokesman for Munich prosecutors said they were investigating the remarks he made at the launch of a new biography about him, entitled "Le Pen the Rebel" by a German right-wing extremist.

Media reports say he had called the gas chambers used in Nazi death camps a "mere detail" of World War Two -- remarks he had already made in France 11 years ago and for which he had been convicted and fined 1.2 million francs ($200,000).

"Prosecutors will examine his precise words and the context in which he spoke to comment on the fate of the Jews," the Munich spokesman said.

"We are currently taking statements from witnesses and will decide whether to go ahead with a judicial inquiry in the next few days," he said.

In Germany it is illegal to trivialise or deny the murder of six million Jews in the Holocaust. The maximum penalty for the criminal offence, known as the "Auschwitz lie," is five years jail and a stiff fine.

The spokesman said it was not yet clear whether Le Pen's immunity as a member of the European parliament could actually stand in the way of prosecution.

The National Front has seen a tremendous rise in popularity over recent years with its anti-immigrant platform under the banner "France for the French" and now has about 15 percent support among the French electorate.

Le Pen denies he is racist or anti-Semitic and argues that he and those who vote for his party have been misunderstood.

Copyright 1997 Reuters Limited.


French Catholic daily sorry for anti-Semitic past
12:45 p.m. Jan 12, 1998 Eastern

PARIS, Jan 12 (Reuters) - France's Roman Catholic daily La Croix has apologised for its ferociously anti-Semitic editorials in the case of Jewish army captain Alfred Dreyfus a century ago.

La Croix said in its Sunday-Monday edition that it had betrayed its Christian beliefs by writing "Down with the Jews!" and describing Dreyfus, jailed on false charges of spying for Germany, as "the enemy Jew."

"Yes, we wrote that," it confessed in an editorial marking the 100th anniversary of novelist Emile Zola's impassioned defence of Dreyfus.

In a famous article entitled "J'accuse" (I Accuse) and published on January 13, 1898, Zola charged France with jailing an innocent Jewish scapegoat.

At the time, La Croix virulently criticised Zola's defence of Dreyfus, who spent nearly five years in the infamous Devil's Island penal colony for a crime that another officer committed.

"We must remember that. We must repent for that," wrote La Croix (The Cross), now a respected daily published by Catholic priests but not an official Church publication.

The editorial echoed the apology France's Catholic bishops offered to the Jewish community last September for the church's failure to speak out against the Holocaust.

The uproar over Dreyfus, the first Jew to serve on the French general staff, exposed widespread anti-Semitism in the French military and deeply split public opinion.

La Croix recalled it had branded Dreyfus "the enemy Jew betraying France" and condemned the Jews as "ferocious enemies" of Christ.

"The men who wrote those deadly lines are our older brothers," the daily wrote. "Whether Assumptionists (priests) or laymen, the editors of La Croix had at the time an inexcusable attitude."

Since then, the Holocaust, the Vatican Council of the 1960s and Pope John Paul II's visit to a Rome synagogue in 1986 had made Catholics realise the Jews were their "elder brothers" and Jesus himself was Jewish, it said.

"For decades, the Church and La Croix have expressed this respect fully," it wrote. "But the duty to remember remains."

Dreyfus was eventually brought back home from Devil's Island, off French Guiana, and rehabilitated in 1906.

France has staged a series of events to commemorate the anniversary of "J'Accuse." President Jacques Chirac said last week that the Dreyfus affair was a "dark spot" on French history.

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


French can't estimate stolen wartime Jewish assets
05:54 p.m Jan 12, 1998 Eastern

PARIS, Jan 12 (Reuters) - A French commission studying the plunder of Jewish assets during World War Two said on Monday vast amounts were stolen but no figure could yet be put on the total.

The commission, led by Nazi concentration camp survivor Jean Matteoli, said the collaborationist Vichy regime systematically robbed Jews of their assets from 1940 to 1944.

But it would take several years to review the thousands of boxes and tens of thousands of dossiers on Jewish assets lying uncategorised in French archives, it said in a report to Prime Minister Lionel Jospin.

Writing of the "aryanisation" of Jewish assets, the report said: "Partly led by the (German) occupiers or in coordination with them, it was essentially instituted by the Vichy government and often conducted with the cooperation of its administration."

"It is not yet possible to come up with concrete proposals for restitution," it said.

But the commission, set up early last year to clarify the status of property never returned to its rightful owners, said France did not have to wait until its inquiry was over to start indemnifying survivors.

The 2.2 tonnes of gold that make up the French part of a 5.5 tonne haul of bullion looted by the Nazis could be used to pay expropriate French Jews or their relatives, it said.

At a Nazi gold conference in London last month, France indicated it would demand to get its gold back from wherever it is now held rather than donate its share of looted bullion to a new fund for Holocaust victims.

"The sum thus recovered could be used to meet national goals, which does not exclude an eventual direct contribution to an international indemnification fund which certain participants at a recent conference in London announced," the report said.

Former Prime Minister Alain Juppe appointed Jean Matteoli, current head of France's Economic and Social Council, to probe assets seizures under Vichy.

Matteoli, a non-Jew, was arrested by Nazi police in April 1944 as a member of a Resistance group coordinating secret flights by Allied aircraft parachuting agents and equipment into occupied France. He was sent to the Neuengamme concentration camp and later to Bergen-Belsen.

Some 76,000 Jews of the 320,000 then in France were sent to Nazi concentration camps, including 11,000 children. Only about 2,800 of those deported survived.

Some 65,000 non-Jews were also deported, most of them for Resistance activity. Although they were not sent to extermination camps like Auschwitz-Birkenau, nearly half of them died from ill-treatment.

Among the targets of the commission's study is the city of Paris following publication of a book which said the capital in 1944 may have taken over hundreds of flats left vacant by Jews killed in concentration camps.

((Paris newsroom, +33 1 4221 5339, fax +33 1 4236 1072, paris.newsroom+reuters.com)) REUTERS

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


French daily finds record of wartime Jewish assets
03:05 p.m Jan 16, 1998 Eastern

PARIS, Jan 16 (Reuters) - French banks holding plundered Jewish property during World War Two sold confiscated stocks as late as two weeks after the June 1944 D-Day allied invasion, a Paris newspaper said on Friday.

The daily Liberation reported it had found evidence of the sales among singed bank records rescued from a spectacular warehouse fire in Le Havre last August.

It said they included about 100 orders to sell confiscated stocks to "aryanise" the economy during the German occupation and pay a fine of one billion francs ($146 million at current rates) imposed by the Nazis on the Jewish community.

Liberation added the records had not been consulted by an official commission which reported on Monday that it could not yet put a figure on the vast amount of Jewish assets plundered during the German occupation.

The records showed French banks worked quickly and efficiently in carrying out orders from regional officials to sell the stocks.

"The regional administration showed the same zeal -- their sales orders are dated from February 1944 until June 21, 1944."

D-Day, the Allied invasion in Normandy that marked the beginning of the end of the Nazi occupation, took place on June 6, 1944.

Liberation said the documents were "an essential element to help understand the process of 'aryanisation' of Jewish assets through the intermediary of French administrations and banks."

The official commission, led by concentration camp survivor Jean Matteoli, said the collaborationist Vichy regime systematically robbed Jews of their assets from 1940 to 1944.

But it would take several years to review the thousands of boxes and tens of thousands of dossiers on Jewish assets lying uncategorised in French archives, it said in a report to Prime Minister Lionel Jospin.

Two Jewish women who survived the Holocaust in France filed suit in a New York court in December against nine French banks to force them to account for Jewish assets they administered. No dollar amount was cited in the lawsuit.

The banks named in the lawsuit are Credit Lyonnais, Societe Generale, Banque Paribus, Banque National De Paris, Credit Commercial de France, Credit Agricole, Banque Francaise du Commerce Exterieur, Banque Worms Capital Corp and Barclays Bank, a British-based bank that operated offices in France.

The lawsuit mirrored three lawsuits claiming $20 billion filed by Holocaust victims or their relatives in New York against Swiss banks, which they said hoarded accounts left by Jews murdered in the war.

Some 76,000 of the 320,000 Jews then living in France were sent to Nazi concentration camps, including 11,000 children. Only about 2,800 of those deported survived.

The August fire in the Le Havre warehouse also destroyed the records of the French state-owned bank Credit Lyonnais, which had to be bailed out after suffering $23.4 billion in losses.

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


Britain to lift veil on wartime aliens scandal
12:22 a.m. Jan 16, 1998 Eastern

LONDON, Jan 15 (Reuters) - The government is to publish a list of 25,000 people, many of whom had fled to Britain from Nazi-occupied Europe, who had their property confiscated during World War Two after being accused of trading with the enemy.

The announcement, made on Thursday by Trade and Industry Secretary Margaret Beckett, was welcomed by Jewish leaders who had urged the move on behalf of the families of people who escaped across the English Channel to avoid the holocaust.

But Neville Nagler, Director-General of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, told Reuters he hoped a report on the issue to be published by the government shortly would lead to compensation for at least some of those dispossessed.

"The British government regarded all foreigners as enemies at the time regardless of why they had come to the country," Nagler said. "Even bona fide refugees have been unable to reclaim their assets."

"This certainly is a step forward, but now we await the publication of the full report by the government, and then we want to see what the government says it is prepared to do."

Beckett said the list, which could not be complete because some records have not been retained, would be published on the Internet as soon as possible. It would include some companies and partnerships as well as individuals.

The government in July commissioned research into papers it holds about the operation of the wartime Trading with the Enemy laws.

Beckett said in a written parliamentary answer that the research was nearing completion and the report would be published soon along with the government's response to it.

"The government ... believes that the publication of the report and the list of names should make a large contribution to the public's understanding of this complex subject and help the relatives of holocaust victims to research their family history," she said.

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


China denies receiving Nazi gold through Macao
04:23 a.m. Jan 08, 1998 Eastern

BEIJING, Jan 8 (Reuters) - China on Thursday denied a magazine report it received through the Portuguese enclave of Macao in 1969 an unspecified amount of gold looted by Nazi Germany during World War Two.

Hong Kong's South China Morning Post on Monday quoted Ponto Final, a Portuguese-language magazine in Macao, as saying Nazi gold stolen from Holocaust victims and banks in occupied European countries may have ended up in China after travelling from Portugal to Macao.

"According to our checks, China never received this batch of gold," foreign ministry spokesman Shen Guofang told a news briefing.

"We inquired with departments concerned, including the People's Bank of China, and there never was this batch of gold," Shen said. He gave no further details.

The People's Bank of China is the country's central bank.

The magazine quoted Fernando Brito, a former senior official with Macao's Gold Import Commission, as saying four tonnes of Nazi gold ingots engraved "Reichsbank" and bearing the eagle and swastika went through Macao in 1969, the South China Morning Post reported.

Israel's World Jewish Restitution Organisation was quoted as saying it would investigate Brito's claims.

After World War Two ended in 1945, the Allies demanded that Portugal, a neutral nation during the war, return an estimated 139 tonnes of looted Nazi gold that it bought.

Lisbon gave back four tonnes of Dutch gold, in the original wrappers, that it had in its banks.

Macao is due to revert to Chinese sovereignty in 1999.

Copyright 1997 Reuters Limited.


Palestinian imam slams Israel pig poster sentence
02:54 p.m Jan 09, 1998 Eastern

By Mona Eltahawy

JERUSALEM, Jan 9 (Reuters) - A Palestinian prayer leader on Friday condemned an Israeli court for sentencing an ultra-nationalist Jewish woman who put up posters depicting Islam's Prophet Mohammed as a pig to just two years in jail.

"This action by the Israeli government helps extremist Jews to insult Islam and Moslems," Sheikh Hassan Youssef Salama told some 150,000 Moslems during a Ramadan Friday prayer sermon at Jerusalem's al-Aqsa mosque, Islam's third holiest shrine.

A judge on Thursday imposed a three-year prison sentence, one year of which was suspended, on Russian immigrant Tatiana Suskin, 26, a supporter of the outlawed anti-Arab group Kach.

Suskin put up the posters across 20 storefronts on the Palestinian-ruled side of the volatile West Bank town of Hebron one Friday night last June. Prosecutors accused her of throwing the stone at an Arab car the next morning.

Pigs are considered unclean by both Judaism and Islam.

The pig posters incensed the Moslem world and sparked Palestinian riots in Hebron, a divided West Bank town sacred to Moslems and Jews.

Suskin was unrepentant at her sentencing. "Everything I did was out of love for the land of Israel," she said. "I'm not sorry -- what should I be sorry about."

Salama called Suskin a "vile woman" and said what she had done was an example of the many attacks that had been directed recently at Islam.

He also mentioned the case of a Jewish ultra-nationalist man accused by police last month of plotting to throw a pig's head onto the al-Aqsa mosque complex atop Jerusalem's Temple Mount.

"We call on the Arab and Moslem world and say to them: What have you done for al-Aqsa?

"We will not surrender the city of Jerusalem because any surrender, God forbid, will lead to the surrender of Mecca and Medina," he said referring to Islam's holiest sites, in Saudi Arabia.

Palestinians claim Arab East Jerusalem, which Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war and later annexed, as the capital of a future state. Israel says the whole city is its eternal capital.

The militant Islamic group Hamas cited the posters last July as one reason for carrying out a bloody suicide bombing at Jerusalem's Mahane Yehuda market.

In Egypt, a man convicted of killing nine German tourists on a bus in September also said he had acted out of revenge for the posters, which had portrayed Mohammad as a pig stamping on the Koran.

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


Jewish militants charged in pig's head mosque plot
08:54 p.m Jan 14, 1998 Eastern

JERUSALEM, Jan 14 (Reuters) - Two Jewish extremists plotted to catapult a pig's head with a Koran stuffed in its mouth into Islam's third holiest shrine atop Jerusalem's Temple Mount, according to charges filed in an Israeli court on Wednesday.

Avigdor Eskin, who put a curse on Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin before he was assassinated in 1995, and Haim Pakovich were charged in the Jerusalem District Court with sedition and conspiracy to defile a holy place and harm religious feelings.

The indictment brought by state prosecutors said Pakovich planned to search the Internet for a design for a catapult.

Pakovich and Eskin planned to use the biblical-age launcher to propel the pig's head, with the Moslem scriptures in its mouth, into the complex housing the al-Aqsa mosque and gold-tipped Dome of the Rock during the current Moslem holy month of Ramadan, the charge sheet said.

It said their aim had been "to spark clashes between Moslems and Jews." Pigs are considered unclean by both Judaism and Islam.

Police uncovered the alleged plot last month.

Eskin and Pakovich were also charged with conspiracy in laying a pig's head in September on the grave of Izz al-Deen al-Qassam, a 1930s-era Palestinian nationalist guerrilla whose name was adopted by the armed wing of the militant Hamas group.

