English News Archive

News between February 9th, and February 21st, reversely ordered by date (i.e.: the newest can be found on top). For recent news select English News.

Federal Court Restores Demjanjuk's Citizenship
Man Cleared of Being Ivan the Terrible 'Thankful'

By M.R. Kropko
Associated Press
Saturday, February 21, 1998; Page A08

CLEVELAND, Feb. 20—A federal judge today restored the U.S. citizenship of John Demjanjuk, the retired auto worker cleared of being the monstrous Nazi death-camp guard known as "Ivan the Terrible."

Demjanjuk, 77, was stripped of his citizenship in 1981 and extradited to Israel in 1986. He was convicted there of crimes against humanity in 1988 and sentenced to death.

His conviction was overturned on appeal, and in 1993, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled Demjanjuk was not Ivan the Terrible and freed him after seven years in prison.

A spokesman for Demjanjuk's family said he was grateful for the ruling by U.S. District Judge Paul R. Matia.

"We're thankful to the court in its decision to reinstate Mr. Demjanjuk's citizenship," said Ed Nishnic, Demjanjuk's son-in-law. "The decision in this historic case in no way, shape or form minimizes the horrors inflicted upon the victims of Ivan the Terrible or the Holocaust, and may their souls rest in peace."

In 1977, the Justice Department accused Demjanjuk of being a Nazi war criminal who operated the gas chambers at the Treblinka death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland in 1942-43, during World War II.

The Israeli Supreme Court said in 1993 that there was evidence that Demjanjuk had been a Nazi guard, but the reason he was brought to Israel was strictly on the Treblinka charge.

But new evidence from Nazi records seized by Russia during the war showed that Ivan the Terrible of Treblinka was named Ivan Marchenko.

Demjanjuk, a native of Ukraine, insisted he was a Red Army soldier who spent most of the war in a German prisoner-of-war camp. He denied working in the death camps.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati previously ruled that the Justice Department's Office of Special Investigations had used fraud in its initial case against Demjanjuk, who had been a Ford plant worker.

Matia rejected the department's argument that enough evidence exists showing Demjanjuk was a Nazi death camp guard during the war that the 1981 decision against him should be ruled valid.

Matia ruled there was evidence that the Office of Special Investigations possessed in 1981 that could have been used in Demjanjuk's defense but was kept from him. Among the evidence was an interview the government conducted with a man who had been at Trawniki, a Nazi camp where Demjanjuk allegedly was trained.

Matia said OSI lawyers acted "with reckless disregard for their duty to the court" in Demjanjuk's case.

Matia vacated the 1981 judgment against Demjanjuk without prejudice, meaning the Justice Department could again seek to strip Demjanjuk of his citizenship. Matia said his ruling was based on legal procedures, not Demjanjuk's personal history.

"Just as the government should not be able to profit from its misbehavior, neither should a defendant be insulated from the consequences of his alleged moral turpitude because he becomes the inadvertent beneficiary of sanctions against the government," Matia wrote.

Eli M. Rosenbaum, OSI's director, said the government will review the matter and decide whether to refile its case against Demjanjuk. No one who handled the Demjanjuk case initially is now with the office.

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press


Canada changes mind on Holocaust gallery
04:05 a.m. Feb 19, 1998 Eastern

OTTAWA, Feb 18 (Reuters) - Canada announced on Wednesday it has thrown out plans to include a Holocaust gallery as part of a multimillion-dollar expansion of the Canadian War Museum because of vehement opposition from veterans.

Instead, Ottawa will look at the possibility of setting up an independent Holocaust museum as a means of ending the long-simmering dispute.

``The Holocaust story can best be told in a separate venue fully dedicated to it,'' said Adrienne Clarkson, chairwoman of the Canadian Museum of Civilization, in a prepared statement. Clarkson oversees the operation of the War Museum.

Clarkson said she would ``assist in the exploration of an alternative site for the eventual development of a stand-alone and independent Holocaust Museum.''

The announcement seemed to please both Canadian veterans and Jewish groups.

``Our fervent hope is that this commitment will be honored in a timely fashion, and that removing it from the War Museum doesn't mean we end up with no gallery at all,'' said Eric Vernon of the Canadian Jewish Congress.

The veterans had opposed inclusion of a Holocaust gallery in the War Museum for fear it would detract from recognition of Canada's military history. They also complained of the lack of public consultation before its announcement last November.

Heritage Minister Sheila Copps, who is ultimately responsible for the museums, was unavailable for comment.

The minister's spokesman, Jacques Lefebvre, said she had not committed to the idea of a separate Holocaust museum but ``the process of looking at other options is ongoing.'' REUTERS

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


Holocaust Claims Must Be Handled

By Marcy Gordon
AP Business Writer
Thursday, February 12, 1998; 6:13 p.m. EST

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The White House will fight an attempt in Congress to deny NATO membership to Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia until the three countries resolve claims for insurance benefits by heirs of Holocaust victims, a senator said Thursday.

Sens. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., and Robert Torricelli, D-N.J., are proposing a nonbinding resolution on the insurance issue. It came to light as the House Banking Committee examined a separate proposal aimed at compelling 16 European insurance companies to disclose their dealings with Holocaust victims. The companies have been sued for billions by heirs of victims seeking to recover life insurance benefits said to have been confiscated by the Nazis.

Specter said he had been told by a White House official that the administration was ``strenuously opposed'' to his resolution and would urge lawmakers to reject it.

``Just debts are not being paid'' to Holocaust survivors and their families, Specter testified at a hearing. The resolution would call on the three Eastern European nations -- whose insurance companies were taken over by the previous communist governments after World War II -- to establish a fund to compensate legitimate insurance claims by Holocaust heirs.

The banking committee also grappled with the painful issue of art plundered from European Jews, as American museums begin to deal with the possibility that some of the works they display were looted by Hitler's armies.

``It is a deeply disturbing aspect of an immense human tragedy that art -- which has given so many people so much pleasure -- could also have been a source of so much pain for those who treasured it and were ruthlessly and lawlessly deprived of it,'' Philippe de Montebello, director of New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, told the panel in an earlier session.

De Montebello heads a 13-member task force formed by the Association of Art Museum Directors, whose membership includes the heads of the nation's 170 largest art museums, which is developing guidelines to help members deal with ownership claims.

Congressional interest in looted art and insurance claims by Holocaust victims' heirs follows efforts of the World Jewish Congress to identify and return to rightful owners stolen gold and money held in Swiss banks since the days of the Holocaust.

Sen. Alfonse D'Amato, R-N.Y., suggested at Thursday's hearing that an independent commission be set up -- modeled after the Volcker Commission formed in 1996 to investigate the role of Swiss banks -- to look into the insurance situation.

Rep. Jim Leach, R-Iowa, chairman of the House banking panel, also recommended creation of an independent commission.

