English News Archive

News between May 27, and May 17, reversely ordered by date (i.e.: the newest can be found on top). For recent news select English News.


MAY 27, 1998:

MAY 26, 1998: MAY 25, 1998: MAY 24, 1998: MAY 23, 1998: MAY 22, 1998: MAY 20, 1998: MAY 19, 1998: MAY 18, 1998: MAY 17, 1998:

Whole VHO Website censored by German Authorities
On April 27, 1998, mayor Vandreike of the City of Frankfurt/Main (Germany), according to his letter head working in the city's jouth office, applied for the indexing, i.e. censoring of the entire Web Site of Vrij Historisch Onderzoek (Ref.: 51.16 schu). The application was filed within the "Bundesprüfstelle für jugendgefährdende Schriften" (BPjS), the central German authority responsible for the indexing/censorship procedure. Ute Kortländer of this BPjS sent VHO a notice on May 12, 1998, notifying us that we have one week to respond to the censorship application before they decide about it (Ref.: Pr. 273/98 UK/Schm).
Since no writing of VHO could stop the criminal activities of these blinded ideologists and scientific analphabets, we saved these efforts.
To the best of our knowlegde, this is the first time that an entire revisionist Web Site is being censored for historical and scientific writings. Until today, the BPjS was satisfied with censoring only a few individual pages to which they were ideologically or politically oposed.

Holocaust Movie a Hit at Cannes

By Jocelyn Noveck
Associated Press Writer
Sunday, May 17, 1998; 4:18 p.m. EDT

CANNES, France (AP) -- Making a movie about the Holocaust is delicate enough. Making one that is humorous, too? Some would call that crazy.

Yet Italian comic star Roberto Benigni has attempted it, and his tale of a man trying wildly and creatively to shield his son from concentration camp horrors is the first unqualified hit at Cannes.

At its official premiere Sunday night, the film was hailed with a ten-minute standing ovation and shouts of ``Bravo!'' from the audience.

Many Holocaust films try to present the century's darkest moment in its full scope, to show the enormity of the event. It's easy to fail in this venture, and Benigni doesn't even try.

Instead, ``Life is Beautiful'' is simply about one man, one woman and one child. There are concentration camp scenes, and references to gas chambers. But there are no big signs in German, barely a Nazi flag, barely a swastika.

``We assume people already know about those things,'' says Benigni, who co-wrote, directed and starred in the film.

Benigni, revered in Italy for his highly physical comedy, is best known abroad for manic performances in Jim Jarmusch's ``Down By Law'' and ``Night on Earth.'' He's been called Italy's Chaplin, but there's some Woody Allen there, too.

He plays Guido, a Jewish man who comes to a Tuscan town in 1939 to open a bookstore, but can only get work as a waiter. A jokester and above all a dreamer, he sets his sights on Dora, who is engaged to a local Fascist official.

He wins her, and soon they have a little boy, Joshua. Guido seems oblivious to the rising anti-Semitism in Mussolini's Italy -- until the day the family is deported to a Nazi camp.

To shield his son from the horror, Guido begins an elaborate ruse. The whole thing is a game, he tells Joshua; the first to get 1,000 points will win a great prize: a real army tank. The nasty men in uniform are just role-playing. You get points by being quiet, hiding, not asking for snacks...

In the movie's funniest scene, Guido pretends he speaks German when the Nazi guard asks for a translator to tell prisoners the camp rules. Each time the guard shouts out a rule, Guido comes up with his own hilarious translation, again shielding the boy from the Nazi cruelty.

As the horror grows, Guido's attempts to save his son become more desperate. The ending is not completely happy, but definitely not completely sad, either.

A minor wrinkle: at times, the actors seem to be playing just a bit too broadly.

Benigni says he knew he was taking risks in making the film, but ``I was obsessed, in love with this idea. I was scared, but you're always scared when you're in love.''

``Life is Beautiful'' has been a hit in Italy, where it has been playing since December. Miramax plans to distribute it in the United States.

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press

Swiss Pres. Wants Positive Israel

By Dina Kraft
Associated Press Writer
Sunday, May 17, 1998; 3:13 p.m. EDT

JERUSALEM (AP) -- Israel can ease tensions with Switzerland over the emotional issue of compensating Jews who lost assets during the Holocaust by keeping the atmosphere positive, Swiss President Flavio Cotti said Sunday.

``If we want to reach a favorable result, it is more than necessary that we have the best atmosphere possible. We should also recognize what Switzerland has already done,'' Cotti told a group of Israeli lawmakers during his four-day tour of Israel, the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Jordan.

The Swiss have come under mounting pressure from Jewish organizations to compensate heirs of Holocaust victims who claimed that Swiss banks held assets of relatives who died at the hands of the Nazis.

Jewish groups maintain that Swiss banks have made public only a small part of the unclaimed accounts of Holocaust victims. Adding to the tension are American and British reports that identify Switzerland as the largest dealer in Nazi gold, handling $400 million of the tainted metal.