In a third incident, Eskin was charged with conspiracy and Pakovich with arson in the torching in October of the Jerusalem offices of a peace movement led by Rabin's son Yuval.

Israel's Channel Two television said the charges carried a combined maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.

The men were ordered held by police until the end of legal proceedings against them.

The latest pig plot follows the sentencing last week of a Jewish woman to two years in prison for pasting posters last summer in the West Bank town of Hebron depicting Islam's Prophet Mohammad as a pig stamping on the Koran.

The posters touched off Palestinian riots in Hebron and incensed Moslems worldwide. REUTERS

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


Argentina responds to anti-Jewish vandals with law
05:52 p.m Jan 06, 1998 Eastern

BUENOS AIRES, Jan 6 (Reuters) - Argentina's government said on Tuesday vandals desecrating tombs face up to five years in jail under a bill drafted after a spate of attacks on Jewish cemeteries.

If passed by Congress, vandals would be jailed for from one to five years for defacing tombs, corpses, ashes or religious symbols, a spokesman for Cabinet Chief Jorge Rodriguez told Reuters.

Leaders of Argentina's Jewish community called for special laws to punish desecration of their tombs following attacks on Jewish cemeteries on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve.

Vandals smashed and defiled about 20 tombs at Ciudadela Jewish cemetery last Wednesday night and 30 at La Tablada cemetery on the night of Dec. 24.

The attacks were a new blow to the sense of security of one of the world's largest Jewish communities, shaken by the unsolved bombings of the Israeli Embassy in 1992, which killed 29 people, and the AMIA Jewish community center in 1994, which killed 86 people.

Both cemetery attacks were in Buenos Aires province. Gov. Eduardo Duhalde said he thought they were the work of disgruntled police opposed to a purge of their force's ranks in an anti-corruption drive.

Four men from Buenos Aires province police are under arrest suspected of giving support for the 1994 bombing, which Israel and local Jews think was masterminded by Iranian-backed Muslim extremists.

The Peronist government of President Carlos Menem sent a bill to specifically outlaw the desecration of tombs to Congress in 1995, but deputies never found time to debate it. REUTERS

Copyright 1997 Reuters Limited.


Argentine governor warns of anti-Jewish vandalism
03:08 p.m Jan 05, 1998 Eastern

BUENOS AIRES, Jan 5 (Reuters) - Vandals who desecrated Jewish tombstones on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve could strike again because cemeteries are difficult to guard, the governor of Argentina's Buenos Aires province said on Monday.

The anti-Semitic attackers could take advantage of the difficulty of providing sufficient security at cemeteries to smash more tombs, Peronist Party Gov. Eduardo Duhalde told local radio.

"We think they might want to do it again over the next few days," he said, "There are so many possible targets, and they're tough to guard."

Duhalde believes the attacks might have been carried out by disgruntled police officers fired from his 46,000-member force in a major campaign to stamp out corruption and improve its effectiveness against rising crime.

Vandals smashed and defiled about 20 tombs at Ciudadela Jewish cemetery on Wednesday night and 30 at La Tablada cemetery on the night of Dec. 24. Both are in Buenos Aires province.

The attacks were a further blow to the sense of security of one of the world's largest Jewish communities, which was shaken by the unsolved bombings of the local Israeli Embassy in 1992, which killed 29 people, and the AMIA Jewish community center in 1994, which killed 86 people.

Four men from the Buenos Aires province police are under arrest on suspicion of providing support for the 1994 bombing, which Israel and local Jews think was masterminded by Iranian-backed Muslim extremists.

Jewish leaders carried out a protest ceremony in another Buenos Aires cemetery Sunday and called for specific laws to punish desecration of their tombs. REUTERS

Copyright 1997 Reuters Limited.


Israel, local Jews, reject Argentine criticism
08:47 p.m Jan 06, 1998 Eastern

BUENOS AIRES, Jan 6 (Reuters) - Israel's ambassador in Buenos Aires and Argentina's Jewish community leader rejected on Tuesday a claim by Interior Minister Carlos Corach that Israel had not helped enough in investigating anti-Jewish bombings.

"The state of Israel gave all it had in its hands," said Ambassador Yitzhak Aviran, quoted by private news agency DyN.

Corach, who is himself Jewish, reportedly criticized Israel's contribution to clearing up unsolved bombing attacks in 1992 and 1994 during an official visit to Jerusalem on Monday.

"Israel could have done more and can do more than it did. We can all do more, probably," Corach told Argentina's Clarin daily after meeting Israeli President Ezer Weizman.

But Argentine Jewish community leader Ruben Beraja disagreed, telling local television: "They gave all of the information that they had."

Unsolved bombings at the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires killed 29 people in 1992, and 86 people at the AMIA Jewish community center in 1994.

Argentine officials have since had a prickly relationship with the Israelis, who have publicly criticized the lack of progress in investigations.

Aviran was a harsh critic of the Supreme Court's unsuccessful efforts in investigating the attack on the embassy. The case has since been handed over to an ordinary judge.

No one is under arrest for the embassy bombing, but four men from Buenos Aires province police are in custody suspected of giving support for the 1994 attack. Israel and local Jews think both bombings were masterminded by Iranian-backed Muslim extremists.

The sense of security of Argentine Jews was further undermined when unknown vandals desecrated Jewish cemeteries in separate incidents on Christmas Eve and New Years Eve.

The Argentine government announced on Tuesday new legislation under which vandals desecrating tombs could face up to five years in jail.

If the bill is passed by Congress, vandals would be jailed for between one and five years for defacing tombs, corpses, ashes or religious symbols, a spokesman for Cabinet Chief Jorge Rodriguez told Reuters.

Argentina is home to one of the world's largest Jewish communities. REUTERS

Copyright 1997 Reuters Limited.


FEATURE-Unexploded bombs ticking under German town
01:48 a.m. Jan 12, 1998 Eastern

By Erik Kirschbaum

ORANIENBURG, Germany, Jan 12 (Reuters) - There is an eerie silence every few weeks in Oranienburg when life in this small town, pummelled by American bombs during World War Two, comes to a complete standstill.

Cars, trains and ships are ordered to halt every time another unexploded bomb is found under the sandy soil of the town just north of Berlin, which was devastated because Nazi researchers were believed to be working on an atomic bomb there.

Planes flying overhead are diverted. And as many as 17,000 of Oranienburg's 30,000 residents are evacuated from their homes while explosives experts defuse the deadly 500-lb (225-kg) and 1,000-lb (450-kg) bombs.

"It is a miracle that no one has been hurt or killed yet," said Paul Koch, head of the Brandenburg state munitions removal agency that is leading efforts to clear the bombs from the town that ranks among the most heavily bombed in Germany.

The communist East German government made only token efforts to find the unexploded bombs in the years after the war. Now that the state has obtained declassified World War Two aerial photographs, they have found and defused scores of ageing bombs.

But sometimes the detonators are so badly corroded that they cannot be defused. The bombs are then packed in straw and earth and blown up in controlled explosions.

SOMETIMES THE BOMBS JUST BLOW UP ON THEIR OWN

Sometimes the bombs just blow up on their own. Lakes and shipping canals have suddenly erupted. No one has been hurt yet in Oranienburg, but one bomb blew up in a construction site in nearby east Berlin in 1994, killing three construction workers.

"We have to find the bombs before they explode," said Oranienburg Mayor Hans-Joachim Laesicke in an interview with Reuters. "The public's safety is our top priority. More unexploded bombs should have been found before. But the East German government had a very lax attitude."

At least 20,000 bombs rained down on Oranienburg, most in one raid on March 15, 1945.

Local authorities and historians believe the Americans pounded the town just weeks before the war ended to prevent advancing Soviet troops from taking the suspected nuclear facility intact.

Munitions experts estimate that between 300 and 1,000 bombs are buried beneath Oranienburg, many beneath houses or buildings erected by the communists after the war.

Because almost all the bombs will explode sooner or later, authorities are now belatedly scrambling to find the weapons the East German government couldn't or didn't try to unearth.

ATTTACKS ON ORANIENBURG REMARKABLY INTENSE

Although German cities such as Berlin, Bremen, Cologne and Hamburg also suffered heavy damage from Allied air raids, the attacks on Oranienburg were remarkably intense for such a small town -- almost one bomb per resident.

Oranienburg's post-war cleanup was also hindered by the fact that it lay on the eastern side of the Iron Curtain and was not able to obtain aerial photographs from the Western Allies. The photos have long helped hunters in West Germany locate impact marks of possible unexploded bombs.

"We have been able to find nearly 60 bombs since 1992 once we were able to buy the aerial photographs from the United States," said Sylvia Holm, head of the town's municipal affairs agency. "The photographs have been a huge help. They have helped us spot locations where bombs may be and we have been able to find bombs buried up to nine metres deep."

Last year one bomb was found buried beneath a school and another underneath a municipal heating plant -- both built after the war. East German authorities had approved the construction after saying they had searched three metres (10 feet) below the surface.

The bomb under the school was just 1.5 metres (five feet) deep and the bomb under the heating plant was seven metres (23 feet) deep. Both were defused in delicate operations that involved drilling through the basement floors.

"That was a real shock," said Christian Bochert, a 24-year-old who lives in an apartment block across the street from the school. "It makes you think that if they found a bomb under the school, there could be one under my house too that could go off anytime. No one feels safe anymore."

An estimated 10 to 20 percent of the bombs failed to detonate. Hundreds remained submerged in the soft soil along the banks of the river Havel, where they sank up to nine metres (30 feet).

THOUSANDS OF WWII BOMBS STILL BURIED

"The problem is becoming more acute each day," said Koch, the state munition expert. "The detonators are rusting away and the rotting process will cause these bombs to explode some day."

The problem of unexploded World War Two bombs is by no means limited to Oranienburg or even the formerly communist east.

In January, a 500-lb bomb was found by workers building the new Chancellery in Berlin across the street from the Reichstag building. And in July another 500-lb bomb was found in the backyard of President Roman Herzog's residence in Berlin.

"There are still thousands of World War Two bombs buried in Germany," said Edgar Schwab, managing director of Sontec, a high-tech munitions recovery company that uses computer models to find bombs. "The danger of self-detonation grows with each year. Time is literally running out." REUTERS

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


German prosecutors mull Le Pen racial hatred probe
04:19 p.m Jan 08, 1998 Eastern

MUNICH, Jan 8 (Reuters) - Prosecutors in Germany said on Thursday they were considering a criminal investigation against French nationalist Jean-Marie Le Pen on suspicion of inciting racial hatred on a recent visit to Munich.

The French National Front leader visited the Bavarian capital in December for the unveiling of a new biography about him, entitled "Le Pen the Rebel" by a German right-wing extremist.

A spokesman for Munich prosecutors said they were investigating remarks Le Pen made at the book launch.

Media reports say he had called the gas chambers used in Nazi death camps a "mere detail" of World War Two -- remarks for which he was convicted and fined in France last month.

"Prosecutors will examine his precise words and the context in which he spoke to comment on the fate of the Jews," the spokesman said.

"We are currently taking statements from witnesses and will decide whether to go ahead with a judicial inquiry in the next few days," he said.

In Germany it is illegal to trivialise or deny the murder of six million Jews in the Holocaust. The maximum penalty for the criminal offence, known here as the "Auschwitz lie," is five years jail and a stiff fine.

The spokesman said it was not yet clear whether Le Pen's immunity as a member of the European parliament could actually stand in the way of prosecution.

The National Front has seen a tremendous rise in popularity over recent years with its anti-immigrant platform under the banner "France for the French" and now has about 15 percent support among the French electorate.

Le Pen denies he is racist or anti-Semitic and argues that he and those who vote for his party have been misunderstood.

The National Front party leader was last month ordered by a court in the Paris suburb of Nanterre to pay 300,000 francs to finance the publication of the ruling in six daily newspapers and six weekly publications following his remarks. REUTERS FMF MGJ REUTERS

Copyright 1997 Reuters Limited.


200 rally against German right-wing party congress
11:13 a.m. Jan 10, 1998 Eastern

STAVENHAGEN, Germany, Jan 10 (Reuters) - About 200 leftwingers protested on Saturday against the national congress of one of Germany's most radical right-wing parties being held there this weekend.

The National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD) said it had opened its national congress in Stavenhagen, about 150 km north of Berlin, ahead of September's general elections, adding that around 200 delegates were attending.

The protesters, many from leftwing groups, marched through the town shouting "Death to the Fascists" and "Nazis out."

Stavenhagen is a small town in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany's poorest state.

The NPD congress continues on Sunday when convicted neo-Nazi bomber Manfred Roeder, currently at the centre of a scandal within the German army, will address delegates.

Roeder hit the headlines last month when it came to light that he had been invited to speak at Germany's elite military academy in Hamburg in 1995.

The revelation prompted a number of inquiries which highlighted a series of incidents linking soldiers to rightwing radicalism, seriously damaging the German army's reputation.

The NPD is one of Germany's three main far-right parties.

The others are the German People's Union (DVU), which almost passed the five percent hurdle needed to enter the Hamburg state assembly in regional elections last September, and the Republicans. REUTERS

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


German rightwingers target ex-communist east
11:43 a.m. Jan 11, 1998 Eastern

By Deborah Cole

STAVENHAGEN, Germany, Jan 11 (Reuters) - Germany's far-right National Democratic Party (NPD) kicked off the election year on Sunday by vowing to drum up support in the former communist east.

At a national congress in Germany's poorest state, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, NPD chairman Udo Voigt said his party's campaign would woo support among the four and a half million unemployed Germans for the September 27 general election.

"Our strategy this election year will be to target the losers of German unification, particularly the unemployed," Voigt told journalists after a closed party meeting.

Unemployment reached a post-war record of 4.5 million last month in Germany where the east is worst affected.

Voigt said his party would wage its campaign primarily in regions like Mecklenburg-Vorpommern which has 22 percent unemployment and where, according to Emnid research institute, far-right parties have eight percent support.

About 200 left-wingers protested on Saturday against the NPD national congress being held in Stavenhagen, about 150 km (95 miles) north of Berlin, shouting "Death to the Fascists" and "Nazis out."

The NPD has 4,000 members nationwide and is one of Germany's three main right-wing parties hoping to topple Chancellor Helmut Kohl with an anti-European and anti-immigration platform by stealing votes from his junior coalition partners.

It has gained attention recently by organising street protests against an exhibition about the role of Hitler's Wehrmacht army during World War Two and this weekend, by inviting a convicted neo-Nazi bomber to address its congress.

Manfred Roeder seized headlines last December when it emerged he had been invited to give a talk at an elite German military academy in 1995. The scandal prompted inquiries and calls for Defence Minister Volker Ruehe's resignation.

Roeder's speech at the congress, peppered with racist asides and calls for an ethnically-pure Germany, met with frequent applause from the 200 delegates capped by a standing ovation.