In a federal class-action lawsuit, heirs of Holocaust victims are seeking $1 billion from each of the 16 European insurers, alleging that they refused to honor the victims' insurance policies. The state of California has filed to join the suit.

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press


Clinton signs bill to help Holocaust survivors
08:25 a.m. Feb 14, 1998 Eastern

PHILADELPHIA, Feb 13 (Reuters) - President Bill Clinton signed legislation on Friday to help Holocaust survivors recover assets seized by the Nazis in the Second World War.

The Holocaust Victims Redress Act, passed by the House of Representatives last month and by the Senate in November, allows organizations that help Holocaust survivors to share up to $25 million.

It also provides an additional $5 million for archive research to help with the recovery of assets that were extorted or looted from Holocaust victims.

``There can be no way to deliver full justice for the many millions of victims of Nazi persecution, and we know that the unspeakable losses of all kinds that they suffered will never be made whole,'' Clinton said.

``Yet it is my hope that with this bill, we can help provide some dignity and relief to those who were subjected to the ultimate barbarism of the Holocaust, and that it will hasten the restitution that they undeniably deserve,'' he said. REUTERS

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


U.S. museum directors promise search for looted art
07:51 p.m Feb 14, 1998 Eastern

By John Whitesides

WASHINGTON, Feb 12 (Reuters) - The directors of four of the most prestigious U.S. art museums told Congress on Thursday they were confident few of the tens of thousands of artworks stolen by Nazis during World War Two were in their collections.

But they told a House of Representatives committee they were searching diligently for art looted by the Nazis, despite the difficulties in establishing a chain of ownership, the age of many pieces and the lack of an extensive data base for artworks.

``The question of the history of ownership of works of art is an extremely complex and difficult issue,'' James Wood, director of The Art Institute of Chicago, told the House Banking Committee.

``I say this with confidence and humility because we have spent years, considerable financial resources and much of our professional staff's time researching our collections.''

The directors appeared before the committee as part of a series of hearings in Congress on the restitution of assets seized or extorted by the Nazis from Holocaust victims.

Glenn Lowry, director of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, said the art looted from Holocaust victims by the Nazis during the war, much of it 16th- and 17th-century masterworks, came from Europe.

As a result, he said, ``it's not as large a problem for American museums as it is with European museums.''

But Wood, Lowry and the other two directors, Earl Powell, director of the National Gallery in Washington, and Philippe de Montebello, director of the Metropolitan Museum in New York, said the number of claims for Nazi-looted art had risen in recent years as more information on the enormity of the looting had become available.

They said such art would be returned if its rightful ownership could be documented. De Montebello said two claims of ownership involving war-era looted art had been filed against the Met since the war ended.

One filed by Belgium concerned a 15th-century painting the Met had purchased at public auction but was later allegedly stolen from a Brussels collection during the Nazi occupation.

The other was a claim by the descendant of a non-Jewish German national for a Monet painting given to the Met in 1994 that was allegedly taken by the Russians from Berlin at the end of the war. He said the Met was researching both claims.

None of the other three museums had ever had claims lodged against them over ownership of war-era looted art, the directors said.

The Association of Art Museum Directors has created a special task force to look at the issue of ownership relating to World War Two. The task force has endorsed the creation of a mechanism for the fair resolution of such claims, such as mediation or arbitration, de Montebello said.

``Obviously, the 'so sue me' approach is not the best way to handle these claims,'' Powell said.

A data base that listed artworks and their lineage would also help resolve open questions, the directors said.

Reps. Charles Schumer and Nita Lowey, both New York Democrats, are introducing a bill that would set aside funds for organizations that help families relocate lost artwork and would ask the federal government to check its own collections.

It would also ask anyone who makes an art purchase to attempt to do a reasonable title check of the artwork, similar to what the purchaser of a used car would do, Schumer said.

At a later hearing on insurance claims for Holocaust victims, New York Sen. Alfonse D'Amato said European insurance companies had targeted Jews for profit before the war.

``On the eve of the Holocaust, they targeted Jews, got the premiums paid upfront, and then turned their backs on the victims' families after the war,'' D'Amato said.

He called for the formation of an independent commission to review insurance company records and provide justice to surviving heirs. REUTERS

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


FOCUS-Swiss rebuff Holocaust victim's pay claim
09:36 p.m Feb 19, 1998 Eastern

By Marcus Kabel

ZURICH, Feb 19 (Reuters) - Switzerland on Thursday rebuffed claims for damages from a Jew whose parents were murdered in Auschwitz after Swiss authorities deported them in 1942.

The Federal Council, or cabinet, said in a statement it had rejected a demand by Charles Sonabend for 100,000 Swiss francs ($68,000) in damages.

The 67-year-old London resident will now appeal against the decision before the Supreme Court, his Zurich lawyer Marc Richter said.

Last year Sonabend sought maximum legal damages of 50,000 francs per victim from the government, arguing Berne's wartime policy of turning away Jewish refugees had put his family in Nazi hands while the Holocaust raged.

``The Federal Council is aware of the personal tragedy that the fate of his family has meant for Charles Sonabend,'' the government said.

But it rejected the demand for compensation ``because the claims have expired with time and are not materially justified.''

Sonabend's lawyer called the statement ``a cheap argument.'' He said federal authorities were to blame for years of delay because they had only recently allowed former refugees like Sonabend to see their deportation files.

Sonabend is seeking damages under a new law that allows individuals to make liability claims against public officials. The law leaves the decision to the cabinet first and then to the supreme court.

In its response to Sonabend, the Swiss government defended its humanitarian record.

``In contrast to the Nazi regime, (Swiss) federal authorities did not commit any war crimes...It must be also be stated clearly that Swiss authorities and the Swiss people took in many refugees during the war years,'' the cabinet said.

It said the broad goal of humanitarian aid would also be served by a new seven-billion-franc Solidarity Foundation that Berne has proposed. It must still be approved by parliament and faces a popular referendum.

The fund, to be financed by selling gold reserves, aims to help victims of catastrophes, human rights abuses and poverty in Switzerland and abroad.

It is separate from a 280-million-franc memorial fund set up by Swiss banks and businesses that has started paying out funds to Jews and other Holocaust victims in eastern Europe.

Sonabend has said he wants Berne to accept moral responsibility for the deed that led to his parents' deaths.

Sonabend was 11 years old when his family fled Nazi-occupied Belgium and reached Switzerland in 1942.

Two days later, Swiss police expelled the family into the hands of German guards. His parents were sent to the Auschwitz death camp. Sonabend survived after spending the war at a Jewish children's home in Paris.

Switzerland has acknowledged turning back 30,000 refugees at the border under an anti-Jewish wartime immigration policy for which it apologised in 1995.

Although Switzerland did host around 25,000 Jewish refugees at the war's end, it made Swiss and foreign Jewish organisations pay for their upkeep.

Sonabend is also a plaintiff in a suit filed in a U.S. federal court last year that alleges Swiss banks profited from Nazi funds, accepted looted assets and withheld the wealth of Holocaust victims.