Lawmaker Avraham Hirchson, who heads an Israeli parliamentary panel on restitution for Holocaust victims, stressed the need to recover assets quickly from Swiss banks.

``If we had the money now, we could use it for survivors during their final years so they can have a better life,'' Hirschson said.

Israeli-Swiss relations also have been strained by a failed spy mission that almost derailed the Cotti visit. Five Israeli agents were caught in February trying to bug an apartment building in the Swiss capital. Israel has apologized for the incident.

Cotti's first stop in Israel was the national Holocaust memorial, Yad Vashem. Wearing a black skullcap and bowing his head, Cotti placed a wreath at a crypt of ashes and dust collected from the concentration camps where 6 million Jews were killed.

``We are all together, all the civilized people together, committed that such dramatic historical events as the Holocaust will never be repeated,'' Cotti said.

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press

Insurance Cos. May Have Robbed Jews

By Rayner Pike
Associated Press Writer
Monday, May 18, 1998; 5:09 p.m. EDT

NEW YORK (AP) -- Some European insurance companies were ahead of the Nazi government in robbing Jews of benefits they were entitled to, insurance researchers told a state Senate committee Monday.

After Kristallnacht, a three-day attack on Jews and Jewish institutions in November 1938, the Nazis issued an order that in effect voided property damage insurance of Jewish policyholders.

But, according to newly discovered documents, insurance companies soon began taking the initiative and canceling other types of policies -- including life, health and pensions -- held by Jews.

``Insurers appeared to be the creators of Nazi policy, not the victims,'' said Douglas Talley, vice president of Risk International, a Houston-based claims recovery service.

Talley said German records shipped to Moscow after World War II disclosed ``very virulent anti-Semitic attitudes in insurance companies.''

His testimony came at a hearing by the state Senate Insurance Committee chairman, Republican Sen. Guy Velella, on a bill to punish insurance companies that stonewall claims of Holocaust victims or heirs.

New York spokesmen for some European insurers, including Allianz and the AXA group, told Velella that legislation was not needed because the companies would cooperate.

``We are committed to expeditious justice, mindful of the advanced age of claimants,'' said Peter Lefkin, a Firemen's Fund vice president speaking in behalf of Allianz.

Jews lost from $23 billion to $32 billion during the Nazi era -- worth about $250 billion today -- according to testimony Monday by Elan Steinberg, executive director of the World Jewish Congress

Steinberg said estimates show that the biggest losses were from insurance that never was paid and real estate that was lost.

Margaret Zentner, 76, a German-born survivor of the Auschwitz death camp who now lives in New York, testified that she was unable to collect on a so-called dowry policy her father bought from Allianz in 1929.

The policy was to pay her 5,000 marks on the day of her marriage or at age 21. ``That was a lot of money -- an automobile at that time didn't even cost 1,000 marks,'' she said.

When she wrote to Allianz after the war, ``They said the policy had been paid to the SS (Hitler's elite guard) and they didn't owe me anything.''

Mrs. Genter is part of a class action lawsuit accusing European insurers of refusing to honor policies of Nazi victims.

``The Nazis systematically took over insurance payouts,'' said Terrell Hunt, president of Risk International. ``It was the scheme of the Nazis not only to murder the Jews, but to seize the insurance assets of the murdered Jews to help fund the murder of more Jews.''

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press

Dutch Probe Into Nazi-Plundered Art

Tuesday, May 19, 1998; 2:31 p.m. EDT

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands (AP) -- The Dutch government is widening its investigation into the ownership of thousands of artworks recovered from Nazis but never claimed.

The inquiry comes amid pressure from Jewish groups to track down and return assets plundered from Jews during Germany's occupation of the Netherlands in World War II.

The artworks -- 4,000 items ranging from paintings to ceramic objects and including pieces by the Dutch masters Vincent van Gogh and Rembrandt -- are either on exhibit in Dutch museums and government buildings or in storage.

Since last fall, experts have examined 113 of them and established the provenance of some, especially paintings.

A quarter of the 48 paintings were traced to Jewish families, according to Ronni Naftaniel, a member of the investigating commission.

The government now intends to inspect all 4,000 pieces over the next three years.

``If there is anything we can do to return these pieces to their owners, we must do it,'' the chairman of the investigation, Rudi Ekkart, said Tuesday.

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press

N.J. OKs Ban on Swiss Investments

By Barbara Fitzgerald
Associated Press Writer
Tuesday, May 19, 1998; 10:23 a.m. EDT

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) -- Despite State Department objections, the state Assembly unanimously approved a bill to ban state investments in Swiss financial institutions unless they cooperate in returning assets to the families of Holocaust victims.

The bill, if approved by the Senate and signed by Gov. Christie Whitman, would make New Jersey the first state in the country to apply sanctions to Swiss banks.

The state owns 280,000 shares in the Union Bank of Switzerland, worth some $85 million, that would be divested if the bill is approved, said Jack Mozloom, Treasury Department spokesman. It is only a small fraction of the state's $80 billion in investments.