Roeder, who is not an NPD member, also drew wild cheers when he said Kohl was "worse than (former hardline East German leader Erich) Honecker" and predicted that today's "corrupt" German state would fall in a popular revolution too.

"When we develop solidarity, a united front, then the powers in Bonn will start to tremble," he roared, in a rallying cry for Germany's bitterly divided far right to unite.

The NPD has repeatedly failed to win five percent of the vote necessary to win parliamentary seats in state elections.

Its fringe status is due in part to its refusal to form a coalition with other right-wing parties, including the German People's Party (DVU), which nearly cleared the five percent hurdle in a regional election in the city-state of Hamburg, or the extreme right-wing Republicans.

"Our focus is on mobilising young people and bringing political activism to the streets of Germany," said Voigt, a former officer in the German Bundeswehr army.

Voigt said divisions affecting the German far right were likely to prevent it winning support close to that of Jean-Marie Le Pen's National Front in France, which has 15 percent backing.

He said the party hoped to win at least 0.5 percent of the electorate which would make it eligible to apply for federal election funding. REUTERS

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


FEATURE - German far-right take up guitars and sing
09:20 p.m Jan 04, 1998 Eastern

By Mark John

COLOGNE, Germany, Jan 5 (Reuters) - The young man with the guitar acknowledges the applause of his audience before launching into his next song, a heart-felt ballad dedicated to Nazi war criminal Rudolf Hess.

Frank Rennicke, captured in concert on an amateur video now in the hands of the German authorities, is one of the leading lights in a flourishing, but often illegal, far-right music scene.

From Rennicke's brand of wistful odes to the Nazi era through to the virulently racist outpourings of skinhead rock groups, far-right music in Germany is growing in popularity and its hate-filled texts are becoming more explicit.

One album of live concert material that surfaced last year included a song called "Blood Must Flow" in which a far-right rock band openly exhorts its listeners to go out into the streets and murder Jews.

In the vast Cologne headquarters of the Federal Agency for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), the government's watchdog agency that monitors extremists, the rising popularity of far-right music is viewed with alarm.

"When someone repeatedly listens to one of these records, it can quite easily start to penetrate their thinking," said BfV President Peter Frisch in an interview.

"The style of the music fits in both with the musical tastes and fashion sense of a number of young Germans," he added.

CONCERTS SHROUDED IN SECRECY

The BfV, which has no police powers to seize material or arrest suspects, relies on surveillance, informants and tip-offs by the public to collect its information. It can then assist police on how they should pursue their investigations.

The BfV believes there are currently around 70 established far-right rock groups touring the country, giving concerts and releasing CDs and tapes. Their core audience is the estimated 45,000 far-right radicals and neo-Nazis in Germany today.

The BfV's collection of far-right CDs, videos and fan magazines is striking in that, unlike the flurry of output that appeared after German unification in 1990, much of the new material is well-produced and carries a veneer of slick professionalism.

Virtually all of it contains either incitements to racial hatred and the glorification of National Socialism, both crimes punishable under German law.

But getting to grips with the far-right music scene has so far proved easier said than done for the police.

The concerts take place under a shroud of secrecy. Word-of-mouth messages give details of meeting points far removed from the final venue of a gig. Stewards using mobile telephones show the audience to the venue only when they are sure they can proceed undetected.

The concerts themselves are focal points for the rest of the scene, where CD firms, magazine publishers and salesmen can trade in peace and establish contacts with customers.

HOLOCAUST GUILT RUNS DEEP

Apart from the concerts, distribution firms operating outside German law in Denmark and Britain make use of postal privacy to redistribute material originally produced in Germany back to its customers here.

Police in the north German port town of Kiel scored a major coup in October when they arrested three suspected ringleaders of a CD piracy ring and seized some 31,000 CDs with illegal far-right content.

But still new titles keep flooding the market and still the authorities are at a loss to explain their popularity.

One former far-right activist turned music distributor and promoter says that in a country where guilt over the Holocaust still runs deep, it was only a matter of time before German teenagers realised the shock potential of the past.

"It's all a question of provocation. First it was Elvis Presley, then the Rolling Stones, then the Sex Pistols. Now it is this," said Torsten Lemmer, managing director of music publisher Funny Sounds and Vision in the Rhineland town of Duesseldorf.

Lemmer distances his business from the hard-core far-right music scene. He describes his distribution output as "patriotic, nationalist music for ordinary youths, 16 to 18-year-olds just out to shock."

He adds that all his material is checked by two lawyers for possible offences.

Lemmer believes his young customers have perceived a hidden leftist agenda within the pro-European integration beliefs, not just of Chancellor Helmut Kohl's government but of the wider German political establishment.

"They (the audience) may not see it in those specific terms, but they've caught the undercurrent," he said.

As long as Lemmer does not overstep the law, there is nothing the police, BfV or government can do about him.

GOVERNMENT ACCUSED OF ACTING SLOWLY

It is the blatantly illegal part of the far-right scene against which the authorities are coming under political pressure to step up activities.

Annelie Buntenbach, a member of parliament for the Greens who has studied the far-right music scene, accuses the government of acting too sluggishly against the phenomenon.

"Look at the fact that while there has been this growth in the scene, the number of indexed far-right recordings has actually dropped," she said, referring to the fact that only 11 such recordings were last year put on an index of material not to be made available to minors, compared to 43 in 1993.

The government monitoring agency responsible for the index said this simply reflected the smaller number of such recordings around the country being reported to it for possible inclusion on the index.

But at the BfV, Frisch goes as far as to cite the rise of far-right music as a factor behind a small but worrying increase in racially-linked violence reported last year in Germany.

He wants greater police efforts to curb both the concerts and recorded material and said his agency would redouble its activities in the field.

BfV officials say they cannot reveal what precise form this action is taking but assert that the agency is going through a "busy period" in this area.

Meanwhile, Frank Rennicke continues to woo audiences with tales of the exploits of his Nazi heroes. REUTERS

Copyright 1997 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved.


German state forms force to tackle neo-Nazis
03:37 p.m Jan 14, 1998 Eastern

POTSDAM, Germany, Jan 14 (Reuters) - The east German state of Brandenburg announced plans on Wednesday to form a special police unit dedicated to fighting neo-Nazi violent crime.

Brandenburg's interior minister Alwin Ziel said the 35-strong force would concentrate its efforts in 10 locations where right-wing extremist activity was most prevalent.

Official statistics show neo-Nazi crime rates are much higher in eastern than in western Germany.

Experts put this down partly to the former communist region's high unemployment, and partly to the huge social upheaval in the east which followed the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

Ziel said the new unit in his state, which forms the area around Berlin, would work mainly at night and at weekends, looking for troublespots and breaking up banned gatherings.

The state interior ministry said 514 incidents of extreme right-wing crime had been recorded in Brandenburg in 1997, of which 93 involved violence. REUTERS

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


Jewish graveyard desecrated twice in three months
11:24 p.m. Jan 15, 1998 Eastern

SCHWERIN, Germany, Jan 15 (Reuters) - Unknown assailants desecrated a Jewish cemetery in eastern Germany for the second time in three months, knocking down 27 graves, police in Schwerin said on Thursday.

The graveyard was also attacked by suspected neo-Nazis last October, when Swastikas and symbols of the Nazi wartime SS were spray-painted on the stones and the entrance gate.

It was not clear when exactly the latest attack took place.

Police said they were investigating a case of disturbing the peace of the dead and criminal damage, adding they still had no suspects.

Since German unity in 1990, assailants have spray-painted Swastikas on Jewish tombstones in several cemeteries in the formerly communist east.

Authorities suspect far-right extremists have been responsible. REUTERS

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


FOCUS-Bonn agrees Holocaust fund for Jews in east
09:15 p.m Jan 12, 1998 Eastern

By Fiona Fleck

BONN, Jan 12 (Reuters) - Germany on Monday agreed to establish a fund of 200 million marks ($110 million) which would for the first time compensate Jewish victims of Nazism in eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, the German government said.

Holocaust survivors living in the west after World War Two received substantial compensation from Bonn. But victims in the Communist eastern bloc were barred because of Cold War politics.

"Nearly 10 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Cold War has ended for Jewish Holocaust survivors in Eastern Europe," said Israel Singer, the secretary general of the World Jewish Congress, who was a key negotiator with the German government on behalf of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims against Germany.

Payments from the fund would be released starting in 1999 over a period of four years, Chancellery Minister Friedrich Bohl said in a statement. The fund will benefit an estimated 17,000 to 20,000 victims.

The New York-based Jewish Claims Conference would set up the fund "for Jewish victims of the Nazis who are in need and have not received any compensation yet," Bohl said.

In a statement faxed to Reuters in Bonn, the Claims Conference said the deal was the result of nearly a year of intensive negotiations between Jewish groups and Bonn.

"The German government will commit 200 million marks to a fund which the Claims Conference will establish to extend assistance to Jewish Nazi victims in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union who are in need," it said.

Claims Conference President Israel Miller as saying: "It is a very positive development."

A source close to the negotiations told Reuters that the Claims Conference would be able to pay the victims a pension of about 250 marks a month (about $165 a month). The source said that East European pensions average about $50 a month.

Lothar Evers, the president of the Cologne-based Information and Advice Association for Nazi Victims, criticized the agreement.

He said the new fund should be made immediately available to the victims, who are nearly all in the their 70s and 80s, saying they should not have to wait another year.

"The authorities here know who the people are, they are registered and it is totally unacceptable that they should have to wait a whole year for the first payment," Evers told Reuters.

Germany has paid about 100 billion marks to victims of Nazism, almost all of which went to survivors in the west.

Evers said the new fund should not just be for Holocaust victims in the east who had gone empty-handed because even the few in eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union who have received compensation were granted one-off payments of only about 800 marks.

Even with the new fund, Evers said victims in the former Communist east would only receive a fraction of what their western counterparts had won.

The Jewish Claims Conference, which is based in New York, was created by 23 Jewish organizations to help get compensation for Jewish Holocaust victims living outside Israel.

($ - 1.823 German Marks) REUTERS

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


Background to Germany's Holocaust restitution
12:44 p.m. Jan 12, 1998 Eastern

By Fiona Fleck

BONN, Jan 12 (Reuters) - Germany has paid about 100 billion marks compensation to millions of Holocaust survivors and other victims of Nazi persecution since World War Two.

Holocaust survivors in the West received the vast majority of German compensation. Those in the Communist Eastern bloc were barred from restitution because of Cold War politics.

The Federal Compensation Law of 1953 provided for the bulk of reparation payments to Nazi victims persecuted on racial, religious or ideological grounds for physical injury and damage to health, restriction on personal freedom, damage to economic and professional development, and damage to property.

Germany has also concluded bilateral agreements with 16 European countries and the United States totalling 2.38 billion marks and created a 102-million-mark fund for Austrian victims.

The former West Germany argued that East Germany should provide reparations for thousands of victims living in the Communist east -- a demand East Berlin refused to meet.

Germany says it had paid 97 billion marks ($53.2 billion) in restitution by 1996 following a number of accords with east European countries made possible since German unification in 1991 and expects the figure to increase to about 124 billion marks by the year 2030.

Bonn this month paid 140 million marks into a joint 160-million-mark fund with Prague for Czech Holocaust victims.

Germany has also pledged 80 million marks between 1998 and 2000 for humanitarian aid to Nazi victims in other east European countries who have received nothing so far.

But under pressure from the international community and after negotiations with Jewish groups, Bonn announced on Monday a 200-million-mark fund for about 18,000 Jewish concentration camp and ghetto survivors in the east who had gone empty-handed.

Germany had already set aside 100 million marks in funds for victims in the former Soviet Union and earmarked six million marks of it for Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

A victims' group in Latvia rejected the offer, arguing it was a mere fraction of restitution received by western victims.

Until the end of 1997, Bonn said it had made a total of 1.8 billion marks available victims the east, including contributions to foundations in Poland, Belarus, Russia and Ukraine and to victims of pseudo-medical experiments.

Bonn says it paid over 75 billion marks to the vast majority of 4.4 million claims made under the Federal Compensation Law. About 40 percent of recipients lived in Israel.

The following is a breakdown of bilateral accords concluded with 17 countries in millions of marks:

    - Luxembourg      (1959) 18
    - Norway          (1959) 60
    - Denmark         (1959) 16
    - Greece          (1960) 115
    - Netherlands     (1960) 125
    - France          (1960) 400
    - Belgium         (1960) 80
    - Italy           (1961) 40
    - Switzerland     (1961) 10
    - United Kingdom  (1964) 11
    - Sweden          (1964) 1
    - Poland          (1991) 500
    - Belarus         (1993) 200
    - Russia          (1993) 400
    - Ukraine         (1993) 400
    - United States   (1995) 3
    - Czech republic  (1997) 140 REUTERS

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


FOCUS-German parliament approves bugging bill
09:38 p.m Jan 16, 1998 Eastern

By Mark John

BONN, Jan 16 (Reuters) - The German parliament on Friday narrowly passed a controversial bill allowing police to bug suspected criminals for the first time in post-World War Two Germany, despite protests from civil liberty groups.

The vote followed approval by parliament's legal committee this week of a compromise between Chancellor Helmut Kohl's government and the opposition Social Democrats (SPD) to restore eavesdropping powers banned since the Nazi era.

In a much tighter vote than expected, the Bundestag, parliament's lower house, passed the measure by 452 votes to 184, thus securing by four votes the two-thirds majority needed for laws which require amendments to the German constitution.

Interior Minister Manfred Kanther played down suggestions the bill amounted to a watering down of the strong guarantees of civil liberties and privacy that West Germany set up in reaction to the abuses of Hilter's Gestapo secret police.

"This is not a key issue for a constitutional state. It is a measure that will only be used rarely to combat crime," Kanther told parliament.

But Manfred Such, a deputy for the environmentalist Greens who opposed the bill, said it was a "black Friday" for Germany's constitution.

The bill, if approved by the upper house of parliament, will allow police to eavesdrop over an extended period of time on private homes using high-tech surveillance devices such as directional microphones linked to transmitters.

Electronic surveillance is currently only allowed in Germany if there is an overwhelming suspicion that a crime is on the verge of being committed.

Police say they need the powers to fight a surge in organised crime, but lawyers, journalists and doctors have condemned the bill, saying it will violate the confidentiality between them and their clients or contacts.

"This is a dismal event for the constitution," said human rights group Humanistiche Union in a statement.

"We demand that the regional state governments...do their duty to defend the constitution and deny this legal contraption the two-thirds majority it needs in the Bundesrat (upper house of parliament)," it added.

Opposition from civil liberties and church groups to the bill led earlier this week to parliament's legal committee exempting church confessionals from surveillance.

At least one regional state, Rhineland-Palatinate, has said it is considering opposing the bill when it moves to the upper house unless conversations between criminal suspects and doctors, journalists or lawyers are also exempted.