At a separate news conference, Swiss Bankers Association (SBA) officials said independent auditors were about to start combing banks' books for any dormant accounts that Holocaust victims may have left behind.

Under intense international pressure, banks have published lists of wartime accounts unclaimed by foreigners and Swiss. Some 14,000 people have filed claims for the funds, which will be paid out under the guidance of independent arbitrators.

Only five claims have been settled so far, officials said, declining to give any details about their owners.

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


Poland seeks compensation for Nazi terror victims
06:08 p.m Feb 09, 1998 Eastern

By Marcin Grajewski

WARSAW, Feb 9 (Reuters) - Poland is seeking additional compensation from Germany in the form of payments from firms who employed slave labourers from Eastern Europe during World War Two, a government official said on Monday.

Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek raised the issue during talks with German Chancellor Helmut Kohl earlier this month, said government spokesman Tomasz Tywonek.

``The prime minister turned the German side's attention to this problem, to the necessity of paying compensation to Poles who were forced to work in Nazi Germany,'' Tywonek told Reuters.

Jerzy Nowakowski, an undersecretary of state in the premier's office responsible for foreign policy, said the German government would consider appealing to companies which employed forced labour to provide some compensation.

``The reaction of Chancellor (Kohl) was positive, but he stressed that companies need not react positively to these suggestions, because these are private companies operating in a free market,'' Nowakowski said.

He said the government had suggested this type of additional compensation for Polish victims of Nazism, because under a communist-era bilateral accord, Warsaw had agreed not to seek any more government compensation from Germany.

The German government has allocated 500 million marks for a fund that is providing compensation for Polish survivors of Nazi concentration camps and other victims of the occupation.

Warsaw decided to ask for more funds after Germany recently agreed to establish a fund which would for the first time compensate Jewish victims of Nazism in eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, Nowakowski said.

Holocaust survivors living in the West after World War Two received compensation from Bonn but those in the Communist bloc were excluded because of Cold War politics until the late 1980s.

Nowakowski said the non-Jewish victims of the Nazi terror should also get compensation but it was too early to name the sum involved.

``The (Polish) victims of the Nazi terror...have been getting a one-off payment of some 500 marks...while the agreement with Jewish organisations provides for a life-time pension of more than 200 marks a month, so this is evidently unequal treatment,'' he said. REUTERS

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


Cross to Be Removed From Nazi Camp

By Beata Pasek
Associated Press Writer
Thursday, February 19, 1998; 2:34 p.m. EST

WARSAW, Poland (AP) -- A wooden cross commemorating a 1979 papal Mass will be removed from a site near the Auschwitz death camp because of Jewish protests about Roman Catholic symbols there, the government said Thursday.

The 16-foot cross stands where Pope John Paul II held a Mass during his first trip back to his native Poland -- a visit credited with emboldening dissidents and hastening the end of communism there.

But Catholic symbols at, or within sight of, the Auschwitz museum have long upset Jews. In December, after a storm of protests, the museum removed smaller crosses that maintenance workers had left on the grounds.

The papal cross is about 80 feet from the former Nazi death camp and stands on property owned by Catholic nuns. It will be removed before the government takes over ownership of the land, the Foreign Ministry said, but the timing of the planned removal was unclear.

``The cross overlooks the camp which is unacceptable for Orthodox Jews because it imposes Christian symbols,'' said Jaroslaw Lindenberg, the ministry official in charge of relations with overseas Jews.

Nuns established a convent on the land in 1984 over the objections of Jewish activists. The nuns moved out in 1993, but the brown cross and a figure of the Virgin Mary remained.

The Culture Ministry plans to build a monument to executed prisoners where the cross now stands, Lindenberg said.

The Auschwitz-Birkenau camp, in the southern city of Oswiecim, was built in 1940. By 1945, some 1.5 million people, mostly Jews, died there in gas chambers or from hunger, disease and cold.

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press


Polish Gypsies seek WWII Damages

Monday, February 16, 1998; 7:21 p.m. EST

WARSAW, Poland (AP) -- About 2,000 Gypsies who were persecuted by the Nazis during World War II will seek compensation from Germany, the leader of Poland's Gypsies said Monday.

Roman Kwiatkowski said he gave a list with the first 137 names to the German ambassador in Warsaw, the PAP news agency reported. It was unclear when the rest of the names would be presented.

Gypsy victims of the Holocaust around Europe are trying to obtain compensation from Germany. But it is proving difficult because many were unregistered in their native lands, or unregistered by the Nazis.

There are some 30,000 Gypsies, who prefer to be called Roma, living in Poland.

Like Jews, Gypsies were rounded up, brutalized, interned, deported, and killed by Nazi Germany. Between 200,000 and a half-million were killed.

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press


Hungary Holocaust survivors get first Swiss money
03:56 a.m. Feb 13, 1998 Eastern

By Michael Roddy

BUDAPEST, Feb 12 (Reuters) - The first of 20,000 Hungarian survivors of the Jewish Holocaust to receive payments from a Swiss fund said on Thursday they were grateful despite the long wait.

``Somebody waits for something if she knows she will get it after all,'' said Lilly Weingarten, 71, attending a ceremony with other Holocaust survivors and representatives of Jewish groups and the Swiss fund.

``You know, God didn't create the whole world in one day,'' Weingarten said, adding that her will to live had helped her survive incarceration at the Auschwitz concentration camp and experimentation on her by Josef Mengele, the so-called ``Angel of Death.''

The ceremony at a Budapest hotel was to mark the distribution of cheques amounting to $400 apiece to the first 7,000 to 8,000 Hungarian survivors. All 20,000 eventually will receive $1,000 each, officials said.

``This is not compensation, not restitution, but a gesture of good will,'' said Rolf Bloch, chairman of the $200 million fund established by Swiss banks and businesses amid controversy over unclaimed World War Two-era accounts in Swiss banks.

The first payments from the fund were made to Jewish Holocaust survivors in Latvia last year, but the programme in Hungary, which has the biggest remaining population of Jews in Central Europe, is far more ambitious, officials said.

``We have a very fine process of screening people all around the world and the lists of Holocaust survivors are well known,'' said Avraham Burg, chairman of the executive of the Jewish Agency for Israel, one of many Jewish agencies which have forced Switzerland to re-examine its relations with Nazi Germany in World War Two.

Burg said the negotiations over the establishment of the fund had been one of the hardest tasks of his life.

``Imagine a couple of volunteers...who succeeded to persuade the Swiss bankers to raise a little bit the veil of bank secrecy. Can you imagine this was an easy task?'' he asked.

``It was relatively speaking one of the most difficult ones we faced in recent years and it took a lot of persuasion,'' he said.

The effort was much appreciated by the Holocaust survivors, most of whom, because they lived behind the Iron Curtain for another 50 years after the war, never received any other compensation for their suffering.

