English News Archive

News between January 22th and January 26th, 1999, reversely ordered by date (i.e.: the newest can be found on top). For other News look into our News Archive.


Headlines

January 26, 1999:

January 25, 1999:

January 24, 1999:

January 23, 1999:

January 22, 1999:


TOP

Court Deflates Charges Against Parties, MPs

OTTAWA (AP) -- MPs and federal political parties can't be sued for voting unanimously to bar Holocaust denier Ernst Zundel from holding a news conference on Parliament Hill, says an Ontario Court judge.

Justice James Chadwick's ruling quashed Zundel's lawsuit in which he was seeking millions in damages for what he called a violation of his charter rights.

Chadwick was ruling on two motions brought forward earlier this week by lawyers for the five political parties, and counsel representing the five party leaders, their House leaders and some government ministers named in the suit by the Toronto Manitoba

The claim against all was dismissed.

Chadwick agreed with a lawyer representing named individuals that they were exercising parliamentary privilege when they made their decision and therefore were not subject to review in the courts.

``The House of Commons was exercising its parliamentary privilege in restricting the precincts of the House of Commons being used by the plaintiff,'' Chadwick wrote in his decision.

Parliament voted unanimously to nix Zundel's plans to hold a news conference on June 5 last year in the Centre Block of the Parliament Buildings.

© Copyright 1999 The Associated Press

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Estonian panel starts probe of Nazi, Soviet crimes
01:36 p.m Jan 22, 1999 Eastern

TALLINN, Jan 22 (Reuters) - A commission charged with investigating crimes against humanity committed during the brutal Soviet and Nazi occupations of Estonia will begin work next week, the president's press office said on Friday.

Estonia and Baltic neighbours Latvia and Lithuania were occupied by the Soviet Red Army in 1939 and incorporated into the Soviet Union in 1940, when tens of thousands of Balts were exiled to Siberia.

The 1941-1944 Nazi occupation further crushed the Balts, especially Lithuania, over 90 percent of whose 240,000 Jews perished in the Holocaust.

The Estonian commission will examine crimes against humanity between 1939 and 1991, a period filled with tragedy for this small nation of 1.5 million people. Latvia and Lithuania have set up similar bodies.

In World War Two, 5,500 people, mostly Jews, were killed during the Nazi occupation of Estonia, while the Soviet Union deported some 37,000, mostly ethnic Estonians, to Siberia where thousands died.

Although the scale of atrocities committed by occupiers and their local minions was huge for the three tiny Baltic countries, little has been done to punish those responsible.

``The deportations of Estonians in 1941 and 1949 have not been researched at all on the international level,'' Epp Alatalu, spokeswoman for President Lennart Meri, told Reuters.

``This has to be taken as two sides of one coin -- the two occupations that Estonia survived during the (over 50 years) since 1939 when the Soviet troops came to Estonia,'' Alatalu added.

Estonia has invited foreign diplomats, academics and figures such as former Danish Foreign Minister Uffe Ellemann-Jensen, U.S.-based Baltic analyst Paul Goble and Nicholas Lane, head of international relations with the American Jewish Committee -- to take part in the commission's work.

Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania broke free from the Soviet Union in 1991.


Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.


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Cool French far-rightist makes bid for power
06:42 a.m. Jan 22, 1999 Eastern

By Francois Raitberger

PARIS, Jan 22 (Reuters) - Diminutive Bruno Megret is thinking big as he bids to seize control of France's far-right National Front and vows to launch it on the road to power.

The dapper ideologue, who a few months ago launched a rebellion against party founder Jean-Marie Le Pen, will fulfill a longtime ambition at a special congress of his supporters opening on Saturday in the southern town of Marignane.

Delegates will elect him president of what he calls a renovated National Front -- and what Le Pen dismisses as a meaningless and illegal gathering of coup-mongers.

The result will be that France will have two National Fronts, each claiming to be the genuine article and each planning a slate of candidates for elections to the European parliament in June.

Megret, who at 49 is 21 years younger than le Pen and was long his deputy, confidently predicts that, once elected, he will be able to lead the anti-immigrant party, a pariah in French politics, out of political quarantine and into power.

He has rallied a majority of party officials to his strategy of seeking tactical alliances with other right-wing forces, which have kept Le Pen at arms' length for his blustery rhetoric and racist quips such as calling Nazi gas ovens ``a detail'' in history.

But it remains to be seen whether Megret, who is as cool and uninspiring as Le Pen is fiery and charismatic, can also capture the hearts and minds of National Front voters.

Opinion polls show the Front may suffer in its first test of strength since the schism -- the June 13 European parliamentary elections -- with most Front voters sticking with Le Pen.

Megret is mocked by cartoonists who portray him, because of his short stature and a vague resemblance to the Nazi propaganda chief, as a Dr Goebbels to Le Pen's Hitler. Critics slam his race-based outlook.