Aron Pelled, 74, of Bayonne sat in the Assembly gallery during Monday's vote. He said his grandfather invested the family's money in a Swiss bank in 1937. But after his grandfather died in a concentration camp, the money was never recovered.

``Why should they keep the money more than 65 years?'' he asked.

In a May 14 letter to Assembly Speaker Jack Collins, Undersecretary of State Stuart Eizenstat argued against the bill, saying ``sanctions are not merited at this time when we are obtaining cooperation from the major Swiss banks.''

The governor said she agrees with the goals of the bill but is hesitant to enact sanctions. Whitman said she would continue to study the matter as the bill moves through the legislative path.

Jeffrey Taufield, a spokesman for the Swiss banks, issued a statement calling the bill ``ill-conceived'' and ``ill-timed,'' and saying it could jeopardize talks aimed at settling all Holocaust-related bank issues.

In New York, meanwhile, researchers told a state Senate committee Monday that German insurance company documents found in caches of German records held in Moscow since World War II disclose ``very virulent anti-Semitic attitudes in insurance companies.''

After Kristallnacht, the three-day attack on Jews and Jewish institutions on Nov. 9-11, 1938, the Nazis issued an order that voided property damage insurance policies held by Jews.

Within days, insurance companies went beyond the order and canceled other types of insurance, including life, health and pensions, said Douglas Talley, vice president of Risk International, a Houston-based claims recovery service.

He testified at a hearing by New York's Senate Insurance Committee on a bill to punish insurance companies that stonewall legitimate claims by Holocaust victims or heirs.

Unpaid insurance claims will amount to more than what was stolen in art, jewelry and gold or lost in Swiss bank accounts, said Elan Steinberg, executive director of the World Jewish Congress.

``It's fair to say that, particularly in central and eastern Europe, an insurance policy was the poor man's Swiss bank account,'' Steinberg told the New York committee.

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press

Insurer Can't Pay Holocaust Claims

By Jeff Shain
Associated Press Writer
Wednesday, May 20, 1998; 6:50 a.m. EDT

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. (AP) -- An Italian insurance company with thousands of Holocaust survivors' claims that have gone unpaid since the end of World War II said the governments that took over some of those policies now are responsible.

Assicurazioni Generali cannot pay some of the claims because many of its assets were seized during the communist takeover of Eastern European countries, Riccardo Nicolini, Generali's chief executive in the United States, said Tuesday.

Generali lost assets in Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland and other countries when private insurance was nationalized by communist regimes, Nicolini told a hearing attended by more than two dozen Holocaust survivors.

``Nationalization and expropriation is the reason why Generali cannot pay,'' he said.

``Anywhere Generali stayed in business, Generali has paid,'' he said. ``Unfortunately, we couldn't (pay) in those countries where somebody else took over our responsibility and our policies.''

The countries that took over the policies are responsible for paying the claims, Nicolini said.

Generali is among four European insurers to join state insurance commissioners and Jewish officials in establishing an international commission to settle claims.

Generali representatives were called to testify before state Treasurer Bill Nelson about thousands of claims that have gone unpaid since the end of World War II.

Some survivors have been trying for 50 years to gets claims paid. They said they were told their claims were rejected because files could not be found, premiums went unpaid during the war or they were unable to produce a death certificate.

``I don't want to be a number anymore. I want to be a human being,'' said Erika Brodsky, a 73-year-old survivor whose father died at Auschwitz. ``You owe me.''

Generali officials produced photocopies of ledgers showing claims were paid out to a number of Holocaust survivors, as well as papers documenting the takeover of company assets in Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Poland.

Generali has set up a toll-free hot line for survivors to handle Holocaust claims. It has also pledged $12 million to a trust fund to help Holocaust survivors, administered by top Jewish officials.

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press

Thursday May 21, 11:58 pm Eastern Time

FEATURE-Stolen art works force museums to probe deeper

By Leah Eichler

TORONTO, May 22 (Reuters) - Art collectors beware. You may not own those cherished paintings you paid for so dearly.

That is the message being sent out to the art world in Canada after a Montreal museum came under fire over a painting it had bought that Hungary claims was stolen from it.

The dispute over alleged wartime art theft has brought the issue of looted art and restitution to Canada's shores, but the focus is on the lengths to which a museum now must go to investigate the origins of works in its collection. Fear of being implicated in art theft has forced museums to question just how hard they are supposed to look.

The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts claims it investigated the origins of the painting, ``The Marriage Feast of Cana'' by 16th century Italian painter Giorgio Vasari, to the best of its ability but it says it was not in an ideal position to find that kind of information from a former Iron Curtain country.

But Hungarian Embassy Press Attache Norbert Konkoly told Reuters: ``If the museum would have looked a little bit deeper into the history of the painting, it would have turned out immediately that Hungary is looking for it because it is listed as a war loss.''