A defeat in the Bundesrat would then send the bill to a mediation committee for amendment. REUTERS

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


More right-wing incidents in army in 1997-report
06:00 p.m Jan 06, 1998 Eastern

BONN, Jan 6 (Reuters) - The number of right-wing extremist incidents in the German army doubled in 1997 compared to the previous year, the parliament's ombudswoman for the armed forces was quoted as saying on Tuesday.

A string of revelations that emerged this year of neo-Nazi incidents has damaged the reputation of Europe's largest army, struggling to become a "normal" force after years of being overshadowed by Germany's militarist Nazi past.

Authorities are investigating a series of incidents, including a talk given by convicted neo-Nazi bomber Manfred Roeder to an elite military academy. Other incidents involved recruits decorating their barracks with Nazi symbols, making the Hitler salute and shouting racist or anti-Semitic slogans.

Ombudswoman Claire Marienfeld said that during the last 12 months, 171 "particular incidents" had been recorded and 222 soldiers were under investigation for suspected right-wing extremism.

The Berlin Morgenpost daily newspaper released a report with Marienfeld's findings ahead of publication on Wednesday.

She was quoted as saying that in 1996 only 70 such incidents came to light.

Ninety percent of cases in 1997 concerned soldiers found in possession of neo-Nazi and right-wing propaganda or skinhead music and 85 percent of cases involved recruits serving compulsory military services.

Marienfeld warned against playing down the findings and called for better political education for army recruits. REUTERS

Copyright 1997 Reuters Limited.


German rightists vow Wehrmacht exhibit protest
12:59 p.m. Jan 11, 1998 Eastern

STAVENHAGEN, Germany, Jan 11 (Reuters) - Germany's far-right National Democratic Party (NPD) said on Sunday it was mobilising supporters across the country to disrupt a controversial exhibition on the role of the German army during World War Two.

The NPD vowed to come out in force in the eastern city of Dresden for the opening on January 20 of the exhibition, which has already toured Hamburg, Berlin, Munich and Frankfurt to angry and sometimes violent protests by neo-Nazis and right-wingers.

The NPD last March succeeded in rallying hundreds of supporters to Munich to picket the show entitled "War of Annihilation: Crimes of the Wehrmacht" documenting atrocities carried out by Nazi-era soldiers against Jews and other victims.

Five information hotlines intended to draw protesters from across the country to Dresden were in operation and the NPD has posted further calls to action on the Internet, it said.

The chilling exhibition uses photographs and letters from soldiers themselves to back up its charge that the regular army, as well as the elite Nazi SS units usually blamed for war crimes, willingly participated in mass killings of civilians.

Manfred Roeder, who has already organised demonstrations against the exhibition under the slogan "We are Proud of our Grandfathers!" rallied support at the NPD's party congress in the eastern town of Stavenhagen for the protest.

"We will be in Dresden this month to denounce this shameful exhibition," Roeder, who is not a member of the NPD, said to cheers from about 200 NPD party delegates. "It defames the good names of our soldiers and we will not stand for it."

Roeder, a convicted neo-Nazi bomber, drew today's German army into a scandal last December when it emerged he had been invited to give a talk at an elite military academy in 1995.

Leftist groups, which clashed with the NPD over the exhibition in Munich last year, said they were already planning counter-demonstrations for the Dresden opening. REUTERS

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


Bonn starts probe into army neo-Nazi activity
08:37 p.m Jan 14, 1998 Eastern

BONN, Jan 14 (Reuters) - A parliamentary committee began an inquiry on Wednesday into neo-Nazi activity in the German army, following a string of embarrassing revelations last year.

The inquiry was demanded by opposition deputies in December after it emerged that a convicted neo-Nazi bomber, Manfred Roeder, was allowed to address an elite military academy in 1995.

The government says the investigation is unnecessary. "This will not produce any substantial new facts," Defence Minister Volker Ruehe told reporters at a congress on Europe in Bonn.

But Chancellor Helmut Kohl's Christian Democrats (CDU) decided not to submit alternative proposals to the opposition Social Democrats' (SPD) plan for a wide-ranging probe.

"The whole army should not, however, be dragged in front of the investigative committee and placed under general suspicion," said Paul Breuer, the CDU's top representative on the committee.

Ruehe appealed to committee members not to indulge in party-political points-scoring. "Anyone who tries to defame the army as a whole will only damage themselves," he said.

The scandals, which the government has admitted have damaged the standing of the German army abroad, have included amateur videos of recruits singing neo-Nazi songs and allegations of a widespread trade in banned Nazi paraphernalia in army barracks.

The CDU and its coalition partners have said the army itself is best placed to investigate the extent of neo-Nazi attitudes and incidents. It says they are one-offs involving individual soldiers, and do not represent a trend.

Roeder sought access to the committee proceedings earlier on Wednesday but was told it was not a public hearing.

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


German army aid frozen after neo-Nazi scandal
08:06 p.m Jan 16, 1998 Eastern

BONN, Jan 16 (Reuters) - The German Defence Ministry said on Friday it had put a freeze on the use by "humanitarian" groups of Germany army equipment after it emerged that ex-service trucks had been granted to a project run by neo-Nazis.

"The freeze is valid from this morning...We have to find a mechanism to ascertain what lies behind (requests for aid) so that we can be sure it won't be abused," a ministry spokesman told a regular government briefing.

ARD television's Panorama programme reported that a charity run by ex-members of Hitler's elite SS force and neo-Nazi sympathisers had secured two trucks from the German army for a "humanitarian" project tending German war graves.

The Defence Ministry on Thursday confirmed the "Kameradenwerk Korps Steiner" (Steiner Comrades' Corps) had received the aid. Panorama said the group was named after Nazi SS General Felix Steiner.

The Defence Ministry receives dozens of requests each year from humanitarian aid groups for use of its equipment. The spokesman stressed the freeze would apply only until an improved checking system was in place.

If army equipment was withdrawn altogether, "many initiatives would collapse completely," he said, adding that the ministry wanted to continue supporting genuine aid projects.

According to Panorama, the Steiner Comrades' Corp asked for transport for a mission to tend the graves of German soldiers who died in Estonia during World War Two. The ministry said on Thursday the details of the request were being investigated.

The war graves scandal follows a similar case in which Manfred Roeder, a known neo-Nazi with a criminal record, secured army vehicles for "humanitarian" aid to Kaliningrad, formerly Koenigsberg, a German city that passed to Russia when borders were redrawn after World War Two.

The incidents are part of a wider scandal over the extent of alleged far-right attitudes and neo-Nazi infiltration within the German army which is currently the subject of a parliamentary inquiry. REUTERS

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


Turkey says never gained from plundered Nazi gold
02:21 p.m Jan 06, 1998 Eastern

ANKARA, Jan 6 (Reuters) - Turkey said on Tuesday it should not be classed among countries which had profited from gold looted by Nazi Germany during World War Two.

"It would be a great injustice to place Turkey among the countries which took a share of war plunder," state minister Sukru Sina Gurel told reporters after a cabinet meeting.

A U.S. report presented to a 41-nation conference in London in December said neutral countries including Turkey had been recalcitrant in talks on returning gold seized from countries invaded by Adolf Hitler's Germany.

Turkey rejected claims for restitution on the grounds that it had joined the war on the Allied side in February 1945, three months before Nazi Germany capitulated, the report said.

"Allied wartime diplomatic and intelligence reports described a lively traffic in looted gold in Turkey's free gold market from 1941 through 1943," it said.

Gurel said that gold transferred to Turkey in 1943 was its own and was being returned from storage in Switzerland.

The U.S. report said the Nazis sent hundreds of millions of dollars worth of looted gold to the Swiss, who provided the foreign currency Germany needed to buy essential war supplies.

Some of the gold came from individuals, including gold taken from the fillings in the teeth of death camp victims.

((Ankara newsroom, +90-312-446 2940 fax +90-312-446 4813, ankara.newsroom+reuters.com)) REUTERS

Copyright 1997 Reuters Limited.


U.S. defends Austria art seizure, probe launched
11:05 p.m. Jan 08, 1998 Eastern

WASHINGTON, Jan 8 (Reuters) - The United States on Thursday defended a decision to seize two Viennese Expressionist paintings claimed by victims of the Nazi regime and said the current owners were willing to discuss the dispute amicably.

U.S. authorities confiscated the paintings by early 20th century painter Egon Schiele in New York on Wednesday as they were about to leave the country. They had been in an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art.

The Manhattan District Attorney launched an investigation on Thursday into whether the paintings were stolen and to determine the rightful owners.

"We have opened an investigation to determine whether the paintings were stolen and have taken steps to keep the paintings in New York," Morgenthau said. His office has issued subpoenas and a grand jury will investigate the matter, which could take up to a year.

"Bildnis Wally" and "Tote Stadt" belong to the Leopold Foundation, named after Viennese art collector Rudolf Leopold who sold the paintings to the Austrian state in 1994.

The U.S. State Department said in a statement: "The United States strongly supports the idea that we have to continue to address the remaining questions about World War Two era assets, including looted art, that are still unaccounted for, and that looted art works should be returned to their respective owners.

"We have been in the forefront of recent efforts to conduct research, investigate claims and develop creative means for making restitution where justified," it added.

Officials were able to seize the paintings after the museum failed to register them with the United States Information Agency.

Museum spokeswoman Elizabeth Addison said it was not "normal or standard practice" to register with the USIA for federal protection because "loaned works of art were protected by other federal and state statues.

"Unless we thought the art work was stolen, and there was no suspicion that it was, it was not necessary to take the additional step of registering with the USIA," she added.

The paintings remain at the museum. "We have arranged a meeting with the District Attorney's staff for a full discussion of the issue on Monday," Addison said.

One of the two claimants and the Holocaust Art Restitution Project of Washington's National Jewish Museum contacted the State Department about the paintings this week, department spokesman James Rubin told his daily briefing.

"We are encouraged that the Austrians in the (Leopold) foundation have indicated their willingness to work with the claimants to resolve the issue of ownership amicably ... That's what we're encouraging and hopefully that's what will happen," he added.

But Austrian Culture Minister Elisabeth Gehrer said: "This deals a heavy blow to the international exchange of art ... and shakes the foundation of trust that one should also be given back pictures one has lent out."

Leopold said there was no legal basis for the confiscation of the pictures.

"I have never bought nor exchanged pictures where it could be proved that they were taken from Jewish owners," he told Vienna daily newspaper Kurier.

The paintings were to be exhibited in Barcelona next month. They have been on loan to the Museum of Modern Art since Oct. 12.

It was unclear why the heirs of victims of property losses during the Holocaust did not file federal or civil lawsuits to reclaim the paintings, which is the usual procedure to reclaim stolen Nazi art. REUTERS

Copyright 1997 Reuters Limited.


THE SEEDS OF HATE

By Graeme Zielinski, Tribune Staff Writer
Web-posted Friday, January 16, 1998; 6:09 a.m. CST

This idea -- that the "virtual" space of the Internet is a steam vent for what society considers errant behavior -- also is employed by hate groups, whose extreme electronic speech also has come under scrutiny. Matt Hale, a leader of the World Church of the Creator, a fringe racist "religion" said the Internet "is definitely a great tool for us" in spreading the message of a racial holy war.

Though many Web sites have called for the slaughter of blacks and the reconstruction of Auschwitz, Hale said the Internet may obviate that need. "What the Internet does, it provides a wide range of viewpoints in a way that people can calmly discuss the racial issue," he said. "In other forums, people tend to yell and scream." Others are not so sure of this soothing logic.

Les Back is a professor at the University of London who has a forthcoming book on the use of the Internet by extremist racist organizations. Though the message of hatred against minorities may be the same as in years past, Back said, with most of such electronic communication originating in the United States, the effect is greater. "The numbers of people involved in ultra-right-wing nationalist movements are relatively small in most societies," Back writes. "What is significant about the Internet is that it possesses the potential to offer these small, geographically dispersed movements a means to communicate, develop a sense of common purpose and create a virtual home symbolically. It is precisely for these reasons that we must take very seriously the role of racist sub-cultures on the Internet."

These electronic links are fostering "a transnational, Euro-American notion of whiteness."

----------

Next: The potency of words


Swedish government goes on offensive against Holocaust doubters

Associated Press, 01/15/98 16:19

STOCKHOLM, Sweden (AP) - Sweden's government, alarmed that many Swedish teens doubt the Nazi Holocaust occurred, opened an Internet site Thursday to educate them about the slaughter.

The site, called "Levande Historia" or "Living History," is part of a wide-ranging program begun by Prime Minister Goeran Persson last year after a Stockholm University study showed nearly a third of 12- to 18-year-olds are unconvinced the Holocaust took place.

The government also is preparing a book about the Holocaust and sending letters to all households with school-age children to inform them the materials are available.

The Internet site, www.levandehistoria.org, is the first to provide comprehensive information about the Holocaust in Swedish and is intended as a counterbalance to young neo-Nazis who make wide use of the Internet, officials said.

"In order that racist groups will not be unopposed on the Internet, democratic forces must also be mobilized there," Cabinet Minister Thage G. Peterson said.

Emerich Roth, a concentration camp survivor whose story is one of several told on the site, conceded it is unlikely to convince hard-core neo-Nazis, or even be seen by them.

"But it isn't for their sake that we're doing this; it's to give facts and arguments to all the others," he said, according to the Swedish news agency TT.

The launch follows recent events that have raised concern about neo-Nazi sentiment in Sweden, a country that prides itself on tolerance and a liberal attitude toward foreigners.

More than 300 people were arrested in a Stockholm suburb earlier this month when a neo-Nazi concert erupted into a bottle-throwing melee.

In December, a sociology doctoral student was fired from her job at Umeaa University after organizing a lecture in which a neo-Nazi contended the Holocaust was a "Zionist conspiracy."

The Holocaust has been a sensitive issue in Sweden over the past year as the country has painfully reexamined its business dealings with Nazi Germany. The Central Bank recently reported discovering gold in its reserves that may have been looted by the Nazis.


FEATURE - Was Sweden really on Germany's side in WW2?


09:14 p.m Jan 04, 1998 Eastern

By Simon Haydon

STOCKHOLM, Jan 5 (Reuters) - Whose side was Sweden on in World War Two?

History has it that Sweden was neutral, uncomfortably wedged between occupied neighbours and that it escaped invasion only by accommodating the demands of Nazi Germany.

More than 50 years after the war, however, new facts are emerging that are forcing Swedes to ask themselves whether they were, in fact, actively on the side of the Nazis.

"The time has come for a conclusive reconsideration of the picture of Sweden during World War Two. New material coming to light will eventually force this to happen," said historian Wilhelm Agrell, writing in the daily newspaper Dagens Nyheter.

"What it's about now is dealing with the history of Swedish collaboration," he wrote.