Supporters hail him as the strategist who helped the demagogic Le Pen build the Front into Western Europe's biggest extreme rightwing party.

He boasts of being the author of the Front's manifesto, which mixes anti-state measures with trade protectionism, urging repatriating millions of immigrants and reserving social benefits and jobs for native-born French people.

While Le Pen is a blustery former paratrooper who revels in Nazi-style theatrics in front of a crowd, Megret is a bland speaker and a cold intellectual who quietly worked behind the scenes for years to set the stage for his coup against Le Pen.

Their rivalry became an open wound when Megret challenged Le Pen's decision to name his own wife to lead the Front slate in the European elections if he was barred from running himself by an assault conviction for manhandling a Socialist candidate.

In the end, Le Pen was allowed to run, but Megret had crossed his Rubicon and called Le Pen a liability.

Megret attended the elite Ecole Polytechnique military college and, exceptionally in the xenophobic party, studied abroad, gaining a masters degree from the University of California at Berkeley.

An adviser to Gaullist economic cooperation minister Robert Galley from 1979 to 1981, he was a prospective Gaullist candidate for parliament -- which, together with his technocratic and secularist background, makes him suspect to Front hardliners.

He veered to the National Front and sat as a parliamentary deputy from 1986 to 1988 when proportional representation gave the party 35 seats in the National Assembly. A return to the first-past-the-post system now keeps the Front out of parliament.

He has been a member of the European parliament since 1989.


Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.


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Germany Unveils Disputed Holocaust Memorial Plan
12:52 a.m. Jan 22, 1999 Eastern

By Robert Mahoney

BONN (Reuters) - Germany took the wraps off a compromise American design for a Holocaust memorial in Berlin on Thursday, hoping to end a bitter row over how to remember the Nazi slaughter of Jews.

But the twice-altered plan by New York architect Peter Eisenman did little to silence the 10-year-long debate between supporters of a somber monument and advocates of a Holocaust museum similar to those in Washington and Jerusalem.

``My hope is that parliament will opt for the project,'' Culture Minister Michael Naumann said, unveiling a model in the lobby of the Bundestag.

``The chancellor supports it,'' he added.

But the final word does not lie with the new Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder but with members of parliament who will have a free vote.

Naumann, who worked as a publisher in New York before joining Schroeder's new Social Democratic government in October, said he hoped for a vote before the summer recess.

But opposition to the plan could delay the decision until the end of the year, members said. Eisenman's is the leading contender of four designs.

``The new design resolves the contradiction between commemoration through a monument and remembering through a library,'' Naumann said.

Naumann said Eisenman's initial plan for a field of 2,700 concrete blocks south of Berlin's Brandenburg Gate did not go far enough in reminding Germans of their responsibility and educating them about the Holocaust.

After the election defeat in September of Chancellor Helmut Kohl, who backed the original plan, the Schroeder administration asked Eisenman to include a Holocaust archive and other educational features into a new design.

Eisenman added a ``House of Remembrance,'' a glass and steel library, research center which cascades down to a smaller field of pillars that resemble tombs. Glass-sided tunnels under the field house a Holocaust exhibition.

Planners are also considering including elements from Hollywood director Steven Spielberg's Shoah Foundation, a library of 50,000 videotaped interviews with Holocaust survivors.

The main feature is a ``Wall of Books,'' a 20-meter (65 ft)-high, 115-meter (377 ft)-long stack containing one million volumes covering the extermination of Europe's six million Jews.

``The new dimension is the book,'' Naumann said. The Nazis started out to destroy the people of the book by burning books, he said.

``Now books will stand as a reminder that those people are still here,'' he said.

``It was always my fear that actually building this monument and then walking away from history would be a danger,'' he said.

But Lea Rosh, head of a lobby group that backed the first Eisenman design, rejected the compromise, saying Berlin did not need another documentation center.

``Exactly what we were afraid of has happened,'' Rosh told Berlin's Tagesspiegel newspaper, ``The House of Remembrance will reduce the size of the memorial by half.''

``The number of critics is growing,'' she said.

Rosh said the inclusion of a House of Remembrance under the direction of Berlin's Jewish Museum violated the original principle that the memorial be built by non-Jewish Germans.

She said the estimated cost of 150 million marks ($88.97 million) was too high, saying the money should be put toward the preservation of former concentration camps at Sachsenhausen and Buchenwald.

($1-1.686 Mark)


Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.


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Jewish Museum in Berlin Opens Sat

Friday, January 22, 1999; 11:43 a.m. EST

BERLIN (AP) -- City officials turned over the keys for the new Jewish Museum in Berlin on Friday to its director, former U.S. Treasury Secretary W. Michael Blumenthal.

The building, based on the form of a Star of David and designed by U.S. architect Daniel Libeskind, will open to the public for the first time Saturday, with Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder expected to attend.