The Montreal museum said it bought the painting in 1963 from a private collector in Hungary who had a notarized proof of purchase from a state-run Hungarian store in 1961.

``The Budapest Fine Arts Museum is claiming restitution based on the whole slew of war-related restitution requests ... but this work is not included in the process because it was purchased in 1961,'' Maurice Boucher, head of the museum's public relations department, insisted.


The Hungarian Embassy said it was not possible that the Montreal museum acquired the painting from a state-run store as it had been declared a war loss since the Budapest Fine Arts Museum was bombed during the Second World War.

The embassy said the painting could not have been legally removed from the country at the time without the permission of proper authorities such as the National Gallery of Hungary.

``As far as I know, they (the Montreal museum) did not have the permission which would have enabled them to move this piece of art from Hungary abroad.'' Konkoly said, suggesting that the work may have been smuggled out of the country.

The Montreal museum in not alone when it comes to contested ownership of art works.

New York's Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) was embroiled in a crisis over the ownership of two paintings by Viennese artist Egon Schiele that were on loan from the Leopold collection in Vienna when two people claiming to be heirs sought to block the works from being returned until ownership was resolved.

Rita Reif of New York and Henri Bondi of New Jersey claimed the paintings were confiscated from their families by the Nazis. A court ruled this month that MOMA could return the Schieles to Austria by invoking a 30-year-old state law that protects the works from ``any kind of seizure.'' But the saga may be far from over and District Attorney Robert Morgenthau has already said he would appeal the decision.


``It is bad public policy to exempt any state property from the reach of the law ... we do not believe that New York State should be a safe haven for stolen art,'' Morgenthau said.

The MOMA affair shows that the issue of looted art does not apply only to purchases but to art works received as gifts or on loan, forcing museums to turn away donations unless adequate documentation is provided.

But even art with full documentation may be suspect. ``When you receive a gift of a work of art someone tells you how they acquired it, possibly providing you with a bill of sale, and you look at that and what do you do next?'' asked Maxwell Anderson, director of The Art Gallery of Ontario.

``Do you take it at face value? Do you say, 'Prove to me that bill of sale is valid?' Some collectors may fully believe that what they are holding in their hands is completely legitimate but that receipt may have been doctored before they came along,'' Anderson said.

His Toronto gallery boasts that no claim has ever been made against it in its 98-year history but admits it has returned works to other institutions after investigating their origins.

Even after investigating a painting's history, the way in which art was sold in the past does not lend itself to reliable documentation, he said. ``It's a little different from making a normal purchase or receiving a normal gift because a work of art is something that inevitably passes through many hands. The extent to which documentation exists is completely variable.''

The Montreal museum agrees, saying galleries are faced with the near-impossible task of accounting for a painting's every owner. ``Especially with a painting that dates back to the 16th century, you can never know exactly who owns it at every minute, even if you do the most exhaustive research,'' it said.

Friday May 22, 3:08 pm Eastern Time

Company Press Release

SOURCE: American Jewish Congress

American Jewish Congress Calls Clinton's Decision to Grant Waiver on Trade to Iran 'Disquieting and Disappointing'

WASHINGTON, May 22 /PRNewswire/ -- The American Jewish Congress said today that President Clinton's ``disquieting and disappointing'' decision to grant a waiver to the French oil giant Total and the Russian firm Gazprom to conclude a $2 billion natural gas deal with Iran, ``sends out a dangerous signal that ultimately business interests must prevail over national security.''

In a statement, AJCongress Executive Director Phil Baum declared that ``the threat of terrorism and of use by terrorists of weapons of mass destruction is growing'' and he expressed regret that the President is not ``following tough words by tough action.''

``It makes no sense to wait to contain Iran until after it has acquired or purchased nuclear capability,'' said Baum. ``It will not be long before it will be too late.''

The full text of the statement is as follows:

We deeply regret President Clinton's decision to grant a waiver to the French oil giant Total and the Russian firm Gazprom to conclude a $2 billion natural gas deal with Iran. Despite the face-saving measures adopted by the European Union, the fact remains that the President yielded on an issue of the greatest importance; his decision undermines economic isolation of Iran because of its danger to the world and its export of state-sponsored terrorism.

The threat of terrorism and of use by terrorists of weapons of mass destruction is growing. The President's accommodation sends out a dangerous signal that ultimately business interests must prevail over national security. His refusal to follow tough words with tough action is disquieting and disappointing.

It makes no sense to wait to contain Iran until after it has acquired or purchased nuclear capability. It will not be long before it will be too late. Our national vigilance against terrorism must not be subordinated to our concern for commerce and profit.