During 1997 Dagens Nyheter was responsible for beginning a process that may force Swedes finally to look squarely in the mirror of history and acknowledge that their neutrality was superficial at best, non-existent at worst.

Starting last January, the newspaper and its campaigning Culture Editor Arne Ruth systematically unravelled many of the myths surrounding Sweden's role in World War Two.

"In Switzerland banks have been forced to end their secret habits. They cannot be so arrogant in the future. This shows a revision of wartime history can be politically fruitful.

"In Sweden we've hardly begun," Ruth said.

SWEDISH HISTORY RE-EXAMINED

The broad history of Sweden's involvement in World War Two is not challenged. Adolf Hitler's Germany, rampaging through Europe, swept virtually unchallenged into Denmark and then Norway in April 1940.

A month earlier, the Soviet Union had defeated Finland after a brief and savage war. Finland supported Germany until 1944 as Moscow fought desperately for its own survival.

Thus Sweden was surrounded and lived in the early days of the war from hour to hour, not knowing if it would be invaded.

Most post-war Swedish history dwells on this interpretation; "if we hadn't helped the Germans they would have invaded us, it was as simple as that," the Swedish banker Peter Wallenberg once said.

The Wallenberg family has been at the banking and industrial heart of Sweden for a century and brothers Marcus and Jacob came close to being prosecuted after the war for helping Germans. Another Wallenberg, Raoul, is a national hero for helping Jews in Hungary during the war.

SWEDEN SUPPLIED NAZI ARMS INDUSTRY

Sweden agreed to supply more than half the high-grade iron ore needed by the German armaments industry. Between 1937 and 1943 Swedish ore provided the raw material for four out of every 10 German guns.

The action that is usually seen as the most difficult to justify was the decision taken by Stockholm to allow German troops to transit Sweden in boxcars to fight in Norway.

All these facts are documented, but last year a number of revelations, including Sweden's purchase of gold from Nazi Germany and the voluntary discrimination against Swedish Jews, emerged.

"Our firm is pure Aryan and there is, thank God, not a single drop of Jewish blood in it. Heil Hitler," wrote a Stockholm furrier in 1941.

Historian Hans Lindbergh has revealed that Sweden and Switzerland persuaded Germany to place a special stamp in Jews' passports so they could more easily turn them away.

On the other hand, it is a well documented fact that many Jews fled from occupied Denmark to a welcome reception in western Sweden.

STERILISATION PROGRAMME

In addition, a philosophical similarity between Nazi German and Swedish social scientists has been revealed, mainly through a programme of mass sterilisation of "unsound" Swedish women which gave even the Germans food for thought.

The disclosure that Sweden forcibly sterilised tens of thousands of women -- the practice peaking during World War Two -- attracted widespread international attention last year because the news emerged while Sweden's role in buying gold from Nazi Germany was coming under the spotlight.

Sweden was ordered to give back several tonnes of gold to Belgium and The Netherlands after the war but investigators say the Swedish government ordered gold purchases from Germany as late as 1944, after the Allies had launched the Normandy landings to reconquer Europe.

Little of the information that emerged in 1997 is new.

Historians and investigative journalists have been revealing uncomfortable facts about Sweden's past for 20 years, but they complain about getting little support for publishing such works.

Now, however, the information is gaining a wider readership, although it would be false to say Sweden's past is a burning issue.

HARD MORAL QUESTIONS ASKED

One of the most telling documents to shed light on Sweden's World War Two allegiance was written by armed forces chief of staff General Olof Thornell in the summer of 1941, one month after Germany attacked Russia.

Thornell wrote that Germany's war effort should be supported as it was increasingly clear that it would win the war. He thus recommended a ban on communist groups and an easing of restrictions on Nazi organisations.

"A German victory and defeat for the Soviet Union would have invaluable advantages for Sweden," Thornell wrote.

Researcher Maria-Pia Boethius, in a 1991 book, argued that Sweden needed to acknowledges facts. Her book received little publicity despite its allegations that the country had actively helped Nazi Germany in its war effort.

"During the war Sweden was asked the hardest human and moral questions that can be asked -- and we were silent," she said during the latest debate on Sweden and the war.

"In 1942 we knew about the Holocaust. But we simply said, 'we must look after ourselves, we must sell iron ore, we must get coal. And the coal that warmed us up came largely from Poland, where 70 percent of all five-year-olds died of hardship.

"In other countries' eyes we are largely profiteers and collaborators. There is a sub-text written about Sweden that is so ghastly that no one wants to look at it," said Boethius. REUTERS

Copyright 1997 Reuters Limited.


CYBERsitter Filters Internet Sites Pertaining to Committing Suicide
07:30 a.m. Jan 14, 1998 Eastern

SANTA BARBARA, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Jan. 14, 1998--CYBERsitter, the leading Internet filter from Solid Oak Software Inc., blocks Internet sites providing information on methods of committing suicide.

In light of a recent tragedy involving a teenager's suicide, it is increasingly important that parents monitor their children's Internet activity, said Marc Kanter of Solid Oak Software. A California teenager was found possessing 20 pages of information on "How to Commit Suicide" that was reportedly retrieved from the Internet.

Access to any information, whether appropriate for children or not, is a mouse-click away without filtering software installed on the home computer.

CYBERsitter works by monitoring Internet activity and restricting access to adult-oriented material and sites not suitable for children. The fact that CYBERsitter can maintain a history of all Internet activity for later review especially provides parents the peace of mind that their children aren't accessing these sites in the first place.

This feature has placed CYBERsitter as the filter of choice among parents, since the leading competition does not offer this option.

CYBERsitter is best known for blocking access to the pornography found online. The other categories that CYBERsitter filters are also as important, such as advocating illegal/radical activities and advocating hate/intolerance.

Parents must take an active role in their children's computer activity when it involves the Internet. Just as children need to be overseen in daily life, the same holds true on the Internet. With a few simple precautions, the use of filtering software and general good parenting, the Internet can be a safe and educational environment.

Free trial versions of CYBERsitter are available for download from Solid Oak Software's Web site at www.cybersitter.com .

CYBERsitter sells for $39.95, offers free filter file updates and is available directly from Solid Oak Software's Web site. It can be ordered by calling 800/388-2761 or 805/884-8201. A network version, site licenses and educational discounts are available. (See also: http://www.businesswire.com)

Copyright 1998, Business Wire


Holocaust shrine is like Disneyland-Israeli artist
07:19 a.m. Jan 09, 1998 Eastern

JERUSALEM, Jan 9 (Reuters) - One of Israel's most prominent artists compared the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial to Disneyland on Friday after the national shrine to Jewish victims of the Nazis cancelled a decision to award him a prize.

Yigal Tumarkin, who has called God "a tragedy for the world and the Jews," had been slated to receive Yad Vashem's $5,000 Zusman Prize for his life's work.

Yad Vashem was forced into an embarrassing reversal on Thursday after a religious Jewish newspaper in Jerusalem noted that Tumarkin had been quoted as saying in 1989 that "when you look at the ultra-Orthodox Jews, you understand the Holocaust."

Known for rhetoric as sharp as his chisel, the slighted sculptor hacked away at Yad Vashem, which said it had "no alternative" but to deny him the prize.

"It is really like Disneyland, a place of pilgrimage for searching for some myth. Its archive is glorious and important but the rest is all sound-and-light effects. You want to say this is true but you don't have the guts," he told an Israel Radio radio interviewer, who replied with an audible sigh.

Tumarkin has said his alleged anti-Semitic remarks of a decade ago were misinterpreted. But in a series of interviews over the past several days, he painted a controversial self-portrait.

He said he could not understand "how a Jew sees himself as an eternal victim" and described Israelis as "rags...devoid of character or form and usually politically incorrect."

Tumarkin's most famous sculpture is a dark inverted pyramid in Tel Aviv's Yitzhak Rabin Square symbolising the six million Jews killed in the Holocaust.

"I'm a sad man and it is difficult for me to raise my children here," he said. REUTERS

Copyright 1997 Reuters Limited.


Israeli artist denied Holocaust memorial prize
08:33 p.m Jan 08, 1998 Eastern

JERUSALEM, Jan 8 (Reuters) - An Israeli committe cancelled its decision on Thursday to award a prize for Holocaust-related art to a leading Israeli sculptor because of remarks by the artist perceived as anti-religious.

The prize became mired in controversy after a newspaper identified with Israeli ultra-Orthodox Jews quoted sculptor Yigal Tumarkin as saying in 1989 that "when you look at the ultra-Orthodox Jews, you understand the Holocaust."

German Nazis and their allies murdered six million Jews in death camps throughout Europe during World War Two.

Tumarkin said his remarks were misinterpreted but the executive committee of the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem announced late on Thursday he would not get the prize.

"The executive committee decided today after a long and probing discussion on the matter that...there is no alternative but to cancel the decision to give him the Zusman Prize," said a statement issued by Yad Vashem.

The dispute reflected a bitter struggle between the ultra-Orthodox, who want to make Israel a more Jewish state, and non-practising Jews who complain frequently of "religious coercion" by a politically influential minority.

Tumarkin has a huge Holocaust monument on permanent display in an outdoor square in Tel Aviv.

"Perhaps I am a bit impulsive, and make verbal slips. I am against those black hats (the ultra-Orthodox)...but I am not getting the prize for the things I say, but for my work," the Haaretz newspaper quoted Tumarkin as saying.

Copyright 1997 Reuters Limited.


Israel says Palestinian officials use anti-Semitism
10:48 p.m. Jan 13, 1998 Eastern

UNITED NATIONS, Jan 13 (Reuters) - Israel has complained to the United Nations of "increasing evidence of anti-Semitism" in the rhetoric of Palestinian Authority officials and accused those officials of encouraging its use in Palestinian media.

In a recent letter to Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Israeli U.N. envoy Dore Gold said that in March last year, the Palestine Liberation Organization's representative to the U.N. Human Rights Commission in Geneva charged that the Israeli government had infected 300 Palestinian children with the HIV virus, which causes AIDS.

"To this day, no U.N. action has been taken to challenge this modern version of anti-Semitic blood libels that were once rampant in medieval Europe," Gold said.

"Since that time there is increasing evidence of anti-Semitism emerging as an integral part of the rhetoric of Palestinian Authority officials, and they encourage its use in the Palestinian media."

Gold gave more than a dozen examples of what he said were "classic anti-Semitic stereotypes," such as "comparisons of Israel with Nazis," "denial of the Holocaust" and "equating Zionism with racism."

Gold said Israeli-Palestinian accords obliged the Palestinian Authority to "refrain from incitement against Israel and to take measures to prevent others from engaging in it."

He said when an Israeli extremist, from the periphery of society, put up sacrilegious posters that were offensive to Islam, a Jerusalem district court showed no reluctance to convict the individual of violating Israeli law.

He said the Palestinian Authority had demonstrated its willingness to take action against those with whom it disagreed on far less serious matters than racism and incitement.

Gold said that in many cases there was "widespread ignorance about these trends in the Palestinian Authority," while in other cases "this development is greeted with apathy."

"The silence of the international community in the face of this anti-Semitic hate campaign is intolerable. As a nation which has witnessed how incitement and racism can serve as precursors for physical destruction, Israel condemns this renewed anti-Semitism in the strongest terms and finds it to represent a major impediment to peace and reconciliation to which Israel remains committed." REUTERS

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


MSNBC - Taming loathing on the Internet - with a filter

Anti-Defamation League looks to software to combat hate speech

Commentary

WASHINGTON - The Anti-Defamation League issued a report Tuesday that it bills as a "who's who" of hate speech in cyberspace. Hate, of all stripes, is "polluting" the Internet and expanding its reach, the league says. It has vowed to fight fire with fire: It's planning to use the notoriously flawed technology of filtering software to fight the growing presence of hate speech in cyberspace.

NBC's Cambell Brown reports on Internet hate speech and the ADL's proposal.

MY RED FLAG goes up whenever I hear someone looking to filtering software as a means of dealing with objectionable Internet content. No such filtering software program I'm aware of is "clean." They all attempt to act as a digital moral compass for the masses and end up going overboard in a zealous attempt at figuring out just what is or isn't objectionable. That's a subjective decision and can't possibly be determined by a group of people in some software shop.

As long as we're tossing around the word "hate," let me say quite clearly that the more I write about these free-speech issues in cyberspace, the more I hate it. Child pornography, exploitation and now, hate speech. As the ADL ran through various hate-speech sites, I found my stomach in knots. There are a lot of sick, twisted souls in this world.

However, hate speech is constitutionally protected and once again I find myself preparing to defend that which I find personally offensive. A glamorous career, huh?

NO CENSORSHIP HERE

'We're talking about exposure, education and informing the public.'

- ABRAHAM FOXMAN

Anti-Defamation League

During the question-and-answer drill that follows such press conferences, I asked how the ADL could assure people that their brand of filtering software wouldn't carry the hidden agendas found in other similar technologies. "We'll depend on our reputation," said Abraham Foxman, ADL national director. He freely admitted that any such filtering software would have "our own spin" on it.

However, the ADL doesn't have a clue about how to go about creating such filtering software, a fact they readily admit. This is one reason they're reaching out to the software industry and to companies like America Online to help them craft such a product.

Foxman insists such an approach isn't censorship. "We're talking about exposure, education and informing the public," he said.

Another comforting promise from Foxman: The league won't put pressure on Internet service providers to stop hosting hateful Web sites. This is a tactic the Simon Wiesenthal Center has chosen to use and for which it has been soundly, and rightly, thrashed.

I'll reserve final judgment on their filtering product until I test it; and there is no time frame for when it might be developed. That said, I have to admit that in reading through the ADL report, "High Tech Hate: Extremist Use of the Internet," I was pleased by its even-handed approach. All available resources must be used to "expose the agendas and history of those committed to spreading bigotry and challenge their lies and distortions," it says. "Hate must be countered with information that promotes understanding, tolerance and truth." In other words, the best way to fight hate speech is with more speech.

CHOOSE YOUR BRAND

"I like the idea of certain groups supplying their own filters," says Eugene Volokh, a professor at UCLA's law school. "You know what the groups do and what they aim to filter."

And if they end up filtering more than claimed? "Then public opinion will quickly turn on them and they will lose credibility," Volokh says. The ADL won't risk its reputation by trying to filter more than hate speech, he predicted.

Volokh points out that such narrowly tailored filters are not unlike what we, as a society, do in our private lives. "I don't allow people to be rude at my dinner table," he says. "If they are, I ask them to leave or don't invite them back."

Now, what's rude? "Good question," Volokh admits. "I can't define it, but I know it when I hear it." And for Volokh, that's perfectly acceptable, much more acceptable than the alternative, which is having the government define what's acceptable.

LET HATE BLOOM?

The best facet of the ADL strategy is awareness and education. Think of it as a bare-knuckle approach to hate speech. Meeting these bigots and hate-mongers on their own turf and battling with words and Web sites.