``Thanks for the donation and the club,'' Vera Rudas, 73 and a member of a Budapest Jewish club, said during the ceremony in halting English as she received an envelope containing information about the cheque that had already been mailed to her.

Rudas told reporters she had been beaten severely while she was held in a concentration camp in Budapest run by the Hungarian Nazi Arrow Cross, had been a widow for the last 19 years and had been living in poverty most of the last 50 years.

``It is a very long time to wait for the money,'' she said. ``We should have received it much earlier.'' ^[email protected]

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


Saturday, February 21, 1998

Ernst Juenger, 102; Controversial German Author
From Times Staff and Wire Reports

     BERLIN--Ernst Juenger, a decorated soldier and controversial author whose works were considered to attack both democracy and Nazism, has died. He was 102.
     Juenger died Tuesday at home in the southern German city of Wilflingen, officials there said.
     He was best known for his 1939 anti-Nazi novel, "On the Marble Cliffs," which depicted the annihilation of a peaceful people by "barbarian hordes." The story's allegorical meaning escaped Nazi censors, and the book was widely circulated and read before officials in Adolf Hitler's regime caught on. But Juenger, a soldier in the German army at the time, was still considered loyal.
     His 100th birthday party in 1995 was attended by German Chancellor Helmut Kohl. Left-wing students picketed a ceremony honoring Juenger the next day in Heidelberg, where he was born in 1895.
     Fascinated with the military life, Juenger joined the French Foreign Legion at 18 and the German army the next year. He was wounded 14 times during World War I, earning decorations from the kaiser.
     He gained early fame with the 1920 wartime novel "Storms of Steel," celebrating his experiences in the trenches. Battle was "the greatest high," he wrote. His works in the 1920s and 1930s mocked the wobbly democracy of the Weimar republic and predicted the rise of totalitarianism. Supporters called him a fiery patriot; critics a fascist.
     Juenger wrote anti-Semitic and warlike tracts in the 1930s, but he disliked Hitler and never joined the Nazi Party.
     Times reviewer Michael Harris said of an English translation of Juenger's "Aladdin's Problem" in 1992 that the author "shows an unusual grasp of the thought processes of people in power."

Copyright Los Angeles Times


FEATURE-Dutch Jewish art ``was plundered twice''
09:14 p.m Feb 08, 1998 Eastern

By Janet McBride

AMSTERDAM, Feb 9 (Reuters) - Jacques and Desi Goudstikker's fairytale existence became a nightmare when Nazi German troops marched into the Netherlands in May 1940.

Before the war, the wealthy Jewish pair divided their time between a fashionable house on Amsterdam's Herengracht, or Gentlemen's Canal, and a country retreat on the banks of the Amstel river.

They threw lavish concert parties at a medieval castle outside Utrecht, boasting performances by Pablo Casals and the entire Dutch concert orchestra.

And they owned one of Europe's most important collections of Dutch and Flemish masters and Italian renaissance art -- now the object of a tug of war between the Dutch state and Goudstikker's heirs in the United States.

``My family has suffered an injustice,'' says Goudstikker's daughter-in-law Marei von Saher-Langenbein from her home in Greenwich, Connecticut.

The German-born, former Holiday On Ice star has won unprecedented support for her case from the Dutch media.

``The Goudstikker collection was plundered twice: in 1940 by (the Germans) and after the war by the Dutch state,'' writes Het Parool newspaper, voice of the Dutch resistance during the 1940-45 German occupation.


Art dealer Goudstikker, his wife Desi and 10-year-old son Edo fled Amsterdam ahead of the Nazi invasion in 1940, buying passage on a ship to the west coast of England.

Jacques did not survive the short crossing. In a freak accident, he fell through an open hatch into the ship's hold and broke his neck. Desi and Edo made their way to New York.

Five years later, Desi returned to her devastated homeland to discover the house on the Herengracht, the country estate at Ostermeer and Nijenrode Castle had all been stripped bare.

Adolf Hitler and his air force chief Hermann Goering had made their own personal selections from Goudstikker's 1,200 paintings. Goering had ``bought'' the collection in 1940 for the paltry price of two million guilders ($1 million).

Of the original 1,200 canvases, only 300 were returned to the Netherlands after the war -- but not to Desi.

``The Dutch state was no less greedy than the Germans had been,'' writes weekly magazine Vrij Nederland, another resistance mouthpiece during the war.

``Desi lost everything. The works of art that were returned from Germany did not go to the widow but were hung in Dutch museums, government buildings and embassies around the world.''


Now Goudstikker's surviving relatives are fighting back, demanding damages from the Dutch state and an acknowledgement that the sale of the paintings to Goering was unlawful.

They also dispute a 1952 settlement between the Dutch government and Desi, under which she dropped her claim on the paintings in return for what remained of the purchase price.

``I want the authorities to acknowledge the significance of Jacques Goudstikker to the Dutch national art treasure, admit that in the past mistakes were made and agree to some form of damages,'' Marei von Saher-Langenbein says.

Desi Goudstikker died in 1996. Edo, a successful businessman in the United States, died a few months later.

Earlier this month Marei's lawyers issued an ultimatum to the Dutch government -- return the paintings or fight us in court.

But the Dutch ministry for arts and culture is in no mood to be intimidated.

``The same procedures apply to everyone. The Dutch government is committed to the restitution of damages but we have to gather all the relevant information. It is important we do it properly,'' a ministry spokesman said.

Aad Nuis, state secretary for the arts, has been less circumspect in his remarks. ``If my information is correct, they do not have a case,'' he said in a recent television interview. ``Of course the sale to Goering was not voluntary. But the matter was dealt with fully after the war.''

Lawyers from both sides agree that in strictly legal terms the Dutch government has the stronger case because under Dutch law a claim cannot be reopened after 20 years have elapsed.

Whether the Netherlands also occupies the high moral ground is a separate issue. Jewish groups have already written to Nuis, asking for a thorough examination of how the state went about returning plundered art to its rightful owners after the war.


It is estimated up to 100 paintings once owned by Goudstikker are now exhibited in Dutch galleries, including Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum and Maastricht's Bonnefantenmuseum.

Salomon van Ruysdael and Jan Steen are among the 17th century Dutch masters on display in the Rijksmuseum, Andrea Mantegna and Filippino Lippi among the Italian renaissance artists in Maastricht.

Works by Vincent Van Gogh, and others considered ``degenerate'' by the Nazis, were auctioned off during the war. The Dutch state sold other Goudstikker paintings and antiques at auction in the 1950s.

A black notebook belonging to Jacques Goudstikker painstakingly lists all the objects in his art collection, giving details of where and when they were bought.

In contrast, the Dutch state's inability to keep track of returned Jewish art after the war has complicated Marie von Saher-Langenbein's case.

While acknowledging ``enormous wrongs'' were done during the war, state secretary Nuis insists there is no evidence to suggest the Dutch government acted incorrectly in its dealings with Desi Goudstikker.