SOURCE: American Jewish Congress

Friday May 22, 9:15 am Eastern Time

Company Press Release

SOURCE: Boys & Girls Clubs of America

New Collaboration Between Boys & Girls Clubs of America and Anti-Defamation League Aims to Reduce Racism Among Today's Youth

ATLANTA, May 22 /PRNewswire/ -- Boys & Girls Clubs of America (B&GCA) and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) announce they have joined forces to introduce a multi-faceted diversity program designed to reduce bigotry and prejudice. Based upon ADL's highly successful A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE(R) program, which has been used in public, private and parochial school systems around the country for more than 12 years, the new ADL and B&GCA initiative will be pilot tested in some 50 Boys & Girls Clubs over the next two years and then rolled out nationally by the year 2000.

The concept for this far-reaching, innovative collaboration was developed by Joel E. Smilow, the retired chairman and CEO of Playtex Products, Inc., and a long-time leader in the Boys & Girls Club Movement. ``In my mind one of our nation's greatest needs is to help our young people understand the nature of our diverse, pluralistic society, and to learn how to view our differences as strengths so they can live, work and play together in an atmosphere of respect, cooperation and harmony,'' said Smilow. The Joel E. Smilow Charitable Trust is underwriting the three-year program with a $2.4 million grant, divided between B&GCA and ADL.

In April, First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton visited the Madison Square Boys & Girls Club in New York to participate in the first pilot session of this new initiative.

Boys & Girls Clubs of America comprises a national network of more than 2,000 neighborhood-based facilities serving some 2.8 million young people, primarily from disadvantaged circumstances. Key Boys & Girls Club programs emphasize educational achievement, career exploration, drug and alcohol avoidance, health and fitness, gang and violence prevention, cultural enrichment, leadership development and community service.

Developed in 1985, A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE Institute is the culmination of ADL's years of experience working with schools to promote inter group understanding and our country's democratic ideals. To date, A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE Institute has trained more than 350,000 school teachers across the country, impacting 12 million students. The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is dedicated to stopping the defamation of the Jewish people and to securing justice and fair treatment to all citizens alike through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.

SOURCE: Boys & Girls Clubs of America


Kohl to visit Holocaust memorial

BOSTON, May 22 (UPI) - German Chancellor Helmut Kohl will be laying a wreath at the Holocaust Memorial in Boston during a weekend visit.

The German Consulate said today the main purpose of Kohl's visit is to inaugurate the newly created Center for German and European Studies at Brandeis University in suburban Waltham on Saturday.

On Sunday, Kohl will deliver the commencement address at Brandeis and will receive an honorary degree.

Among those also receiving honorary degrees will be playright Arthur Miller, Israeli-born author and peace activist Amos Oz, and former Secretary of State George P. Shultz.

On Saturday night, Kohl is tentatively scheduled to visit a small Holocaust memorial at Brandeis where the ashes of Nazi concentration camp victims are buried.

A consulate spokeswoman said Kohl will lay a wreath Sunday afternoon at the Holocaust memorial near the historic Faneuil Hall in Boston before departing for Germany.

Copyright 1998 by United Press International.

All rights reserved.

Saturday May 23 4:42 PM EDT

U.S., Argentina to work against terrorism

By Charles Aldinger

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Argentina and the United States agreed Saturday to work more closely together to fight international terrorism, a subject that has sparked a major rift between Argentina and Iran over two devastating anti-Jewish bombings here.

Argentina's President Carlos Menem and U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen told reporters traveling with Cohen after a meeting at Menem's residence that their countries would share key intelligence information to battle what they called the "scourge" of terrorism.

"We (the United States) are willing to cooperate in whatever fashion and manner that we can to help deal with the scourge of international terrorism," Cohen said.

"The fight against this terrible evil will be more effective and positive," added Menem, welcoming Cohen's offer of intelligence and other unspecified help. "I believe that the United States can give us support in technology and in the supply of information of the way terrorism acts in the world."

Argentina's large Jewish community suffered two bomb attacks in 1992 and 1994 that killed 119 people and injured hundreds more. It has not found the culprits, but blames both attacks on Iranian-backed Muslim extremists such as Hizbollah.

That charge has this month sparked a major diplomatic row between Buenos Aires and Tehran.

Cohen said after a later meeting with Argentine Defense Minister Jorge Dominguez that the discussions enforced "the breadth and depth of one of one of our country's most important bilateral relationships."

"We spoke at some length about the issue of international terrorism," he said. "The way in which we are cooperating is to share intelligence, to share information that we may have that could contribute to improving the security in Argentina."

But he stressed that "this is not a one-way street. We look for Argentina to share information with us so we can join forces to combat a common enemy."

Menem also told reporters in the earlier joint interview at his residence that Argentina was not concerned about Chile's possible purchase of advanced U.S. or other fighter jets.

He said Buenos Aires and Santiago had sharply reduced tension over their long-standing border disputes and were now working closely together for economic and strategic stability in the southern Andean region.

"I am not at all concerned," Menem said when asked about U.S. pressure on Santiago to buy either Lockheed Martin F-16s or Boeing Co. F-18s in a fierce aerospace competition with France and Sweden.

"It could have been a problem or preoccupation in the past, (but) there is no concern with me when it comes to countries that have improved their relations with the (regional) community ... We are now cooperating with Chile and other countries in the region within the Southern Common Market."