After that, visitors will be allowed in only occasionally before the museum officially opens in 2000 with exhibitions on Jewish life in Berlin and the rest of Germany over the centuries.

Years of heated arguments about the museum's scope and concept caused it to be completed before exhibits could be put in place.

The project's former director, Amnon Barzel, resigned in 1997 after clashing with Berlin officials who wanted to make the Jewish collection part of Berlin's City Museum.

Blumenthal, a Jew who fled Nazi Germany with his parents, stepped in after city officials accepted his condition that the museum stand on its own.

© Copyright 1999 The Associated Press


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Doctors: Nazi-Era War Suspect Ill

By Liudas Dapkus
Associated Press Writer
Friday, January 22, 1999; 4:29 p.m. EST

VILNIUS, Lithuania (AP) -- A court-appointed medical panel said Friday that a man accused of turning Jews over to a Nazi execution squad in Lithuania is too ill to stand trial on charges of genocide.

The panel was appointed after 91-year-old Kazys Gimzauskas failed to attend the opening of his trial this month. The court is not bound to accept the panel's assessment, and it was unclear when a final ruling would be made.

Lithuania does not allow trials in absentia when defendants are ill.

The panel's head doctor said the assessment was based on several examinations that found Gimzauskas in poor health.

``We have inspected the old man a hundred times now, and we do not have any doubt that he cannot stand the trial,'' Antanas Garmus told reporters. He did not give details about what conditions Gimzauskas suffers from, although previous reports have said he has some form of cardiovascular disease.

After becoming independent in 1991, Lithuania vowed to bring alleged Nazi-era war criminals to trial. But the process has been slow.

The country's first Nazi war crimes trial was to begin in September but has been postponed repeatedly because lawyers for the defendant, Aleksandras Lileikis, claim he is too ill.

Some Jewish groups have angrily contended that Lithuania has dragged out the process, hoping the defendants would die before they could be tried.

An estimated 90 percent of Lithuania's 240,000 Jews died during World War II.

Lileikis was the head of Vilnius' security police during Germany's 1941-44 occupation, and Gimzauskas was his deputy. Both are alleged to have turned over scores of Jews to a Nazi squad that conducted executions in the woods just outside the capital.

Gimzauskas emigrated to the United States and worked as a machinist in St. Petersburg, Fla. He returned to Lithuania in 1993 as the United States was moving to revoke his citizenship for lying about his past.

© Copyright 1999 The Associated Press


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Swiss Banks, Jews Come to Terms

By Verena Dobnik
Associated Press Writer
Friday, January 22, 1999; 6:17 p.m. EST

NEW YORK (AP) -- Jewish groups, Holocaust survivors and Swiss banks finalized their $1.25 billion settlement early Friday, moving one step closer to compensating victims of the Nazis.

The parties in the class-action lawsuit, including the Swiss banks UBS AG and Credit Suisse, met Thursday and talked until 1 a.m. Friday in U.S. District Judge Edward Korman's chambers, said Elan Steinberg, executive director of the World Jewish Congress.

``This is a great victory for all Holocaust survivors,'' Steinberg said. ``All will be treated equally and no favoritism will be shown to those who have signed with a lawyer.''

Jewish groups say Holocaust victims deposited money in Swiss banks as the Nazis gained power in Europe, expecting to retrieve it later. But heirs and survivors say the banks stonewalled, claiming they could not find accounts or in some cases requesting nonexistent death certificates of victims killed in Nazi camps.

The judge will now schedule a fairness hearing to review the agreement and formally approve it, said attorney Stanley Chesley, counsel for the World Jewish Restitution Organization, an umbrella group for nine Jewish organizations. He said he hopes approval will come within the next several months.

The settlement, reached in August, ensures that Korman will appoint a special master to consider all proposals for the distribution of the money and to identify the beneficiaries, Steinberg said. The master is to suggest to the judge who should be included and how much goes to each claimant, and the judge will make a ruling.

The court will notify potential claimants through newspaper ads and other public means throughout the world, Steinberg said. He said those who consider themselves eligible will then be asked to call a toll-free number or write to a given address.

The World Jewish Congress official said all claimants whose families had Swiss accounts should be paid first. After that, he said, whatever funds remain ``should be divided among other beneficiaries worldwide.''

No date has been set for the next hearing. The judge's office would not comment on the meeting, and Korman was not available later Friday.

The banks already have made a $250 million deposit in an escrow account, Steinberg said. The rest of the $1.25 billion is to be deposited in the next three years.

The settlement ends two years of litigation that has dominated U.S.-Swiss relations and marred the image of Switzerland, which declared neutrality during World War II.