``I don't think she got an absurdly low amount, although I am open to evidence to the contrary. You have to look at it in the context of the time,'' he said in a recent newspaper interview.

``But in the end, the amount she received was not relevant because she could have had the paintings back in exchange for the sum, or part of it...Her lawyers were not born yesterday.''

In 1990, Desi gave a very different explanation for her decision to accept the Dutch government's offer in 1952.

``I had no money. It was the middle of the Cold War. I didn't want to go through everything a second time, I needed money to get back to America. For emotional reasons I made a stupid decision and I did my son a disservice. Fortunately he accepted it honourably.''

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


Report: German Neo-Nazis Increase

Saturday, February 14, 1998; 8:49 p.m. EST

HAMBURG, Germany (AP) -- Membership in neo-Nazi groups which have spoken in favor of attacking foreigners and Jews has significantly increased since 1994, a magazine reported Saturday.

The membership numbers, reported by Hamburg-based Der Spiegel, are consistent with a rise in extremist crime that federal officials already have reported for 1997.

Some 7,500 people belong to neo-Nazi cells throughout Germany, Spiegel said, citing numbers obtained from state agencies that monitor extremist groups. That compares with 5,400 in 1994, Spiegel said in its advance of a report to appear in Monday's edition.

Federal officials have blamed the increase partly on frustration with Germany's record unemployment of 12.6 percent.

Many of the new members are from 18 to 25 years old, Spiegel said.

The government estimates that extreme-rightist attacks rose 10 percent last year over the 781 attacks in 1996.

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press


Jewry in Germany flourishing-Jewish group
03:32 p.m Feb 09, 1998 Eastern

By Deborah Cole

BERLIN, Feb 9 (Reuters) - A U.S. Jewish leader said on Monday thousands of Jews arriving in Germany from Eastern Europe would help guard against far-right extremism in the country.

David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee (AJC), said at a ceremony to open the council's first office in Germany since the Nazi era that Germany had the world's fastest growing Jewish community.

German President Roman Herzog said Jewish life was again making its presence felt in Germany.

``There is a chance that this Jewish life can once again become an integral part of German culture and society,'' Herzog said, according to a text of his speech released in advance of the ceremony. ``It would have been audacious just a few years ago to even hope that would happen.'' he added.

The event came as police said vandals had toppled 10 gravestones in a Jewish cemetery in Guben, a small city about 100 km (60 miles) southeast of Berlin. Jewish cemeteries are frequently desecrated or vandalised by German neo-Nazi vandals.

Germany's Jewish population has been growing since a 1990 agreement to allow an unlimited number of Jews from the former Soviet bloc to immigrate. In the last eight years, the Jewish community in Germany had more than doubled and would soon reach 100,000, Harris said.

``The challenge to Jews in the coming years will be to sustain and develop community life,'' Harris told Reuters.

``The challenge for Germans will be to come to terms with a living and growing Jewish organism in its midst.''

Harris said the office was designed to enrich relations with the Germans and bear historical witness as the last generation of Holocaust survivors grows older.

``We want to help ensure the growing Jewish community,'' Harris said. ``We note extreme right-wing violence and the rise of a new right that seeks to create a new interpretation of history. Obviously, we reject this.

``Without eyewitnesses, without survivors, there is danger of forgetting,'' Harris said. ``We believe the AJC has a role to play in the civil society of Germany.''

U.S. ambassador to Germany John Kornblum and Israeli ambassador Avi Primor attended the opening ceremony. Kornblum said the new office represented a crucial step forward in relations between American Jews and Germans.

``Your office can serve as a catalyst for change,'' Kornblum told the opening ceremony. ``It can be a place for discussion and sometimes debate and help in the continuous process of dealing with the wounds and pain of history.''

Before the Nazis tried to exterminate the Jewish population in Europe, more than half a million Jews lived in Germany, 172,000 of them in Berlin. More than six million Jews across Europe were killed in the Holocaust.

When Germany united in 1990, there were about 27,000 Jews living in West Germany and only around 400 in East Germany.

The AJC Berlin office is on the city's Potsdamer Platz square, a stretch of land once isolated by the Berlin Wall and its death strip and now Europe's largest construction site.

The office will house a centre of German-Jewish relations and a library devoted in large part to American Jewry. The AJC was founded in the U.S. in 1906 to fight anti-Semitism worldwide. It has about 70,000 members and supporters. REUTERS

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


German state bans two extreme-right groups
08:26 a.m. Feb 11, 1998 Eastern

HANOVER, Germany, Feb 11 (Reuters) - The north German state of Lower Saxony said on Wednesday it had banned two right-wing extremist groups believed to be responsible for an annual celebration of Norse mythology attended by neo-Nazis.

State interior minister Gerhard Glogowski accused the two groups, named as Heideheim and Heide-Heim, of seeking to disrupt law and order.

He said land in the north German hamlet of Hetendorf that was owned by the groups and used for the festivals had been confiscated.

About 200 rightists gathered in Hetendorf last June at a summer solstice gathering inspired by Norse mythology, and 150 militant leftists protesting against the meeting clashed with police.

Air pistols and right-wing propaganda were taken from the neo-Nazi participants. REUTERS

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


German army to monitor soldiers' politics
06:41 p.m Feb 17, 1998 Eastern

BONN, Feb 17 (Reuters) - The German army is to require soldiers in certain cases to declare any links to extremist political organisations, the Defence Ministry said on Tuesday.

Recruits wanting to become soldiers and soldiers seeking promotion will be required to declare membership of any political party deemed ``anti-constitutional,'' a spokesman said.

The move follows a weekend television report that right-wing extremists were trying to get their members into the German army to learn skills which could then be used in guerrilla attacks.

The Defence Ministry said earlier this week it had the problem under control and that the numbers involved were small.

The ministry spokesman said any declaration of links to extremist organisations could affect a soldier's posting but that decisions would be taken on a case-by-case basis. The new measure is to take effect in the next few weeks, he said.

The report of infiltration attempts was the latest in a series linking the modern German army with right-wing extremism.

Incidents have included soldiers selling outlawed Nazi propaganda in their barracks, giving each other the illegal stiff-armed Hitler greeting and shouting the Nazi battlecry ``Sieg Heil'' to each other. REUTERS

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


FOCUS-Germany probes anti-Semitic slurs in Bosnia
08:55 p.m Feb 18, 1998 Eastern

By Mark John

BONN, Feb 18 (Reuters) - The German army is to investigate eyewitness accounts that two junior officers hurled anti-Semitic abuse at Albanian soldiers while on a mission in Bosnia last October, the Defence Ministry said on Wednesday.

Germany's ZDF television said a German sergeant and junior staff officer in the NATO-led SFOR force in Bosnia called Albanian soldiers ``damned Jews'' who would have been sent to gas chambers in the Nazi era.

``The incident will be examined thoroughly,'' a Defence Ministry spokesman told a government news briefing in Bonn.