A good, independent example of this is the Nizkor ("remember") Project, headed by Ken McVay of Vancouver Island, British Columbia. The site is a virtual clearing house of Holocaust-related material and painstakingly refutes all the lies and misinformation published by hate mongers and Holocaust "revisionists." No filters, no slick technology, just the power of the truth.

And perhaps there's a silver lining to the debate - or so contends Buford Terrell, a professor of law at South Texas College of Law. Terrell argues that trying to protect people from hate speech creates a "disabling paternalism," in that people are injured only to the extent that they allow themselves to be injured. Readers, he says, need to develop calluses for social and political interaction. "You don't do people any favors by sheltering them from all the rocks they will have to mentally walk on," he says.

I agree. Cyberspace, like real life, contains the good, the bad and the ugly. No one stops walking because there's garbage in the gutter. You either go around it, ignore it or help clean it up.

When it comes to hate speech, the ADL is trying to help people "ignore it" through filtering, while battling to clean it up through exposure and education. I hope they can walk that fine line between censorship and education when they roll out their filtering software.

Foxman says the ADL has been walking that line for decades. But in cyberspace, Mr. Foxman, you'll find walking that line is more like a high-wire act. I wish you well.


High School Students Are Encouraged to Sign Up And Become Champions of Caring
05:33 p.m Jan 13, 1998 Eastern

VILLANOVA, Pa., Jan. 13 /PRNewswire/ -- Champions of Caring, a non-profit organization committed to teaching young people the universal lessons of the Holocaust by encouraging caring and combating the "disease of indifference", is urging high school students to sign up now to become a 1998 Champions of Caring hero in their community. This organization which honors young people for their unselfish commitment to community service, participated in the Presidents Summit on Volunteerism. Students can stop at their high school principal's office to pick up an application form or call (1-888-CARE-088) to receive one by mail. Deadline for all applications is Saturday, January 31, 1998.

Champions of Caring was founded in 1995 by Barbara G. Eisenbud, a child of Holocaust survivors. She wanted to start a program that would recognize students who do service for others and whose work helped eliminate prejudice and discrimination. "Kids are honored by their schools for being champions of athletics and academics", said Eisenbud, "but what about the kid who is dedicated to community service-when do they get recognized?"

Eisenbud's dream has honored 185 high school students. In order to apply Eisenbud says, "You must be a student that is making a difference in your community. Whether you feed the hungry, help clothe the poor or bring joy to the elderly, you must demonstrate a selfless act of kindness towards others and do it on a consistent basis," continued Eisenbud, "only then can you become a Champion of Caring."

Students who apply must write an essay of up to 250 words explaining their community service project, including why they became involved and the frequency and length of their participation. Also, two letters of recommendations must accompany the application. All applications received by January 31, will be reviewed by the judging committee and be considered for nomination. Nominees will be notified by mail at the end of February, and be honored at a special recognition ceremony by the Honorable Mayor Edward G. Rendell on Tuesday, March 31, at 4:00 p.m. at the Union League of Philadelphia. Students will also go on an overnight trip to Washington DC where they will participate in a special ceremony at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Champions of Caring, a non-profit organization, is a collaborative effort between public, private and Archdiocesan high schools in the Greater Philadelphia Region and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. SOURCE Champions of Caring

Copyright 1998, PR Newswire


Smithsonian drops co-sponsor for Israel lectures
10:44 p.m. Jan 07, 1998 Eastern

WASHINGTON, Jan 7 (Reuters) - The Smithsonian Institution in Washington said on Wednesday it had dropped a progressive Jewish group as co-sponsor of a lecture series to mark the 50th anniversary of the foundation of Israel.

Right-wing groups and publications had attacked proposals for the lecture series, which would have covered such hot topics as the peace process, Arab citizens of Israel, the status of Jerusalem and Zionism in the new century.

The New Israel Fund, a nonprofit group that raises funds for progressive social causes in Israel, said on Tuesday that the Smithsonian had canceled the co-sponsored event in response to a campaign by what it called Jewish right-wing extremists.

But David Umansky, director of communications at the Smithsonian, said on Wednesday that the institution was going ahead with the program, but without the co-sponsor.

"We are continuing to go forward and hope to have the lecture series by late spring or early summer," he said. "We had offers from other groups as co-sponsors but co-sponsorship colors people's views of the program so we decided to have no co-sponsor."

The Smithsonian, based in Washington, calls itself the world's largest museum and research complex.

The New York-based group Americans for a Safe Israel led the attack on the program, calling it "an affront to the sensibilities of Jews everywhere" and saying it would present "a destructive, far-left, pro-Arab picture of Israel today."

The conservative Boston Herald called it "a series of lectures so biased that they could easily be mistaken for a required course in anti-Zionism at Tehran University."

"This lecture series is being held under the auspices of an institution that has no business lending its name and prestige to the promotion of a political agenda at the expense of a close ally of the United States," the conservative Washington Times wrote in an editorial on Tuesday.

The proposed speakers included Thomas Friedman of the New York Times, six Israeli academics, two prominent Likud party members and Azmi Bishara, an Arab member of the Israeli parliament.

The moderator would have been Norman Rosenberg, executive director of the New Israel Fund, who on Tuesday deplored the Smithsonian's decision to stop cooperating with his group.

"There are self-appointed guardians of a 'safe Israel' who evidently believe that Israel is too fragile to sustain a serious, respectful discussion in America by eminent Israeli scholars and political leaders," Rosenberg said.

In a letter to congressman Michael Forbes, a New York Republican who had criticized the program, Smithsonian Institution secretary Michael Heyman said the lecture series would be "fair and appropriate."

"It is our intention to highlight Israel's achievements in its stunning 50-year history, to consider some of the key issues it faces, and to examine its hopes for the years ahead," he wrote. REUTERS

Copyright 1997 Reuters Limited.


China not alone in restricting Internet

By Matthew Broersma

December 31, 1997 5:42 AM PST

ZDNN

The Internet controls China put into place Tuesday went beyond its previous efforts to regulate information on the Internet. But China has restricted Internet use for years, and it is not alone.

In fact, free-speech advocates say Internet restrictions are on the rise around the world, and could result in a global chilling effect on a medium that offers unprecedented freedom of expression.

China restricts access to both Internet accounts and certain kinds of Internet content. ISPs must register with the government, and users must obtain a government permit before they can open an Internet account. In addition, the government controls the three gateways that connect China to the international network, which allows the authorities to block about 100 sites before they reach the country's 200 local Internet service providers.

"Technically, (China has) found that censorship of the Internet doesn't work, but that doesn't mean the chilling effect isn't there," said Human Rights Watch research associate Jagdish Parikh. On a broader level, people have found ways around the technical blocks put into place by governments, but "for the people in those individual countries that have those laws, they do feel a chilling effect."

By contrast, Hong Kong offers relatively unfettered access to the Internet. The new Chinese restrictions explicitly exempt Hong Kong.

Singapore has Internet curbs that are, if anything, more strict than China's. Known for its disregard for freedom of the press, the nation regulates the Internet as a broadcast medium under the Singapore Broadcasting Authority of 1995, according to a 1996 report by Human Rights Watch.

Laws on the books hold ISPs responsible for what users access through their networks, and require service providers to have government licenses and to use filtering software. According to 1996 regulations, Web pages dealing with political or religious matters are subject to censorship.

While authoritarian governments are fencing off the Internet for political reasons, democratic countries have also pursued restrictions, with the aim of curbing pornography and hate speech.

Germany was involved in two highly publicized Internet censorship cases this year, both of which hinged on Germany's laws against material it considers obscene, violent or a danger to society.

In April, prosecutors indicted the head of CompuServe's online computer service there on charges of trafficking in pornography, attempting to hold the company responsible for material its customers could obtain from sites on the Internet.

And in June, a 25-year-old Frankfurt university student faced criminal charges for maintaining a Web page with a link to a left-wing Web-zine called Radikal. The government alleged that the student, Angela Marquardt, had violated orders to block access to Radikal, which presented articles on how to make bombs and derail trains.

In the United States, free-speech advocates have concerns that efforts to protect children from unsuitable materials will backfire. The Communications Decency Act of 1996 was struck down by the Supreme Court because it held all Internet content to the standards of what is suitable for children. But critics argue that even parents' use of pornography filters, if it is not discriminating enough, could lead to the screening out of much of the Internet's worthwhile content.

Supporters of freedom of expression fear that the efforts of democracies to control the Internet could in effect encourage authoritarian regimes like China in pursuing censorship of political opinions.

"Censorship efforts in the U.S. and Germany lend support to those in China, Singapore and Iran, where censors target not only sexually explicit material and hate speech but also pro-democracy discussions and human rights education," argued Human Rights Watch in its 1996 report.

"Proposals to censor the Internet wherever they originate violate the free speech guarantees enshrined in democratic constitutions and international law," the report continued. "In the attempt to enforce them, open societies will become increasingly repressive and closed societies will find new opportunity to chill political expression."

ZNN


Jewish group criticizes new Swiss president
08:22 p.m Dec 31, 1997 Eastern

NEW YORK, Dec 31 (Reuters) - A Jewish leader said on Wednesday he "was pained and stunned" by remarks by incoming Swiss President Flavio Cotti that the Swiss were justified in their indignation over criticism of their country's handling of Holocaust-era bank accounts.

Cotti, in an interview with the daily Tribune de Geneve, was also quoted as saying that the criticism of Switzerland was limited to specific geographic areas, including "the east coast of the United States, and in particular New York."

Kalman Sultanik, a vice president of the New York-based World Jewish Congress, said he was "pained and stunned" by the remarks and charged: "They are word for word the same language used by Kurt Waldheim, the former Nazi intelligence officer and ex-president of Austria."

The WJC vice president said when Waldehim was placed on a list of persons barred from entering the United States for their wartime activities, the Austrian president said he was avictim of "interest groups in New York and the lobby of the American east coast."

Sultanik, whose group has been a leading critic of Swiss actions during and after the Second World War, added that many people had told him that Cotti's remarks appeared aimed "at the United States in general and Jewish groups in particular."

He added, "I wasn't aware that London, Sydney and other leading cities of the world which have protested Swiss actions were located on the U.S. east coast."

In the newspaper interview, Cotti was asked for reaction to continuing criticism of Switzerland from U.S. politicians and Jewish organizations over its handling of bank accounts belonging to Holocaust victims. He responded by saying the indignation of many Swiss was justified.

He added that the Swiss should be more concerned about the reaction to their aloof stance toward the European Union than about the controversy over Switzerland's past.

His remarks marked the second time in two years that a New Year's Eve interview with a Swiss president provoked controversy.

Last year, outgoing president Jean Delamuraz accused Jewish groups of engaging in "blackmail and extortion" in their efforts to seek restitution for claims that Swiss banks had failed to turn over Holocaust-era accounts and had financially collaborated with the Nazis during the war.

The post of head of state in Switzerland rotates annually among the country's seven-member cabinet. Foreign Minister Cotti takes over on Thursday from Justice Minister Arnold Koller. REUTERS


Swiss Jew demands WJC apology for Waldheim remark
07:33 a.m. Jan 02, 1998 Eastern

By Peter Nielsen

ZURICH, Jan 2 (Reuters) - A prominent Swiss Jew on Friday demanded the World Jewish Congress (WJC) immediately apologise to the Swiss government for comparing the Swiss president with Kurt Waldheim, the former Austrian president plagued by war crime accusations.

Sigmund Feigel, honorary head of Zurich's jewish community, said in a letter faxed to WJC president Edgar Bronfmann that a comparison of Swiss president Flavio Cotti with Waldheim was "outrageous and not acceptable."

Feigel, who sent a copy of the letter to Reuters, said the remarks by WJC vice president Kalman Sultanik not only affected the entire country, but also Cotti, "a man who with fortitude and courage has fought for compensation in all aspects."

"Dear Mr President, it is up to you in the name of your organisation to apologise to our country's government, and as soon as possible," Feigel wrote.

Feigel's demand for an apology from the WJC comes the day after the Israeli Ambassador to Switzerland Yzhak Mayer also criticised the New York-based WJC for comparing Cotti with Waldheim.

Mayer told Swiss national DRS television that the comparison was "untenable" and the WJC had "reacted wrongly."

The row between Swiss Jews and the WJC was sparked by comments by Cotti, who told a newspaper on Wednesday that some Swiss were right to be upset at the persistent criticism over the way it handled Holocaust victims' money after World War Two.

Cotti also told the daily Tribune de Geneve that attacks on Switzerland by some U.S. politicians and Jewish organisations came from "limited geographic areas, for example the East Coast of the United States, and in particular from New York."

The WJC's Sultanik said he heard echoes of Waldheim in Cotti's comments. Cotti, is also foreign minister and took over the Swiss presidency from Arnold Koller on January 1.

Sultanik said Cotti's comments were "word for word the same language used by Kurt Waldheim, the former Nazi intelligence officer and ex-president of Austria."

Waldheim's campaign to become Austrian president in 1986 and his years in office were overshadowed by allegations that he was involved in war crimes committed in former Yugoslavia by the German army, in which he served from 1942 to 1945.

Although he denied the allegations, in 1987 the U.S. Justice Department added the former United Nations secretary-general to its list of people to be refused entry because of their association with Nazism.

Waldheim argued the decision was made under pressure from the New York-based WJC, which he also accused of trying to sabotage his election.

Sultanik said when Waldheim was placed on the watch list he had said he was a victim of "interest groups in New York and the lobby of the American East Coast."

Last year, outgoing president Jean Delamuraz accused Jewish groups in a New Year's Eve interview of engaging in "blackmail and extortion" in their efforts to seek restitution for claims arising out of Swiss banks' cooperation with the Nazis.

The post of head of state in Switzerland rotates annually among the seven-member cabinet. REUTERS

Copyright 1997 Reuters Limited.


WJC renews criticism of Swiss president
02:11 p.m Jan 02, 1998 Eastern

NEW YORK, Jan 2 (Reuters) - The World Jewish Congress on Friday said a criticism it made of Swiss President Flavio Cotti was being misinterpreted in the media as a comparison between Cotti and former Austrian President Kurt Waldheim.

"It is incorrect to report that a comparison was made between the person of Kurt Waldheim and Mr. Cotti. However, the language of Mr. Cotti was word for word that of Mr. Waldheim's and that has pained and stunned the Jewish community," WJC Executive Director Elan Steinberg said.

He was referring to comments made by Cotti earlier this week when he told a Geneva newspaper that the Swiss were right to be upset at the persistent criticism over the way Swiss banks handled Holocaust victims' money after World War Two.

Cotti also told the daily Tribune de Geneve that attacks on Switzerland by some U.S. politicians and Jewish organizations came from "limited geographic areas, for example the East Coast of the United States, and in particular from New York."