"In the past, we had with Chile 24 points of conflict on our borders. We have solved 23 of them and there is just one left that we will be solving in the net few months," Menem added.

"Ten years ago, to think of having Chilean investment in Argentina would have been impossible. And the energy sector, which has been privatized, is now in the hands of Chilean businesses."

Cohen, who will travel to Santiago Sunday and then visit Brazil in his first trip to Latin America as defense secretary, told reporters earlier on his aircraft en route from Washington that the United States would carefully exercise last year's lifting of a 20-year arms embargo against a region once peppered with military dictatorships.

He also predicted governments in the hemisphere will modernize their militaries sensibly and that Argentina should not be concerned about the U.S. push to sell warplanes to Chile.

"What we are looking at is a Latin America that is very different from the Latin America of years past. Virtually every country is now a democracy." Cohen said.

Lockheed Martin Corp., which builds F-16s, has been involved in a fierce competition in Chile with the F/A-18 made by Boeing Co., the JAS 39 Gripen made in Sweden and France's Mirage 2000-5 over a potential $600 million deal with the Chileans.

President Clinton made a personal pitch for the sale of U.S. fighter jets to Chile during talks with President Eduardo Frei in Santiago last month.

Chile is expected to announce its decision in June.

^[email protected]

Sunday May 24 8:28 PM EDT

Hungary's right sweeps to power in stunning win

By Michael Roddy

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Hungary took a dramatic turn to the right on Sunday as voters swept ex-communists from power and left 35-year-old Viktor Orban poised to become Hungary's youngest prime minister this century.

"Voters have shown that for a new century the country needs a new government," said a jubilant Orban, a former student leader who looked set to form a right-leaning coalition headed by his Fidesz party.

"Our most important task is to form a government quickly," Orban told a television interviewer. "I would be surprised if a new government is not set up within the next three or four weeks."

Markets were expected to react nervously to the surprising strength of the right-wing victory, which not only brings Fidesz to power but also saw gains for the agrarian Independent Smallholders and far-right Hungarian Justice and Life Party.

"Thank goodness that the economy is quite independent of politics and the private sector accounts for 80 to 90 percent of Gross Domestic Product," Zsigmond Jarai, chairman of the Budapest stock exchange council, said on state television.

"It seems that the economy is progressing on its own track," Jarai added.

Fidesz ran on a platform that called for speeding up economic growth to cut unemployment, cracking down on corruption and a rise in violent crime and providing free tuition for university students.

Final unofficial results announced by Hungary's National Electoral Committee gave Fidesz the most seats with 148 members of the 386-seat parliament, short of the 194 needed for a governing majority.

Prime Minister Gyula Horn's ex-communist Socialists, who have run Hungary for the past four years, came second with 134 seats while the right-wing Independent Smallholders got 48 and Fidesz allies the Democratic Forum got 17.

The Socialists' liberal Free Democrat coalition partners were all but crushed by the vote, which cut their parliament seats to 24 from 69 and the party's entire governing board resigned.

The far-right Hungarian Justice and Life Party (MIEP), whose members run the gamut from traditional rightists to skinheads, entered parliament for the first time with 14 seats.

The right wing could scarcely contain its glee at the turn of events which ousted the Socialists and the Free Democrats, dismissed by some rightists as "bolsheviks."

Independent Smallholders leader Jozsef Torgyan, a firebrand orator whose party traces its roots back to turn-of-the-century agrarian parties, said he now held the balance of power.

"Now I can inform you that the Smallholders are the balancing factor," Torgyan told a news conference.

"I'd like to confirm our intention that we are willing to form a government with Fidesz, but only if we can carry out our program," he added.

Fidesz has so far not divulged its intentions for coalition partners, saying only that a party congress later this week would discuss the matter. President Arpad Goncz will follow tradition and call upon the party that got the highest vote to form the new government.

MIEP president Istvan Csurka, a playwright-turned-politician, said the voters, who defied predictions by turning out in greater numbers for the second round than for the first, had sent a message that could not be ignored.

"Parties seem to go for the middle way in forming a coalition but if they do then they go against the will of the voters," he said.

The Socialists, who have turned the economy around through a drastic austerity programme and brought Hungary to the threshold of joining NATO and the European Union, were stunned by their defeat.

Campaign chief Imre Szekeres, putting a brave face on the defeat, said: "There is no need to panic," adding: "We have to prepare for a serious opposition role."

Political analysts said Hungary faced a difficult time ahead as Fidesz tried to find its way to forming a coalition.

"It clearly remains to be seen whether they (Fidesz) form a coalition with the Smallholders and what the government programme is going to be," political analyst Tibor Vidos said.

"The Smallholders represent an element of uncertainty."

Kohl Speaks to Brandeis Graduates

Sunday, May 24, 1998; 9:55 p.m. EDT

WALTHAM, Mass. (AP) -- The symbolism of Brandeis University's graduation Sunday was not lost on German Chancellor Helmut Kohl.