© Copyright 1999 The Associated Press


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FOCUS-German anti-foreigner drive fans racism -SPD
11:44 a.m. Jan 23, 1999 Eastern

By Erik Kirschbaum

BONN, Jan 23 (Reuters) - A nationwide campaign by conservative German politicians against the government's plans to ease citizenship laws is fanning the flames of racism, government leaders said on Saturday.

Angry opponents of the conservatives' campaign overturned stands in Berlin and tore up petitions in Magdeburg, police said on Saturday. Groups of protesters staged rallies next to other stands in Frankfurt, Hamburg and Wiesbaden, authorities said.

Environmental Minister Juergen Trittin said the opposition Christian Democrats (CDU) were whipping up xenophobic sentiment that could lead to a wave of violence similar to fatal attacks against foreigners in the early 1990s.

Speaking at a Greens party rally in Frankfurt, Trittin said the conservatives' petition against government plans to make it easier for foreigners to obtain German passports reminded him of their drive to tighten rules on asylum in the early 1990s.

``The conservatives wanted to change the asylum laws and their campaign led to murder and arson,'' Trittin said. ``This campaign is unholy, it is encouraging violence and it is spliting our society in half.''

Peter Struck, the leader of Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's Social Democrats in parliament, said the CDU were disgracing their party's traditions with their efforts to block the government's dual citizenship law.

``The CDU's campaign is shabby, unchristian and fuelling racist sentiment against foreigners,'' he said. ``They are strengthening the far-right parties. They are going to have to ask themselves if they know what sort of spirits they are waking.''

The CDU and its arch-conservative sister party in Bavaria, the Christian Social Union, have launched a drive to collect signatures for a petition against Schroeder's plans that would enable millions of foreign nationals to obtain German passports.

The conservatives, reeling since losing power in September after 16 years of rule, have won the unsolicited backing of far-right parties with their campaign against government plans.

Schroeder, who wants dual citizenship to foster the integration of the seven million foreigners in Germany, blasted the conservatives for whipping up unfounded public fears, and especially for claiming foreign criminals will be naturalised.

``This whole debate is incredible,'' he told Focus magazine, according to an advance excerpt of an interview to appear on Monday. ``Anyone who wants German citizenship will have to swear an oath to the constitution. Criminals will not be naturalised.''

Although CDU officials have called the campaign a huge success and have collected more than 100,000 signatures in the first week, the party and its leaders have been sharply attacked, even from within the party's own ranks.

Germany's Jewish community and church groups have warned the campaign could lead to a repeat of the racist violence that swept the country after unification in the early 1990s.

A survey in the mass-circulation newspaper Bild by the Dimap institute found 51 percent of the public supported the petition while 45 percent were opposed. Support was especially strong among Germans older than 60 and those from the formerly communist east where relatively few foreigners live.


Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.


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French far-right campaigner says he's no Brutus
07:10 a.m. Jan 24, 1999 Eastern

MARIGNANE, Jan 24, (Reuters) - Bruno Megret insists he is no Brutus despite his gleeful claim to have seized control of France's National Front from its ageing founder Jean-Marie Le Pen.

Nor does he see himself as a scheming Napoleon, despite Le Pen's taunts about his hunger for power and diminutive size.

Le Pen, who insists he still leads Western Europe's biggest extreme-right party, boasted recently that unlike Caesar, he would kill Brutus before Brutus could kill him.

But Megret today remains very much alive on the French political scene, vowing to renew the movement and lead it to victory in June 13 European parliamentary elections.

``I will remain the same man...I will be neither Caesar nor Napoleon,'' Megret told delegates to a special party congress organised by his supporters to oust Le Pen.

``We are neither putschists nor mutineers nor pirates...and the National Front is not the Bounty,'' he said.

The dapper ideologue, who launched his rebellion against Le Pen a few months ago, fulfilled a longtime ambition on Sunday when the congress, which is dismissed by Le Pen as illegal, overwhelmingly elected him the Front's new president.

As a result, France now has two National Fronts, each claiming to be the genuine article and each planning a slate of candidates for the June elections.

Megret, who at 49 is 21 years younger than le Pen and was long his deputy, confidently predicts he will now be able to lead the anti-immigrant party, a pariah in French politics, into power.

He has rallied a majority of party officials to his strategy of seeking tactical alliances with other right-wing forces, which have kept Le Pen at arms' length for his blustery rhetoric and racist quips such as calling Nazi gas ovens ``a detail'' in history.

But it remains to be seen whether Megret, who is as cool and uninspiring as Le Pen is fiery and charismatic, can also capture the hearts and minds of National Front voters, most of whom are seen in recent polls as sticking with Le Pen in the European parliamentary poll.

While Le Pen is a blustery former paratrooper who revels in Nazi-style theatrics in front of a crowd, Megret is a bland speaker and a cold intellectual who quietly worked behind the scenes for years to set the stage for his coup against Le Pen.