WJC Vice President Kalman Sultanik said Cotti's comments were "word for word the same language used by Kurt Waldheim, the former Nazi intelligence officer and ex-president of Austria."

Waldheim's campaign to become Austrian president in 1986 and his years in office were overshadowed by allegations that he was involved in war crimes committed in former Yugoslavia by the German army, in which he served from 1942 to 1945. REUTERS


Israeli ambassador criticises WJC remark on Swiss
03:25 p.m Jan 01, 1998 Eastern

By Peter Nielsen

ZURICH, Jan 1 (Reuters) - Israel's ambassador to Switzerland criticised the World Jewish Congress (WJC) on Thursday for comparing the Swiss president to Kurt Waldheim -- the former Austrian president plagued by war crime accusations.

WJC vice-president Kalman Sultanik had said he heard echoes of Waldheim in comments by President Flavio Cotti that Switzerland was right to be upset at criticism over the way it handled Holocaust victims' money after World War Two.

Ambassador Yzhak Mayer told Swiss national DRS television that the comparison was "untenable" and the WJC had "reacted wrongly."

And Werner Rom of the Jewish community in Zurich told Swiss television: "(Kultanik's) approach is unfortunate. The WJC should coordinate better with the Jewish community in Switzerland."

Cotti had told the daily Tribune de Geneve on Wednesday that attacks on Switzerland by some U.S. politicians and Jewish organisations came from "limited geographic areas, for example the East Coast of the United States, and in particular from New York."

He said the Swiss were right to be indignant over accusations that Swiss banks had withheld money deposited before the end of World War Two from Holocaust victims or their heirs.

Cotti, who is also foreign minister and who took over the presidency from Arnold Koller on January 1, said the Swiss should be more concerned about the effect of their aloof stance toward the European Union.

Sultanik said Cotti's comments were "word for word the same language used by Kurt Waldheim, the former Nazi intelligence officer and ex-president of Austria."

Waldheim's campaign to become Austrian president in 1986 and his years in office were overshadowed by allegations that he was involved in war crimes committed in former Yugoslavia by the German army, in which he served from 1942 to 1945.

Although he denied the allegations, in 1987 the U.S. Justice Department added the former United Nations secretary-general to its list of people to be refused entry because of their association with Nazism.

Waldheim argued the decision was made under pressure from the New York-based WJC, which he also accused of trying to sabotage his election.

Sultanik said when Waldheim was placed on the watch list he had said he was a victim of "interest groups in New York and the lobby of the American East Coast."

Last year, outgoing president Jean Delamuraz accused Jewish groups in a New Year's Eve interview of engaging in "blackmail and extortion" in their efforts to seek restitution for claims arising out of Swiss banks' cooperation with the Nazis.

The post of head of state in Switzerland rotates annually among the seven-member cabinet. REUTERS


Amsterdam pact needs change to French constitution
01:23 p.m Dec 31, 1997 Eastern

By Irwin Arieff

PARIS, Dec 31 (Reuters) - France's constitutional council ruled on Wednesday that the European Union's Amsterdam Treaty was in conflict with the French constitution because it allowed majority rather than unanimous voting on immigration matters.

"The decision of December 31, 1997 requires a revision prior to France's ratification of the treaty of Amsterdam," France's top legal body said in a statement.

"It is up to the public authorities to set the terms of the revision in a way that gets round the constitutional obstacles identified by the council," the nine members of the council ruled in a unanimous judgement.

This would be the 11th revision of the modern French constitution since the beginning of the Fifth Republic in 1958.

The constitution can be altered by parliament or by referendum, though analysts say another popular vote on Europe is unlikely after the wafer-thin majority given to the EU's Maastricht single currency treaty in a bitterly contested vote in 1992.

The ruling was not unexpected, and political analysts said they expected the revision to go through routinely despite the sensitivity of the immigration issue in France, where unemployment is 12.4 percent and resentment of foreigners is widespread.

The anti-immigrant National Front of Jean-Marie Le Pen has regularly won 15 percent of the vote in recent national elections.

French officials had first raised the possibility months ago that the treaty would require changes in the constitution before it could be ratified.

They predicted the parliamentary debate on the treaty's adoption would be delayed until after the EU had decided which countries will join the single currency from January 1, 1999. The decision is due in early May.

They said France might wait until September to start the ratification process if the council judged that a constitutional amendment was required.

The council had been asked this month to review the treaty's constitutionality by conservative President Jacques Chirac and his power-sharing rival, Socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin.

Their unusual joint initiative was widely seen as an effort to secure a quick decision and demonstrate solidarity between right and left over Europe.

Communist Party leader Robert Hue and senior Gaullist Charles Pasqua, a former interior minister, had argued that a referendum on the treaty was required.

Foreign Affairs Minister Hubert Vedrine had countered that a quick ruling by the constitutional council would resolve the question.

Leftist Interior Minister Jean-Pierre Chevenement predicted three weeks ago that the council would fault those parts of the treaty dealing with immigration, which France's constitution defines as a matter of national sovereignty.

The council said it had found a conflict between the constitution and treaty provisions dealing with the elimination of border controls between EU states, political asylum, control of illegal immigration and the issuing of short-term residence permits.

The Amsterdam treaty, cobbled together at an EU summit in Amsterdam in June, aims to update the six-year-old Maastricht Treaty to pave the way for the single European currency and prepare the union for eastward expansion.

It added a new chapter to Maastricht on employment and provided for closer cooperation on asylum, immigration and crime.

The treaty also included a 'stability pact', championed by Germany, to limit budget deficits of member states adopting the single currency. But it failed to set down institutional reforms which EU states agree are needed before the bloc admits up a dozen potential new members. REUTERS

Copyright 1997 Reuters Limited.


Unemployed find new militancy in France
08:51 a.m. Jan 01, 1998 Eastern

By Irwin Arieff

PARIS, Jan 1 (Reuters) - France's unemployed and homeless, carrying their new-found militancy into the new year, occupied unemployment offices across the country on Thursday in a campaign for additional state aid.

As 1998 began, groups of jobless, joined by local activists, occupied 14 unemployment offices in a growing protest against persistently high unemployment.

Modest New Year celebrations took place at several of the unemployment offices as local politicians and other activists joined the jobless in a show of solidarity.

About 60 homeless activists also briefly occupied the lobby of Paris's exclusive Hotel Royal Monceau on New Year's eve, leaving peacefully after scornfully rejecting a payment of 10,000 francs ($1,660) offered them by the hotel manager.

The group moved to the stylish Fouquet's restaurant on the Champs Elysees, departing only after gaining a promise that 40 meals would be delivered to a unemployed people occupying a city social services agency since Tuesday.

Union officials say additional national protests are planned for Monday and Wednesday.

The protests began as a series of unrelated actions but are now being co-ordinated by the Communist-led CGT trade union and a handful of other groups.

The top demand is for a one-off bonus of 3,000 francs ($500). The state says it cannot afford the additional aid.

Ironically, the unemployment rate fell for the third month in a row in November, declining by 9,000 workers, the Labour Ministry reported on Tuesday.

It was the first time the jobless rate had dipped below 12.5 percent since September 1996.

But 3.1 million individuals remained out of work in France, whose total population is about 60 million, the ministry said.

Unemployment has been creeping steadily upwards in France since 1975 and job creation has been the top priority of the past several governments, although without significant impact.

The new leftist government, which came to power in June, has announced plans to create 350,000 new jobs for young people, most of them state jobs, and to reduce the working week to 35 hours from the current 39 with no reduction in pay in order to make room for new workers.

But conservative President Jacques Chirac has denounced the plans for so many new state jobs, saying that only a freeing up of state controls on the economy will create meaningful and lasting growth.

Business leaders are strongly critical of a mandatory shortening of working hours, saying the move will create few new jobs while damaging France's competitive stance in the global marketplace.

The lack of progress in bringing down unemployment has fuelled the growth of the far-right National Front, which won 15 percent of the vote in this year's general election.

Jean-Marie Le Pen, the Front's firebrand leader, accuses the mainstream parties of sharing the same ineffective policies, concerned only about their own survival.

Protests by the unemployed began picking up steam about three weeks ago.

The protesters say they want to put pressure on Socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin to fulfil a campaign promise to provide new relief to the long-term unemployed whose benefits have dwindled over time.

After initial protests at a few unemployment offices, hundreds of jobless blocked train tracks in the Mediterranean port city of Marseille and in the western town of Chatellerault midway between Paris and Bordeaux earlier this week, delaying thousands of holiday travellers.

Groups of jobless also staged protests at the offices of the CNPF French employers association, the CGT said.

((Paris newsroom, +33 1 4221 5339, fax +33 1 4236 1072,
paris.newsroom+reuters.com)) REUTERS

Copyright 1997 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved.


French prosecutor slams police for inactivity
10:29 a.m. Jan 02, 1998 Eastern

STRASBOURG, Jan 2 (Reuters) - The state prosecutor in the eastern city of Strasbourg slammed police for the low number of arrests on New Year's eve after youths rampaged through suburbs burning cars and causing major damage, officials said on Friday.

"I am not satisfied at the number of people identified as being involved (on New Year's eve). The result is that the guilty will not be punished and the public will be right to ask questions," prosecutor Edmond Stenger told reporters.

"When one considers the scope of what happened, one would have expected there would be more arrests. I am concerned about the efficiency of the police action," he said.

Around 60 private cars, 30 bus shelters, 20 phone booths and three schools and municipal buildings were torched or seriously damaged during the December 31 orgy of vandalism in poor suburbs with large North African or Turkish minority populations.

Eyewitnesses said ethnic Frenchmen and gypsies were also involved.

Seven people, five of them minors, were presented to judicial authorities on Friday and the first, 18-year-old Cindia Suplon, was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment, including 10 months suspended, for trying to set fire to a car.

Local prefect (chief government administrator) Patrice Magnier was reported by French television to have replied to Stenger's comment: "The only way to stop what happened would have been to put 5,000 police on the street or declare a curfew."

Outspoken Interior Minister Jean-Pierre Chevenement criticised Stenger for speaking to reporters and said he should have gone to the trouble spots himself if he was so concerned.

A local police trades union official told television that his colleagues concentrated on protecting firemen, who were attacked with stones when they came to put out blazes, rather than going after the vandals and risking injury to children. Eyewitnesses said most of the vandals appeared to be aged 12-16 years.

Nearly 70 private cars were torched on New Year's eve in "copy-cat" actions in about a dozen Paris suburbs where relations are especially poor between police and youths of North African Arab origin.

Speaking just hours before the incidents, President Jacques Chirac, in his annual New Year message to the French, denounced growing violence and called on the Socialist-led government to act to curb it.

Chirac was referring to a wave of attacks against schoolteachers and bus drivers, as well as stoning of buses, in problem suburbs around France where police say they cannot operate except in large numbers.

Chirac made no reference to ethnic backgrounds but the overwhelming majority of recent incidents were in areas where French-born youths of Arab origin say they are victims of routine harassment and discrimination.

Many of the areas involved are historically French working class bastions and many voters have started to move their support to extreme-rightist Jean-Marie Le Pen's anti-immigrant National Front party. REUTERS

Copyright 1997 Reuters Limited.


More cars torched in Strasbourg vandalism
08:04 a.m. Jan 03, 1998 Eastern

STRASBOURG, France, Jan 3 (Reuters) - Vandals torched seven cars overnight in the eastern French city of Strasbourg, bringing the number of vehicles destroyed since New Year's Eve to more than 80, officials said on Saturday.

Three people, including a minor, were arrested, the officials said.

The renewed violence came amid a growing row over official handling of youth violence, much of it concentrated in areas with large immigrant minorities.

Strasbourg state prosecutor Edmond Stenger slammed police on Friday for the low number of arrests after youths rampaged on New Year's Eve, burning cars and causing major damage.

Stenger came under fire from Interior Minister Jean-Pierre Chevenement for making his criticism public. He is scheduled to appear on Monday in Paris for a dressing down by Justice Minister Elisabeth Guigou.

Around 60 private cars, 30 bus shelters, 20 phone booths and three schools and municipal buildings were torched or seriously damaged on December 31 in poor areas with large North African or Turkish minority populations.

Eyewitnesses said some ethnic Frenchmen and gypsies were also involved.

One 18-year old woman has been sentenced to 18 months imprisonment, including 10 months suspended, for trying to set fire to a car.

Nearly 70 cars were torched on New Year's Eve in "copy-cat" actions in some Paris suburbs where relations are especially poor between police and youths of North African Arab origin.

Speaking just hours before the incidents, President Jacques Chirac, in his New Year message, denounced growing violence and called on the Socialist-led government to act to curb it.

Chirac was referring to a wave of attacks against teachers and bus drivers in problem suburbs around France where police say they cannot operate except in large numbers.

Chirac made no reference to ethnic backgrounds but the overwhelming majority of recent incidents were in areas where French-born youths of Arab origin say they are victims of routine harassment and discrimination and have little hope of finding jobs.

The cabinet has shied away from making any reference to ethnic factors, caught between a powerful anti-racist lobby in its ranks, and the fear of losing working-class voters who live in troubled areas.

Many of the areas involved are historically French working class bastions and many voters have switched their support to extreme-rightist Jean-Marie Le Pen's anti-immigrant National Front party.

Copyright 1997 Reuters Limited.


New Swiss president to push EU membership aim
11:16 a.m. Dec 31, 1997 Eastern

By Robert Evans

GENEVA, Dec 31 (Reuters) - Switzerland's incoming president Flavio Cotti said on Wednesday he would work to convince the Swiss people that eventual membership of the European Union was vital for the country's economic future.

In a newspaper interview, he suggested the Swiss should be more concerned about the reaction to their aloof stance towards the EU than about the controversy over Nazi gold and Swiss banks' handling of Holocaust victims' accounts.

"I believe that the destiny of our country is to participate fully in the Europe which has been under construction for some 40 years on the basis of values which we cannot but share," declared Cotti, who is also Swiss foreign minister.

"I am convinced that in the long term participation in Europe will be fundamental for our economy," he told the daily Tribune de Geneve.

The post of head of state in Switzerland rotates annually among the country's seven-member cabinet. Cotti takes over on January 1 from Justice Minister Arnold Koller.

Asked for reaction to continuing criticism of Switzerland from some U.S. politicians and world Jewish organisations over its handling of bank accounts belonging to Holocaust victims, Cotti said the indignation of many Swiss was justified.

"But it should be kept in mind that these attacks come from limited geographic areas, for example the east coast of the United States, and in particular from New York," he added.

A recent conference of Swiss ambassadors had shown that the country's image around the world "remains globally very good," declared Cotti, who comes from Italian-speaking Switzerland and has been in the government for 11 years.

"But apart from these controversies, which are often exaggerated, there is developing a reaction of incomprehension over Switzerland's attitude to united Europe. This is an aspect which cannot be ignored.

"In many European countries, people feel that Switzerland has not understood how far things have changed over the last 50 years," he said.