Here he was, the leader of the nation that victimized Jews during the Holocaust, speaking to a student body that was nearly two-thirds Jewish.

``I'm conscious of the special significance that I, as a German, stand before you today as a representative of the new Germany,'' Kohl said through a translator.

Born in 1930, Kohl was a child during World War II. But he said no one can detach themselves from the history of the nation into which they were born.

``The suffering inflicted on the Jews by the Nazis is an indelible part of the history of Jewry, but it is also an indelible part of the history of Germany,'' Kohl said.

The chancellor said Germany's relationship with today's Jews has been -- and will continue to be -- influenced by the memory of the Holocaust, in which 6 million Jews died at the hands of the Nazis.

Kohl has been committed to repairing relations with Jewish communities in Germany and in Israel, and has worked to prevent the reemergence of Nazism.

Kohl visited the New England Holocaust Memorial in Boston after speaking to 750 graduates at Brandeis, a nonsectarian university founded nearly 50 years ago by the Jewish community.

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press

Conservatives Gain in Hungary

By Alex Bandy
Associated Press Writer
Monday, May 25, 1998; 3:24 p.m. EDT

BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) -- A center-right party's surprise election victory sent Hungary's stock exchange plunging Monday, reflecting investors' worries about the lavish campaign promises that helped the conservatives win votes at a time of economic hardship.

The Young Democrats-Civic Party got 148 of the 386 parliament seats in Sunday's vote, putting it 14 seats ahead of the Socialists who have governed Hungary since 1994. The vote also gave a far-right party with anti-Semitic, anti-Gypsy views representation in Parliament, for the first time since World War II.

The Young Democrats-Civic Party has proposed cutting corporate taxes and social security payments, lowering interest rates and spurring domestic consumption.

``There were too many promises made during the campaign and no one knows where the money would be coming from,'' economist Laszlo Lengyel told state-run radio.

Share prices took a dive at the opening of Monday's session as investors dumped stocks, signaling anxiety over the new conservative coalition. The BUX index of 20 major shares closed at 7274.34, down 8.7 percent from Friday's close of 7967.05.

Under Prime Minister Gyula Horn of the Socialist Party, Hungary sharply reduced its foreign debt, privatized most state-owned industries and was among the first former communist countries set to join NATO. It also is a front-runner to be invited into the European Union.

But hardship grew at home as inflation and unemployment climbed. Millions of Hungarians still live at or below the poverty line.

The lead of the Young Democrats-Civic Party, Viktor Orban, is expected to form a coalition with the Independent Smallholders Party, which has 48 seats, and the Hungarian Democratic Forum, with 17 seats.

The leader of the Smallholders, Jozsef Torgyan, is known for his big-money campaign promises -- including scrapping university tuition fees and highway tolls, cutting taxes, developing neglected regions and building low-cost housing.

The far-right Hungarian Truth and Life Party, led by Istvan Csurka and known for its Nazi-style salutes and mass rallies, got 14 seats, alarming Central Europe's largest Jewish community -- and many other Hungarians.

``We fear an extremist position may become an acceptable level of political discourse,'' said Peter Feldmajer, president of the Hungarian Jewish Communities, which represents the country's 80,000 Jews.

Csurka has said Hungary's half-million strong Gypsy minority ``have been living among us far too long'' and spoken of conspiracies ``against real Hungarian interests'' by everyone from New York to Tel Aviv.

Csurka's party joins other far rightists in European politics. France's Jean-Marie Le Pen -- once Csurka's guest in Hungary -- has congratulated his onetime host. In neighboring Austria, populist Joerg Haider leads Europe's biggest rightist movement. Parliaments in Romania, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic all have small but vocal nationalist factions.

All the mainstream parties are averse to Csurka. But they also loathe each other enough to make a grand coalition between left and right difficult, making him a potential king-maker.

Orban's party is to hold a congress at an unspecified date to set terms for coalition negotiations.

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press

Tuesday May 26, 6:15 pm Eastern Time

Company Press Release

SOURCE: American Jewish Congress

Once Again, a Special School District Is in the Courts: AJCongress Urges Appellate Division to Declare Kiryas Joel School District Unconstitutional

NEW YORK, May 26 /PRNewswire/ -- In response to the so-far endless saga of the efforts of the New York State Legislature to create a public school district for the Hasidic community of Kiryas Joel, the American Jewish Congress today urged the Appellate Division of the New York State Supreme Court to hold the special legislation creating the district unconstitutional.

The district has now been established three times by special legislation. Each effort has been struck by the courts.

``The unconstitutional tail is here wagging the dog of education policy,'' AJCongress told the Appellate Division.

In an amicus brief filed in the case of Louis Grumet and Caroline C. Shipley v. George Pataki et. al., AJCongress, declaring that legislative motive is relevant in constitutional law, explored the Legislature's reason for creating over and over the district for learning disabled Hasidic children. AJCongress argued that the legislation re-establishing the district ``was intended to simply continue intact a district previously found to be unconstitutional with as little collateral damage as the courts would tolerate.''