Megret attended the elite Ecole Polytechnique military college and, exceptionally in the xenophobic party, studied abroad, gaining a masters degree from the University of California at Berkeley.

An adviser to Gaullist economic cooperation minister Robert Galley from 1979 to 1981, he was a prospective Gaullist candidate for parliament -- which, together with his technocratic and secularist background, makes him suspect to Front hardliners.

He veered to the National Front and sat as a parliamentary deputy from 1986 to 1988 when proportional representation gave the party 35 seats in the National Assembly. A return to the first-past-the-post system now keeps the Front out of parliament.

He has been a member of the European parliament since 1989.


Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.


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Government says anti-foreigner push splits Germany
09:27 a.m. Jan 24, 1999 Eastern

By Erik Kirschbaum

BONN, Jan 24 (Reuters) - The German government accused the opposition on Sunday of dividing the country with efforts to block citizenship reform that have sparked violent protests.

Social Democrat Interior Minister Otto Schily said the plan to give German passports to millions of immigrants was an important step towards integration, and the Christian Democrats (CDU) were using the wrong methods to signal their opposition.

``Citizenship reform will make an important contribution to securing domestic peace and help overcome dangerous divisions,'' Schily told German radio. He said he was so confident of public backing that he was willing to put the issue to a referendum.

The CDU and its arch-conservative sister party in Bavaria, the Christian Social Union, formally launched a nationwide signature campaign against the plans at the weekend.

Police said a number of people were injured in attacks at the weekend by left-wing counter-protesters who tried to disrupt the CDU's campaign in several cities.

In Hamburg, police said about 25 youths had attacked CDU stands, overturning tables and destroying petition sheets that had about 800 signatures. Police detained six attackers. In Frankfurt, protesters stopped people getting to the stands.

A group called the ``Anti-Fascist Campaign Berlin'' said eggs and paint bombs had been thrown at CDU officials manning stands throughout Berlin, and that many had needed a police guard. A number of stands were overturned.

Police detained 21 assailants in Berlin.

``Two workers were hurt in these attacks from thugs who attacked our stands,'' said CDU spokesman Matthias Wambach.

In Darmstadt there were scuffles between a group of about 100 protesters and petition signers after the demonstrators scattered the lists onto the ground.

The conservatives, reeling since losing power in September after 16 years, say a majority of Germans oppose a relaxation of the citizenship rules, which would include allowing widespread dual nationality. They have won the unsolicited backing of far-right parties.

But church groups, foreigners' groups, the Jewish community and even many leading CDU members say the petition could prompt more of the racist violence that swept Germany after unification in the early 1990s.

``It's wrong to carry out this debate on foreigners out on the streets,'' said Heiner Geissler, a leading CDU liberal. ``It's paving the way for the far-right extremists.''

Environment Minister Juergen Trittin, a Greens member of the leftist-environmentalist ruling coalition, told a Greens conference in Frankfurt that the petition reminded him of the CDU's drive to tighten rules on asylum in the early 1990s.

``The conservatives wanted to change the asylum laws and their campaign led to murder and arson,'' Trittin said. ``This campaign is unholy, it is encouraging violence and it is splitting our society in half.''


Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.


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Canoeist in First Amendment Fight

By John Flesher
Associated Press Writer
Sunday, January 24, 1999; 12:00 p.m. EST

STANDISH, Mich. (AP) -- Timothy Boomer made a bigger splash than he bargained for after a tumble from a canoe landed him in a fight over whether foul language is legally protected free speech.

A sheriff's deputy says he heard Boomer explode in a three-minute barrage of profanity after the mishap on the Rifle River last summer, loud enough to be heard a quarter-mile away. What's more, he says, a woman and her two young children were nearby.

So the officer ticketed Boomer under an 1897 Michigan law that prohibits cursing in front of women and children.

Boomer, 24, insists his words have been exaggerated. But defense attorney William Street, who took the case on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union, says that even if Boomer was boorish, he was within his First Amendment rights.

Boomer's trial is scheduled for Thursday, but Street on Monday will ask a judge to throw out the charge and declare the law unconstitutional.

``There is an understandable desire for more civility in our society. But do we want to give police the power to enforce it?'' Street asked. ``Heaven forbid, we have sex police. Are we now going to have language police?''

Assistant Arenac County Prosecutor Richard Vollbach says the case involves no lofty constitutional issues. Instead, he says, it is a simple matter of disorderly conduct.

``People think this poor, hardworking guy fell in the river and just said `Oh, damn' and the Nazis came and arrested him,'' Vollbach said. ``He's doing what he can to come across as a martyr, but that is not the case.''

If the case goes to trial and Boomer is convicted, he could get up to 90 days in jail and a $100 fine.

The Rifle River winds through rural Ogemaw and Arenac counties, about 130 miles north of Detroit, before emptying into Lake Huron. It's a slow-moving, tree-lined waterway popular with canoeists.