Some 35 Albanian soldiers are in Bosnia as part of the German peacekeeping contingent. The incident allegedly happened in a German barracks in Rajlovac near Sarajevo.

A summary of the report, due to be broadcast later on Wednesday, said the two Germans involved were disciplined locally but that the incident was not reported to central army command in Germany because of the scandal it would cause.

The accusations are the latest in a steady flow of incidents that have come to light over the past few months linking the army to racist and neo-Nazi tendencies.

A Defence Ministry spokesman confirmed that two junior officers had been accused by fellow soldiers of making anti-Semitic comments to the Albanians but that a local inquiry concluded there was insufficient proof of this.

He said the Albanian soldiers involved were also not aware of being insulted but added that the two soldiers were in any case speaking in German.

The two soldiers, whose names or regiment were not identified, were fined 5,000 marks ($2,700) each for drunkenness rendering them incapable of service.

The ministry spokesman said that based on details released in advance of the report, the army would look into the case again and decide if further action was needed.

The report gave opposition politicians more ammunition with which to blast the government for not doing enough to stamp out extreme-rightism in the army.

``The foreign policy damage (of the string of scandals hitting the army) takes on a new dimension with this incident in Bosnia,'' said Angelika Beer, defence spokeswoman for the environmental Greens.

She repeated accusations that the government was trying to obstruct the work of a parliamentary committee set up to examine the scandals.

Only this weekend there were revelations that German far-right groups were trying to get their members into the army to learn skills which could then be used in guerrilla attacks.

There have also been cases of soldiers selling outlawed Nazi propaganda in their barracks and giving each other the illegal stiff-armed Hitler greeting and shouting the Nazi battlecry ``Sieg Heil'' to each other. REUTERS

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


UN slams Croatian extremists for provocative rally
07:19 a.m. Feb 16, 1998 Eastern

ZAGREB, Feb 16 (Reuters) - The United Nations and Croatian politicians on Monday strongly criticised extreme right-wingers for provoking ethnic Serbs by making Nazi salutes and waving fascist flags before a weekend rally.

Croatia is trying to promote a delicate process of reconciliation between Croats and an ethnic Serb minority which rebelled against Croatia's independence from Yugoslavia in 1991 and events such as those at the weekend could blow a hole in that process, Douglas Coffman, spokesman for the U.N. civil police support group, told Reuters.

``Unfortunately the party has gained some popularity in this area in the last couple of years. They are an extremist party. Anything they say does not really help the situation,'' Coffman said.

Local police, who Coffman praised for their handling of the incident, plan to charge around 50 members of the Croatian Party of Rights (HSP) with disturbing public order and peace.

The United Nations has about 200 civilian police officers who support a local mixed Serb-Croat force in the former Serb enclave of Eastern Slavonia which broke away in 1991.

The region was administered by the U.N. for two years until January 15 when it was finally returned to Zagreb.

The extremists first went peacefully to a cemetery to lay wreaths before heading to a village outside the regional capital Vukovar to hold a rally in a former cinema.

``They drove to the cinema and the convoy got out of hand,'' Coffman said. ``They sounded their horns, made Nazi salutes, waved Ustashe flags and sang nationalist songs.''

The convoy was made up of eight buses, eight vans and 81 cars carrying around 800 party members, media reports said.

Ustashe was the fascist regime which created an independent state of Croatia from 1941 to 1945, allied to Nazi Germany.

If they had walked right into the cinema it wouldn't have been so provocative,'' Coffman said, praising local police for keeping extremists away from local people and supporting their call for criminal charges.

Government officials and opposition parties united in condemnation of the nationalist displays.

``The singing of Ustasha songs...in Vukovar will certainly renew doubts about Croatian intentions,'' Social Democratic Party leader Zdravko Tomac told daily Vjesnik, adding that the international community would view such incidents in an extremely bad light.

The police is being monitored to ensure it treats both communities fairly in the former enclave.

The HSP's military wing played a key role in the battle for Vukovar in 1991, when it suffered heavy casualties fighting with the regular Croatian army against Serb irregulars and the former Yugoslav army.

The region is mostly populated by Serbs who came from elsewhere in Croatia during the 1991-95 war. They are uncertain about their future in Croatia and such displays of nationalism, Coffman said, could damage the reconciliation process as they decide whether to stay or leave. REUTERS

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


Insurers Accused of Targeting Jews

By Marcy Gordon
AP Business Writer
Friday, February 13, 1998; 2:44 a.m. EST

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Before the Nazi deportations of Belgian Jews, insurance agents in Brussels sold Rudy Rosenberg's parents a life insurance policy. They asked for half the premium payments up front, the other half the following year, Rosenberg recalls.

But there was no next year. The Rosenbergs were deported. Rudy, who now lives in New York, says the insurance companies appeared to deliberately seek out Jewish customers, asking his parents for names of other Jewish families.

``It is clear that the European insurance companies undertook a deliberate effort to target European Jews for profit, before the Nazis targeted them for destruction,'' Sen. Alfonse D'Amato, R-N.Y., testified at a House Banking Committee hearing Thursday. ``These companies sought and obtained premiums up front, with no expectation of paying the claims in the end.''

Rep. Mark Foley, R-Fla., a member of the banking panel, has proposed barring 16 European insurance companies and their U.S. subsidiaries from doing any business in this country unless they disclose any dealings they had with Holocaust victims.

The companies have been sued for billions of dollars by heirs of victims seeking to recover life insurance benefits said to have been confiscated by the Nazis.

Congressional interest in the matter follows the well-publicized efforts of the World Jewish Congress to identify and return to rightful owners stolen gold and money held in Swiss banks since the Holocaust.

The House panel also grappled with the issue of art plundered from European Jews, as American museums begin to deal with the possibility that some of the works they display were looted by Hitler's armies.

D'Amato, who heads the Senate Banking Committee, proposed the creation of an independent commission, modeled after the Volcker Commission formed in 1996 to investigate the role of Swiss banks, to look into the insurance situation.

Rep. Jim Leach, R-Iowa, chairman of the House banking panel, endorsed that idea.

Sen. Robert Torricelli, D-N.J., told the lawmakers that the selling of life insurance to worried European Jews on the eve of World War II might be ``the most insidious'' of the white-collar crimes perpetrated on Holocaust victims.

But the White House opposes a nonbinding resolution by Torricelli and Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., to block Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic from joining NATO until they resolve claims for insurance benefits by heirs of Holocaust victims.

Specter said he had been told by a White House official that the administration was ``strenuously opposed'' to his resolution and would urge lawmakers to reject it.

``Just debts are not being paid'' to Holocaust survivors and their families, Specter testified. The resolution would require the three Eastern European nations -- whose insurance companies were taken over by communist governments after World War II -- to establish a fund to compensate legitimate insurance claims by Holocaust heirs.