Chapter 390, the successor to Chapter 241, is nothing but a sham, a ``legislative subterfuge'' to continue the previously outlawed district, AJCongress said. ``Confronted with what reasonably appeared to be a subterfuge,'' a lower court ``understandably responded skeptically to arguments about the legislature's high-minded motive.''

``The essence'' of the lower court's decision, AJCongress said, was that the Kiryas Joel School District, created by Chapter 390, is motivated by the same illicit considerations that motivated its unconstitutional predecessor. The district and the legislation -- even if a limited number of other school districts benefited -- are ``nothing more than fig leaves to cover an unconstitutional motive and purpose.''

Kiryas Joel was created as ``a single-minded attempt to preserve intact a single district whose existence had been declared unconstitutional as a merger of religion and political power,'' AJCongress declared.

The Monroe-Woodbury School District has a valid alternative to the Kiryas Joel School District, AJCongress said, given the 1997 Supreme Court decision in Agostini v. Felton permitting public school teachers to offer secular remedial education on the premises of religious schools.

AJCongress concludes its argument by noting that it is not necessary to delve into federal constitutional law to prove that Kiryas Joel is unconstitutional -- the New York State Constitution is firm in opposing the creation of public schools and school districts ``whose organizing fulcrum is religion, or which are under the de facto control of a religious group. The Kiryas Joel School District is just such a district.''

The brief was prepared by Marc D. Stern, Co-Director of the AJCongress Commission on Law and Social Action. The case is expected to be heard in June.

NOTE: Maintaining the wall of separation of church and state is a leading priority for the American Jewish Congress.

SOURCE: American Jewish Congress

Many Who Fought Nazis to Get Pardon

By Tony Czuczka
Associated Press Writer
Wednesday, May 27, 1998; 9:59 a.m. EDT

BONN, Germany (AP) -- Germany's major parties have agreed to grant a blanket pardon to hundreds of thousands of Germans deemed wrongfully convicted of treason and other crimes by the Nazis, lawmakers said Wednesday.

A law expected to pass the lower house Thursday rehabilitates people, such as resistance fighters and Jews, who were jailed or ordered executed by Nazi courts for political or racist reasons. It also clears the names of some 350,000 men and women forcibly sterilized under the Nazis.

A political compromise over how to treat soldiers who deserted Adolf Hitler's army in World War II paved the way for the legislation, more than 50 years after the Nazi era ended.

Conservatives in Chancellor Helmut Kohl's ruling coalition refused explicit exoneration for about 20,000 deserters who were sentenced to death by Nazi courts. Instead, the bill lifts Nazi convictions imposed for ``military reasons.''

``I welcome this. It was time finally to put an end to these difficulties,'' said Herta Daeubler-Gmelin, a lawmaker from the opposition Social Democrats.

The law will not offer compensation to the victims.

Kohl's justice minister proposed a blanket exoneration last year because some German state never passed laws voiding the sentences by Nazi courts and others had unclear legal situations.

But opponents who argued Germany had atoned enough for the Nazi past delayed the bill until Tuesday, when members of Kohl's coalition and the Social Democrats passed the compromise in parliament's legal committee.

Critics say the provisions dealing with convictions for ``military reasons'' are vague, and will mean relatives of executed deserters will still have to petition courts for a pardon.

Germans have debated for years whether the deserters were heroes or criminals. Conservative politicians and war veterans have been reluctant to pardon the deserters, fearing that would be seen as a condemnation of the German military's conduct during the war.

Horst Eylmann, a member of Kohl's Christian Democrats who chaired the parliamentary panel that drafted the bill, urged both sides to put the past behind them.

``Everyone is a victim up to a point -- the deserters, but also the young soldiers who fought and maybe died for Germany under the influence of the Nazi ideology,'' he said on German radio. ``One has to discuss that openly.''

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press

Jewish Graves Desecrated in Poland

Wednesday, May 27, 1998; 8:05 p.m. EDT

WARSAW, Poland (AP) -- Vandals have damaged about 25 tombstones at the 192-year-old Jewish cemetery in Warsaw, the Polish news agency PAP said Wednesday.

About 15 grave stones were overturned and some were broken, PAP quoted the cemetery's director Boleslaw Szenicer as saying. Szenicer suspected the vandalism occurred Tuesday.

``When I came in the morning and saw the damaged gravestones I cried,'' PAP quoted Szenicer as saying. ``One of the damaged markers is a masterpiece of stonework of the 1920s.''

Last week, 10 other tombstones were damaged at the cemetery, where 220,000 people have been buried since 1806.

Before World War II, Warsaw's 380,000-strong Jewish community was the largest in Europe and made up about 30 percent of the city's population. Most of its members died in Warsaw's Nazi-imposed ghetto or in Nazi death camps. About 20,000 Jews live in Poland now.

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press

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