People living along the river have complained about cursing and other rowdy behavior by boaters, said Ben Welmers, editor of the weekly Arenac County Independent. The newspaper reported last spring that police were beefing up patrols along the river.

``I've been canoeing on that river a lot,'' said Jessica Davidson, a bakery cook in the county seat of Standish. ``There's no reason for all the screaming and lewdness.''

Boomer, who lives in the Detroit suburb of Roseville and works for a company that makes automobile assembly lines, went canoeing with his fiancee and four other couples in August.

Both sides agree Boomer fell into the water. What happened next is in dispute.

``He went on a three-minute profanity tirade in front of a 2-year-old girl and a 5-year-old boy,'' Vollbach said. ``The mother literally covered the ears of her daughter.''

Boomer declined in a telephone interview to repeat his words, but he insisted everything was in a joking spirit.

``There's no way it was three minutes,'' he said. ``It was with a group of friends, just having a good time. There was no anger, hostility, of any kind.''

Kary L. Moss, executive director of the ACLU in Michigan, said the law that bans cursing unconstitutionally singles out women for special treatment and ``is based upon outmoded stereotypes about women's sensitive nature and need for protection.''

``Additionally, the law is ... a classic violation of the First Amendment,'' Ms. Moss said in a statement. ``It openly declares the use of language as a crime, penalizing the mere utterance of words.''

Street said the law was rarely enforced because prosecutors know it's unconstitutional. Judges elsewhere have reached that conclusion, but the cases were not taken to appellate courts whose rulings would apply statewide, he said.

``I never asked for any of this,'' Boomer said. ``But I decided to fight this law because ... I just believe it's a violation of freedom of speech.''

© Copyright 1999 The Associated Press


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German conservatives condemn attacks on petition
09:36 a.m. Jan 25, 1999 Eastern

BONN, Jan 25 (Reuters) - German conservatives said on Monday they would not be intimidated by violent protests that have disrupted their campaign against the government's plans to liberalise citizenship laws.

Wolfgang Schaeuble, chairman of the Christian Democrats (CDU), condemned weekend attacks against CDU officials in cities across Germany while they were collecting signatures for their nationwide petition against the plans.

``We won't let ourselves be intimated and neither will the great majority of Germans,'' Schaeuble told a news conference in Bonn. ``This is violence against people who are exercising their right to freedom of speech. We will prevail.''

Schaeuble has been jeered out of two university lecture halls in the last few weeks by angry demonstrators protesting against the CDU's campaign to stop a bill that would make German citizenship available to up to four million foreigners.

The CDU and its arch-conservative sister party in Bavaria, the Christian Social Union (CSU), formally launched the signature campaign against the plans at the weekend.

Police said a number of people were injured in attacks by left-wing counter-protesters who tried to disrupt the campaign.

But church groups, foreigners' lobby groups, the Jewish community and even many leading CDU members say the petition could fan the flames of more racist violence like that which swept Germany after unification in the early 1990s.

Edmund Stoiber, premier of Bavaria and chairman of the CSU, criticised opponents of the petition campaign.

``It is defamatory to condemn our campaign as racist,'' Stoiber said. ``We are only interested in involving the public in the discussion before the legislation reaches parliament.''


Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.


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Degussa says faces second Holocaust lawsuit in US
10:57 a.m. Jan 25, 1999 Eastern

FRANKFURT, Jan 25 (Reuters) - German chemical and metals group Degussa AG said on Monday that it was the subject of a second U.S. class action lawsuit relating to its activities during the Second World War.

Degussa, which faces a separate lawsuit filed by four Holocaust victims in August, said the case was filed in U.S. Federal Court in New Jersey in December by attorney Melvynn Weiss.

A spokeswoman said the plaintiffs had made ``no concrete demands.'' She said Degussa expected the U.S. court to combine the two cases.

``That is the normal practice in these situations,'' she said.

In a speech delivered at Degussa's annual shareholders meeting on Monday, chief executive Uwe-Ernst Bufe said the new case dealt with ``similar'' issues as the first.

``The charges against Degussa mainly concern precious metals belonging to Jews that were smelted at the behest of the state,'' Bufe said in the speech.

The lawsuit filed in August alleges that Degussa profited from gold and other precious metals taken from Nazi victims and asks for unspecified damages.

At an extraordinary meeting in December Bufe said the Degussa's lawyers had determined the case against it was ``without substance.''

Degussa is one of several companies including Siemens AG and DaimlerChrysler taking part in discussions with the German government over how to reach a general settlement to the myriad class action suits they face in the U.S.

``We expect such a solution to end not only the lawsuits we face now but to also preclude any new ones in the future,'' Bufe said.


Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.