In a federal class-action lawsuit in this country, heirs of Holocaust victims are seeking $1 billion from each of the 16 European insurers, alleging that they refused to honor the victims' insurance policies. The state of California has filed to join the suit.

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press


Farrakhan approved for two-day Australia visit
04:18 a.m. Feb 11, 1998 Eastern

CANBERRA, Feb 11 (Reuters) - The Australian government on Wednesday approved a visa for controversial U.S. black Moslem leader Louis Farrakhan, despite objections by Jewish leaders.

But the Nation of Islam leader -- branded a racist by critics -- would have to undergo official counselling by Australian diplomats and agree to conditions before entering Australia, said Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock.

``These conditions are that he agrees to be counselled on the laws, values and nature of our tolerant and diverse multicultural society,'' Ruddock said in a statement.

Ruddock said Farrakhan had no criminal convictions and there was no suggestion he was involved in terrorist or criminal activity. The minister has the discretion to reject visas on the basis of ill health or bad character.

But Ruddock said one member of Farrakhan's entourage had been refused a visa, but he would not say why.

Farrakhan is currently on a world tour in Asia, but it is unclear when he will arrive in Australia.

Local media said Farrakhan may arrive by private aircraft on Thursday at Australia's outback city of Alice Springs and visit Aboriginal communities before visiting Sydney.

Australia's Jewish community, which decided not to officially oppose Farrakhan's visit, said it believed public opinion was overwhelmingly in favour of banning him.

Jewish organisations have labelled Farrakhan an anti-Semite and urged the government to act swiftly if he breached the conditions of his visa.

``There's...the possibility that (he) will use the opportunity while he's here to try and peddle his message of poison and hatred against very many groups,'' Executive Council of Jewry spokesman Jeremy Jones told Reuters.

``If he does so we hope the government...will be prepared to take very strong action against him immediately.''

However, Aboriginal leaders have urged the government to allow Farrakhan into the country.

Ruddock has wide powers to refuse visas, but said there was no legal reason to reject Farrakhan's application.

In November 1996, Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams and controversial British historian David Irving were both denied visas because they failed to meet the good character requirements of Australia's Migration Act.

Farrakhan has made headlines during his tour, saying Jerusalem is an occupied city which will never be controlled by Israel, leading Jewish organisations to label him an anti-Semite.

Farrakhan has also accused the United States of bullying Iraq in a stand-off over U.N. inspection of possible arms-making facilities in Iraq. REUTERS

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


French court sentences Jewish extremists for attack
03:18 p.m Feb 10, 1998 Eastern

PARIS, Feb 10 (Reuters) - A Paris court on Tuesday gave six-month jail terms, with another 30 months suspended, to two members of a militant Jewish youth group for injuring 11 mostly elderly people in an attack on a Nazi sympathisers group.

David Hadjadj, 28, and Alain Lisbona, 25, were among some 30 members of the group Betar who had used baseball bats and tear-gas against people attending a private 1991 tribute to a French writer who fought alongside Nazi troops on the Russian front during World War Two.

Several participants were seriously hurt including a 77-year-old woman who was paralysed.

Hadjadj and Lisbona, who remained free pending an appeal, were also ordered to pay several million francs in damages to their victims. The public prosecutor had requested five year jail terms for the two.

French members of Betar were recently involved in a fracas at a convention of the right-wing Likud party in Israel where they were accused of preventing delegates with views opposed to theirs from voting.

Betar is connected to Likud and its French branch is thought to include several hundred hardline activists, mostly recruited among working class Jews of North African origin, who train in martial arts and, according to their opponents, in weapons handling.

They use their rough tactics mostly within the French Jewish community and recently prevented several Israeli peace campaigners, including former cabinet minister Yossi Beilin and parliamentarian Yael Dayan, from addressing public rallies in France.

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


French World War Two resistance hero dies
01:30 a.m. Feb 14, 1998 Eastern

PARIS, Feb 13 (Reuters) - Jacques Robert, head of a French Resistance network which played a key role in World War Two by secretly informing the allies of Nazi naval movements, has died aged 83, officials said on Friday.

Robert was head of the Phraterie network which operated from French ports like St. Nazaire, a main base for Nazi submarines and surface raiders preying on allied naval convoys, and which sent information to London about their movements .

Britain awarded him the Distinguished Service Order (DSO), a rare distinction for a foreigner, while Free French leader General Charles de Gaulle, under whose orders he served, made him a member of the coveted Order of the Liberation.

Arrested in 1943, Robert escaped to Britain but was parachuted into occupied France on D-Day in June 1944 to lead ``maquis'' (partisan) bands behind German lines in central France.

After the war he became a businessman. REUTERS

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


Neo-Nazis whose world began with Hitler detained
09:36 p.m Feb 17, 1998 Eastern

PARIS, Feb 17 (Reuters) - Nine suspected members of a neo-Nazi network who believed the world began when Hitler was born have been detained in France and Britain over death threats against Jewish personalities, police said on Tuesday.

They said the international network was living in year 109, as it had made up its own calendar starting with Hitler's birthdate in 1889.

Eight people were being held in France. Another, named as Herve Guttuso and belonging the group ``Charlemagne Hammer Skin,'' was being held in Britain and expected to be handed over to France.

They were being investigated on suspicion of making death threats against France's Simone Veil, a former cabinet minister and ex-president of the European Parliament, and Anne Sinclair, a popular journalist married to Finance Minister Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

They were also being probed for inciting racial hatred and denying Nazi crimes against humanity, and on suspicion that they started a fire in a Jewish-owned shop in Rouen. REUTERS

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


Judge doubts Papon unaware of Nazi camps
10:20 p.m. Feb 11, 1998 Eastern

By Lee Yanowitch

BORDEAUX, France, Feb 11 (Reuters) - The judge trying accused Nazi collaborator Maurice Papon scoffed on Wednesday at his testimony he knew nothing of the fate awaiting hundreds of Jews sent to Nazi

``What could you have possibly suspected, what could you have imagined was happening to these people?'' judge Jean-Louis Castagnede asked Papon during the fifth month of his trial on charges of crimes against humanity.

Papon, 87, is accused of ordering the arrests for deportation of elderly and ill Jews when he was a senior Vichy bureaucrat in Bordeaux during World War Two. He repeatedly dodged the judge's question.

At issue was the May 13, 1944, transport of 57 Jews from Bordeaux to the Drancy detention camp outside Paris, from which Jews were shipped on to Auschwitz. The train left for Drancy less than a month before the Allied landings in Normandy.

The transport, one of 10 Papon is accused of organising, carried mostly elderly people, many of them taken from their hospital beds for deportation. Others had been left handicapped by fighting in World War One.

``We are in a phase where the Germans asked for lists of Jews in hospital, where old people were arrested and where amputated war veterans were loaded onto transports,'' said Castagnede.

Papon remained evasive. ``All we could imagine was suffering and misfortune, maybe death,'' he told the court.