"If it was understandable and right to pull back when faced with the dictatorships and world conflict, withdrawing into ourselves in the face of the process of European integration is very difficult to understand today."

Recent opinion polls suggest the Swiss, proud of their tradition of neutrality and long hostile to foreign ties, are becoming more open to the idea of joining the EU, which they would have to approve by referendum.

But some prominent figures, especially business tycoon and populist politician Christophe Blocher from German-speaking eastern Switzerland, are still campaigning fiercely against any link, arguing the country can continue to "go it alone."

Cotti said he wanted the Swiss people to realise that in their country's own interest it was essential to take a full part in decisions currently being taken affecting all Europe.

"Let us take for example the creation of the single European currency. If the euro does not have the level of stability expected, one can easily imagine what will happen to the Swiss franc," he said.

"It will become a safe haven currency, the demand for francs will grow and the value of our currency will soar, with all the consequences this will have for our export industry and tourism.

"While the euro is being prepared in Brussels, we remain on the sidelines watching. So where is our independence then?" REUTERS


Jewish group protests Swiss brochure as anti-Semitic
08:36 p.m Jan 02, 1998 Eastern

LOS ANGELES, Jan 2 (Reuters) - A Jewish organization on Friday asked the Swiss government to investigate who is behind a brochure circulating in the country saying that Jews are trying to extract money from the Swiss people.

The Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center said it had received a copy of the brochure from a prominent Swiss Jew who said it is being widely disseminated in Switzerland.

The brochure said the controversy over Swiss bank handling of Holocaust-era accounts could be traced to the election of Benjamin Netanyahu as prime minister of Israel in 1996.

It called several U.S. politicians active in the issue, including New York Sen. Alfonse D'Amato and Vice President Al Gore, supporters of the Israeli ruling party. The brochure also refers to the Holocaust as a cult.

In a letter to Swiss diplomat Thomas Borer, who has been handling the controversy over the Holocaust-era accounts, the Wiesenthal Center's dean Rabbi Marvin Hier called on the Swiss government "to launch an immediate investigation to discover who is responsible for the publishing and dissemination of this anti-Semitic brochure and to hold them fully culpable before the law."

Hier added: "I cannot emphasize enough how important it is for the Swiss government to act in a forceful and timely manner to prevent those who would distort the facts for the purpose of sowing discord and strife within your country."

Jewish groups have charged that the Swiss have held on to many millions of dollars in assets deposited in secret accounts in their banks by Jews during the Holocaust era. REUTERS

Copyright 1997 Reuters Limited.


German youths spray swastika on girl's chest
09:35 a.m. Jan 02, 1998 Eastern

BERLIN, Jan 2 (Reuters) - A gang of seven youths spray-painted a Nazi swasktika on the chest of a 14-year-old girl at a New Year's Eve party, German police said on Friday.

The youths also punched and kicked the girl and shaved off her hair at the party in the town of Mahlow, south of Berlin. The girl was taken to hospital by the fire department.

Police said in a statement they were investigating two girls and five boys aged between 15 and 18 on suspicion they carried out the attack. Police applied on Friday for an arrest warrant for an 18-year-old they believe was the ringleader.

The group was suspected of attempted sexual assault causing bodily harm, police said, adding they had also found records of extremist music in the house where the party took place.


U.S. to return Hitler's furniture

HAMBURG, Germany - A cache of Adolf Hitler's furniture that the U.S. military warehoused for decades has been returned to German authorities, a magazine reported Saturday.

A desk and other items from the Nazi dictator's alpine retreat in southeastern Bavaria originally had been earmarked for an American museum. But U.S. authorities decided instead to hand it over to a Bavarian agency for historical monuments, Der Spiegel said in an advance copy of a report to be published Monday.

The agency has yet to decide what to do with the furniture.

The collection is in warehouses at U.S. bases in Heidelberg and in Bavaria, Der Spiegel said. The U.S. Embassy in Bonn and U.S. military officials in Heidelberg refused immediate comment on the report.

Work on Hitler's "Eagle's Nest" retreat in Berchtesgaden began in 1936, and an entire bunker complex was completed in March 1945, six weeks before the U.S. military took control of the region.

The Americans later used the complex as a recreation center, before handing back the land to the German state of Bavaria in 1996. The magazine did not say when U.S. officials turned over the furniture to the Bavarians.

Bavaria is planning to open a museum at the site next summer, focusing on the rise of Nazi terror and on the U.S. occupation from 1945 until 1995. Jewish groups have said they fear it will become a neo-Nazi pilgrimage site.

By The Associated Press


FEATURE - Vienna opera sounds new note on Nazi past
09:37 p.m Jan 03, 1998 Eastern

By Karin Taylor

VIENNA, Jan 4 (Reuters) - Half a century after the end of World War Two, the Vienna State Opera is seeking to come to terms with its past as a ready stage for Nazi propaganda.

In a symbolic gesture of atonement, the opera will perform "The Diary of Anne Frank" by the Russian composer Grigori Frid in Vienna's parliament building on May 5 -- a newly created Austrian commemoration day for the victims of the Nazism.

"We cannot make good for what happened, but we can do something good," opera director Ioan Holender told Reuters.

Romanian-born Holender, 62, is the first director to break the reverent hush surrounding Vienna's musical showcase.

Caught in a dilemma of art versus conscience, many opera-loving Viennese give the Nazis credit for their cultivation of classical music. Opera performances under Karl Boehm's direction during the latter years of the war enjoy legendary status.

"Of course Boehm and Furtwaengler and all the rest were excellent conductors, but Bruno Walter was also not bad -- and he was gone," Holender said.

Walter was forced into exile by the Nazis, as were many of his Jewish colleagues. He survived the war and attended the opening of the restored opera house -- destroyed by bombing -- as an honorary guest in 1955. But not as conductor.

"The conductor was the man who drove him away," Holender said.

In a smooth transition, Nazi sympathiser Boehm took over direction of the State Opera in the new Austrian Republic.

NAZI PATRONS INDULGED IN TEMPLE OF MUSIC

During a period when so-called "degenerate music" was struck from the repertoire of Third Reich orchestras -- targeting composers from the modernists to Mozart -- Vienna's opera house flourished as a temple of high-level art.

But it was also a propaganda machine, according to a recently published book "Gott sei mit unserem Fuehrer" ("God Save Our Leader").

The first comprehensive study of the opera under German fascism was backed by Holender.

"The opera was highly subsidised during this period. That is a fact. Naturally, first-class artists gave wonderful performances, but many, perhaps even better artists, were unable to perform," Holender said.

When the Nazis marched into Austria in March 1938, Vienna's prime cultural object of desire was an easy conquest. Within two weeks of Austria's annexation, an honorary performance of "Fidelio" -- Beethoven's "freedom opera" -- was attended by Hermann Goering.

At the same time, leading artists such as conductor Karl Alwin, theatre director Carl Ebert and the non-Jewish soprano Lotte Lehmann fled the country. Forty-four performers were removed from the State Opera's payroll practically overnight. Of those who survived the war, none ever performed on Vienna's opera stage again.

The remaining ensemble continued as though nothing had happened. "All artists fight for the opportunity to perform or be performed," Holender said. "Artists are no better than other people."

Those who filled the newly available positions enjoyed unique privileges under the patronage of the Nazi regime, represented in Vienna by music expert Baldur von Schirach.

Pampered by high pay, top status and tour opportunities, singers were willing to keep in step with politics, regularly performing at party events. Once fully attuned to Nazi ideals, the opera house became the flagship for an Aryan superculture.

OPERA OF PERSONAL CONCERN TO HITLER

Hitler, with his penchant for drama, saw personally to the appointment of opera directors in the Third Reich. However, Holender plays down the dictator's role as opera buff.

"It's absolutely wrong to say Hitler was able to read a score or was a Wagner expert...In fact his favourite music was the operetta 'The Merry Widow'. That's what he listened to hundreds of times, certainly not the 'Ring'."

In spite of frequent performances, Wagner did not top the charts in Vienna.

Mozart -- initially under attack for his Freemason background -- was soon rehabilitated by the Fuehrer himself. The audience demanded their favourites, such as Verdi and Puccini, and they got them.

Little protest was voiced as Jewish composers Mahler, Mendelssohn and Offenbach were dropped from the programme. "It took decades after the war until Mahler was reaccepted," said Holender.

Public opinion remained largely unruffled by the Nazi's ban on the modernists who were ousted from the music business early on. Alban Berg and his teacher Arnold Schoenberg were among the most prominent on a 1935 list of outlawed "music Bolshevists."

"Many persecuted composers are unknown today. They were cheated of the chance of having their music performed," said Holender.

Little was done after 1945 in Austria to rehabilitate the music Nazis stamped as "un-German," he said.

"Some of these composers were murdered, others never found their way back. They were removed from the history of music and deprived of the right to fair competition. That is something that has not been corrected until today."

Holender described Vienna's post-war opera business as a "creeping transition" from Nazi dream-machine to international stage.

Ironically, "Fidelio" marked not only Austria's incorporation into the Third Reich in 1938, but its liberation in 1945 and the end of Allied occupation in 1955. REUTERS


Islamic symbols replacednear White House after attack
10:57 p.m. Jan 03, 1998 Eastern

WASHINGTON, Jan 3 (Reuters) - Arab and Muslim groups erected a new Islamic star and crescent near the White House on Saturday to replace a display that was torn down and spray-painted with a swastika last weekend.

The Islamic symbols, which represent peace and tolerance, were displayed for the first time together with the national Christmas tree and a Hanukkah menorah on the Ellipse behind the White House.

"The swastika that defaced the star torn from its crescent was a sign that we need ... to be constantly rededicating ourselves to advancing religious understanding, tolerance and diversity," said Sam Husseini, media director for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.

U.S. President Bill Clinton last week condemned the attack on the Islamic symbol and called its desecration "the embodiment of intolerance that strikes at the heart of what it means to be an American."

"The president condemned the attack in very strong terms and I'm sure will be gratified to know that the situation has been set right," White House spokesman Joe Lockhart said late on Saturday upon learning of the ceremony.

The Islamic symbols were enclosed on Saturday by a chain-link fence to prevent further attacks. All three displays will be removed next weekend.

The defaced star was found in a garbage bin last week a few hundred feet from its site by the artist who created it, Mohamed Said Ouafi. Ouafi on Saturday thanked the president for his remarks last week and urged political leaders to be more outspoken about condemning hate crimes against Muslims.

A spokesman for the U.S. Park Police said an investigation was still underway. REUTERS

Copyright 1997 Reuters Limited. .


Another Jewish cemetery desecrated in Argentina
10:36 p.m. Jan 01, 1998 Eastern

By Guillermo Haskel

BUENOS AIRES, Jan 1 (Reuters) - Vandals desecrated a Jewish cemetery on the outskirts of Buenos Aires on New Year's Eve in the second such attack in a week in Argentina, home of one of the largest Jewish communities in the world.

About 20 tombs in the Jewish cemetery of Ciudadela were destroyed by unknown attackers during the night of Wednesday and the early hours of Thursday, state-run agency Telam and private agency DyN said.

On Christmas Eve vandals smashed 30 tombs and monuments in the Jewish cemetery of La Tablada, also on the outskirts of Buenos Aires.

Argentine Jewish community leader Ruben Beraja said the vandals who destroyed the tombs in Ciudadela "may be the same ones that desecrated the tombs in the Jewish cemetery of La Tablada" because they employed the same "modus operandi."

Interior Minister Carlos Corach committed the national government's full cooperation with local authorities to apprehend the culprits.

Argentina has seen two bloody and unsolved attacks against Jews in the past five years.

A bomb destroyed the Israeli embassy and killed 29 people in 1992 and an explosion razed the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires killing 86 people in 1994.

Victor Ramos, head of the newly created National Institute against Discrimination, Xenophobia and Racism, said the attacks against the cemeteries "should not be considered as separated from the attacks against AMIA and the Israeli embassy."

Israel and Argentine Jews blame Iranian-backed extremists aided by local anti-Semites for both bombings. Four former Buenos Aires Province police officers are in jail under charges of allegedly having supplied a van used in the AMIA bombing but authorities have so far not caught the actual attackers.

Beraja said the attacks against the cemeteries were aimed at disrupting a dramatic overhaul of the Buenos Aires Province police launched in December by Gov. Eduardo Duhalde.

Duhalde, a Peronist presidential hopeful for 1999, has purged Buenos Aires Province's 48,000-strong police of thousands of men and women.

Many of those purged were alleged involved in drugs and violence. REUTERS

Copyright 1997 Reuters Limited.


Argentine ex-police suspects in cemetery vandalism
05:25 p.m Jan 02, 1998 Eastern

By Stephen Brown

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Police officers fired from Argentina's largest force, the Buenos Aires Province Police, are the main suspects in two attacks on Jewish cemeteries on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve, officials said Friday.

Eduardo Duhalde, governor of Argentina's most populous province, where the attacks took place, is carrying out a major purge of his 46,000-member police force. Its officers have been involved in corruption and drug trafficking and are alleged to have taken part in an anti-Jewish bombing and a newsman's murder.

Vandals smashed and defiled about 20 tombs at Ciudadela Jewish cemetery in the province Wednesday night and 30 more at the province's La Tablada cemetery the night of Dec. 24.

"This is an act of provocation by people who want to stop the changes we are carrying out in the police," said Duhalde, a presidential hopeful for the ruling Peronist Party in 1999.

Ruben Beraja, head of the largest Jewish community in Latin America, agreed that the attacks might have been carried out by former police officers. He said orders to reinforce security on Jewish graveyards "had not been carried out as intensively as was foreseen" by the province's security force.

Duhalde angered his disgraced force by putting a civilian in charge and dismissing senior officers wholesale. Luis Lugones, the man charged with reforming a force with a fearsome reputation for violence and racketeering, said the theory that police were behind the attack was "a strong hypothesis."

Interior Minister Carlos Corach said he could not rule out the involvement of disgruntled former policemen and promised "severe" punishment for "a perverse act of inexplicable barbarity."

"There is no rational explanation for this incident except that it is an attempt to provoke and divide Argentine society," Corach, who is Jewish, told reporters.

The Argentine police have been criticized here, in the United States and in Israel for failing to find those responsible for bombing the Israeli Embassy in 1992, killing 29 people, and the AMIA Jewish center in 1994, killing 86.

Four men from the Buenos Aires Province police are under arrest on suspicion of providing support for the 1994 attack, for which Iranian-backed Muslim extremists are blamed.

Another officer from the same force is being held on charges he murdered news photographer Jose Luis Cabezas in January.

Victor Ramos, head of the newly created National Institute Against Discrimination, Xenophobia and Racism, said the cemetery attacks "should not be considered separately from the attacks against the AMIA and the Israeli Embassy."

Copyright 1997 Reuters Limited.


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