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Redhook Ale Attains Kosher Certification; Craft Brewer Poised to be the 'Cool Kosher Beer'
12:04 p.m. Jan 26, 1999 Eastern

SEATTLE--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Jan. 26, 1999--The bubbly elixir that many enjoy is now not only cool, but kosher. Fremont-based, craft brewer Redhook Ale received Kosher "OU" certification from the Orthodox Union.

Redhook's family of nine branded beers -- Redhook ESB, Redhook IPA, Redhook Hefe-Weizen, Blackhook Porter, Double Black Stout, Redhook Rye, and its seasonal offerings Redhook Blonde Ale, Winterhook and Redhook Nut Brown Ales -- all fall under the strict guidelines of kosher certification.

"We want to be the kosher beer of choice," said Nelson Jay, marketing manager of Redhook Brewery. "Our goal is to serve consumers who care about a pure, quality ale with exceptional taste. People truly care about healthy and natural products, and now Redhook merits this distinction," said Jay.

While many beers are capable of obtaining kosher status, Redhook intentionally "went the extra mile" to ensure it's products met with the highest kosher-industry standards of purity. Kosher certification signals to consumers that a product adheres to "Kashrut," or strict kosher observance and with no animal products used.

"The appeal for kosher products has become popular, not just within the Jewish market," said Jay. More non-Jewish consumers than ever are purchasing kosher foods, usually because these products contain fewer preservatives and additives, better ingredients, and maintain stringent manufacturing standards.

Kosher food sales in the U.S. have grown by 40 percent since 1992, totaling $35 billion in 1997. This trend is expected to continue with sales projected to reach $59 billion by 2002. Interestingly, only 29 percent of Kosher food consumption in the U.S. is by Jews. An estimated 7 million consumers purchase kosher products, 70 percent of whom are not Jewish, including Muslims, Seventh Day Adventists, Buddhists, and the health-conscious who care about natural ingredients. Additionally, many Jews opt to have kosher products at bar and bat mitzvahs, weddings and other special occasions.

Recognizing the strong market potential, Redhook decided to obtain OU status as a leading independent brewer of craft beers. Redhook is the first-ever, U.S.-based craft brewer certified strictly kosher. "Although only a small segment of Jews keep Kosher, we appreciate the brand loyalty evident in the Jewish community," said Jay.

The Orthodox Union oversees thousands of consumer products for kosher certification around the world. To obtain certification Redhook breweries in Woodinville, Wash. and Portsmouth, NH, were subjected to a stringent inspection. Before Redhook began its review, it had to supply an exact list of all its beer ingredients for Rabbinical board, or "Mashgiah" review so it could determine that Redhook was "worthy of being certified kosher." Smaller operations often lend themselves to scrutiny," said Rabbi Yitzchok Gallor who oversaw the Washington site inspection. "We found Redhook to be one of the cleanest plants we've ever seen," Rabbi Gallor said.

Noted for its depth and distinction, Redhook manufacturers a full-range of premium quality, top fermented ales that include combinations mixed with Starbucks Coffee, chocolate malt, Black Strap molasses and Twin Peaks Honey -- all providing unique flavor characteristics and colors. These ingredients, along with specialty hops and barleys also passed Kosher requirements. Consistency and uniformity are hallmarks of a quality brew.

Redhook is one of the leading independent brewers of craft beers in the United States, and is the premier craft brewer in Washington. Redhook owns and operates two technologically-advanced breweries, one in the Seattle suburb of Woodinville, WA and another in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Redhook's World Headquarters and landmark Trolleyman Pub are located in the historic Fremont Brewery building in Seattle. Redhook beer is available in 47 states.


Copyright 1999, Business Wire


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FOCUS-Bank Austria near deal on Holocaust claims
07:12 p.m Jan 26, 1999 Eastern

By Mark Thompson

VIENNA, Jan 26 (Reuters) - Talks aimed at settling claims between two Austrian banks and Holocaust victims have made significant progress and lawyers said a deal could be sewn up within 10 days.

Gerhard Randa, chief executive of Austria's biggest banking group, met World Jewish Congress Secretary General Israel Singer and U.S. mediator former Senator Alfonse D'Amato in London where a timetable for wrapping up the talks was mapped out.

D'Amato, who was appointed by a federal judge in December as a special master in the matter, released a statement with Singer and Randa following the talks.

``We wish to state that we recently have been meeting in London, England to discuss settlement of the claims against Bank Austria and Creditanstalt,'' the statement said.

``These discussions have resulted in substantial progress through establishment of a methodology which we believe will result in a settlement with Bank Austria and Creditanstalt.''

There were no further details about the nature of the settlement being discussed.

Victims of the Nazi regime and their relatives began legal action against the group last year, some of them represented by U.S. lawyer Edward Fagan.

Fagan charged Bank Austria subsidiary Creditanstalt with profiting from gold stolen from Jews sent to concentration camps.