A visibly irritated Castagnede persisted. ``People in the (anti-Nazi) Resistance had known since January 1943. I'm not just asking the man in the street, I am asking a senior official,'' he said.

Papon has repeatedly denied that he signed orders for the arrest and deportation of Jews, insisting that he used his position to save Jewish lives and help the anti-Nazi Resistance.

``At the time, the prevailing idea was that they were sent to internment camps in Germany. We knew that their stay there was tough, severe and pitiless. But it never occurred to anyone that there were extermination camps,'' he said.

``We had to wait until the American troops arrived to learn about the industrialised liquidations.''

But the court was told that in December 1942, 11 Allied nations had issued a declaration condemning the extermination of tens of thousands of Jews in Germany and Poland.

It was also shown documents showing that reports about the death camps filtered into France via illegal BBC broadcasts and underground newspapers beginning in 1943.

The clandestine press was monitored by the Bordeaux Prefect's office, where Papon was secretary general between 1942 and 1944.

``It's obvious that when babies and old people -- people 80 years old -- were loaded into lead wagons with a bale of hay and a pail to relieve themselves, it was not so that they would arrive at their destination in good health,'' said Alain Jakubowicz, a lawyer for the civil plaintiffs.

``When he signed orders and had babies and the elderly put on trains, he knew very well they were going to their deaths,'' Jakubowicz told reporters outside the courtroom.


Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


Ex-Klan Leader Duke May Seek La. House Seat
06:43 a.m. Feb 19, 1998 Eastern

By Jua Nyla Hutcheson

BATON ROUGE, La. (Reuters) - Former Ku Klux Klan eader David Duke, one of the Republican Party's most controversial members, says he is poised to run for Congress if powerful House Appropriations Committee Chairman Bob Livingston decides to step down.

Livingston, a conservative Republican from predominantly white suburban New Orleans, has scheduled an announcement on his plans for 10 a.m. CST (11 a.m. EST) Thursday, his office confirmed.

The 20-year congressional veteran said two weeks ago that he was seriously considering retirement and might become a lobbyist, and Duke has expressed interest in running.

Duke told Reuters Tuesday that his candidacy for Livingston's seat is ``very possible, but we have to wait to see what he does.''

A Livingston aide confirmed to Reuters that the congressman has several times said that, if necessary, he would spend his $650,000 campaign war chest to defeat Duke, whose past associations with neo-Nazi, white supremacist and other hate groups caused national Republicans to repudiate his affiliation with their party.

Duke first came to national attention when he won a state House of Representatives race in Metairie in the late 1980s, shortly after announcing his switch to the Republican Party.

Before that, he fielded several abortive campaigns for political office as an Independent or a Democrat and was a Ku Klux Klan Imperial Wizard.

He narrowly lost the 1990 U.S. Senate race against then-incumbent Democrat J. Bennett Johnston, but was resoundingly defeated -- 61 percent to 39 percent -- during a 1991 gubernatorial runoff against controversial Edwin Edwards, who was seeking his fourth term in office.

A popular anti-Duke, pro-Edwards bumper sticker at the time read ``Vote for the crook, it's important!''

Edwards, the subject of numerous grand jury investigations although, was indicted once on influence-peddling charges, but his first trial ended with a hung jury and he was acquitted after a second trial.

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


U.S Rep. Livingston of Louisiana to seek re-election
04:10 a.m. Feb 20, 1998 Eastern

By Jua Nyla Hutcheson

KENNER, La, Feb 19 (Reuters) - U.S. Rep. Bob Livingston of Louisiana, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, surprised his supporters Thursday when he said he would seek re-election to Congress.

Livingston, a Republican in his 11th term, had let it be known that he was not likely to run again in the fall election. But he said he had a change of heart.

His decision appeared to forestall a campaign by former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, one of the Republican Party's most controversial members, who had said he might run for Livingston's seat if the incumbent resigned.

``I wasn't committed to the race unless he was stepping down,'' Duke told Reuters. ``It's hard for a fellow Republican to run against a Republican incumbent. A lot of people who have supported me also supported him when he ran.''

Livingston had vowed to spend his $650,000 campaign warchest to defeat Duke, but told 200 cheering supporters at a Kenner, Louisiana, hotel that the prospect of a Duke candidacy was not his reason for staying.

``Duke had nothing to do with it at all,'' Livingston said.

But Duke said he thought the Republican Party had convinced him to seek another term because ``they were very concerned about having David Duke in Congress. ``I make the Republicans face up to their campaign promises,'' he said.

Livingston said his decision was based on the wishes of constituents of his largely white district in suburban New Orleans who said he could help the state as head of the powerful Appropriations Committee.

``Before I got grilled at a town meeting in Hammond (La.) two night ago, I was absolutely committed to walking off into the sunset. But the arguments tugged at my heartstrings,'' he said. ``We still have a lot that we can do.''

Livingston, a 54-year-old attorney, had indicated that he would leave Congress to become a lobbyist. But he said he would seek at least one more term and left the door open for more.

He became Appropriations chairman after the Republicans won control of the House in the 1994 elections. Livingston said the job of Speaker of the House interested him, but that he was a ``total loyalist'' to current Speaker Newt Gingrich.

Duke, whose past associations with neo-Nazi, white supremacist and other hate groups caused national Republicans to repudiate his affiliation with their party, narrowly lost a 1990 U.S. Senate race against the incumbent Democrat J. Bennett Johnston.

He also ran unsuccessfully for governor in 1991 and for Senate again in 1996.

Last fall, he was elected chairman of the St. Tammany Parish Republican Party. That parish is within Livingston's congressional district. REUTERS

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


Suspected witches hacked to death in PNG
02:33 a.m. Feb 11, 1998 Eastern

PORT MORESBY, Feb 11 (Reuters) - Five women suspected of being witches were hacked to death or strangled by angry villagers in the remote highlands region of Papua New Guinea, police said on Wednesday.

Six men have been charged with the murders after they were arrested at the weekend in Navi village near Goroka, 410 km (255 miles) northwest of the capital Port Moresby, regional police commander Chief Inspector Buckley Iarume said.

The men will appear in court on February 24.

Iarume said the women were practising sorcery and were killed because it was believed their witchcraft was responsible for the mysterious deaths of an unknown number of villagers and some pigs.

``They were demon-possessed, they had an evil spirit in them, they were destroying other lives,'' Iarume told Reuters by telephone from Goroka.

All six of the men arrested had had relatives killed by the ``witches,'' Iarume said. The women were either hacked to death with axes and machetes or strangled.

``These witches have killed some people and those people have relatives, so they took the law into their own hands,'' he said.

The murders were committed several weeks ago and it took some time for the news to reach police, Iarume said. Heavy rain then prevented police from travelling through the rugged highlands terrain until last weekend.

Most Papua New Guineans are Christians but fear of sorcery remains widespread, even among those who have received traditional Western or missionary educations. REUTERS

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.

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