Fagan said he would be travelling to Vienna on Wednesday to meet the president of the Israeli cultural society Ariel Muzicant, the Austrian APA news agency reported.

The next step would be for D'Amato to brief the U.S. district court judge on the outcome of the London meeting.

Fagan's associate Carey D'Avino was quoted by APA as saying that the London talks pointed to a successful settlement with Creditanstalt ``in the near future...a week to 10 days.''

D'Avino added that an Austrian deal would be significant for similar settlement talks under way with German banks.

Neither Fagan nor D'Avino took part in the London meeting.

If a settlement acceptable to all parties is reached, it would protect the Bank Austria group from any further legal action regarding Holocaust claims in the United States.

Fagan has also threatened to take several Austrian companies to court over allegations that they used slave labour during the Nazi period.

D'Amato, who lost his Senate seat last November, has been a staunch campaigner for the claims of Nazi victims and their families. He has also been appointed to mediate in talks with the German banks.


Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.


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UK double agent ``Garbo'' fooled Nazis over D-Day
07:32 p.m Jan 26, 1999 Eastern

By Michael Steen

LONDON, Jan 27 (Reuters) - A British double agent codenamed ``Garbo'' hoodwinked Nazi Germany about the place from which World War Two Allied forces would launch their D-Day attack on occupied France, secret papers released on Wednesday showed.

The 55-year-old declassified papers showed how the agent, a member of Britain's MI5 intelligence service, fed German secret services false information ahead of the decisive D-Day landings in northern France in 1944.

``The object of this plan was to induce in the German General Staff the belief that the invasion of Normandy was a diversionary move,'' an MI5 report said.

Reports of non-existent Allied divisions massing in Britain also led the Germans to overestimate the strength of allied forces by more than 50 percent, the documents revealed.

The Spanish-born Garbo, whose real name was Juan Pujol Garcia, was named by MI5 after Hollywood legend Greta Garbo because of his acting skills.

He dreamt up a fictitious ring of spies, who he led the Nazis to believe were well-connected informants working for him.

``Garbo was described as working with passionate and quixotic zeal for many hours a day to produce voluminous reports from a network of imaginary or 'notional' agents,'' MI5 said.

Garbo's dispatches blended fiction with enough facts for the Germans to regard his intelligence as authentic and of high quality, the files reported.

In the run-up to D-Day Garbo even told the Germans an Allied attack on Norway was likely.

The Germans however were not convinced, but the other part of the disinformation scheme, nicknamed ``Fortitude,'' succeeded by wrongly reporting troop positions in Britain, so Germany thought the weight of an allied attack on France would come in the northern region of the Pas de Calais.

Instead, the allies attacked further south.

MI5 recruited Garbo after he proved himself by sending the German agents false British intelligence from Spain, which he collated from railway timetables, newsreel films and readily available published material.

He wanted to become a double agent because he believed General Franco's Fascist regime in Spain would fall if the Allies won the war.


Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.


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Britain trained falcons to kill Nazi pigeons
07:36 p.m Jan 26, 1999 Eastern

LONDON, Jan 27 (Reuters) - Britain's secret service considered using falcons to kill pigeons that might have been carrying secrets back to Germany during World War Two, British intelligence files released on Wednesday showed.

The 54-year-old files released by Britain's MI5 internal intelligence agency described how falcons were trained to kill ``pigeon agents'' winging their way to Europe from the southern British islands of Scilly.

MI5 also studied graffiti and markings on telegraph poles in undisclosed places for secret codes relating to a possible German invasion.

It concluded the markings were actually the work of an oil company and the scrawlings of boy scouts.

The declassified files describe MI5 tests on cigarette papers and pens taken from captured German agents.

The files include a captured agent's account of how to make invisible ink from a quarter tablet of aspirin dissolved in a tablespoon of pure alcohol.


Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.


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List of French Gestapo agents opened to public
11:38 a.m. Jan 26, 1999 Eastern

By Bernard Edinger

PARIS, Jan 26 (Reuters) - France's national archives have just given the public access to the list of French agents of the Gestapo secret police, nice ammunition for those who have always been suspicious about what their neighbours did in the war.

But anyone who publishes the names of the Nazis' World War Two collaborators does so at his own risk and could be sued.

Curator Paule Rene-Bazin said on Tuesday the long classified lists were in the archives of the BCRA, the wartime Free French secret services, which have just been opened to the public.

``All wartime crimes have since been amnestied except crimes against humanity, for which there is no statute of limitations,'' she told Reuters.

``That means that if you publish the name of someone who worked for the Gestapo, even if they received a heavy sentence after the war, they can take you to court to sue you for disclosing their identity,'' she said.

Undaunted, the daily newspaper Le Parisien sent a reporter to dig through 600 cartons of BCRA archives and pore for days over miles (kms) of microfilm.

It was careful not to disclose any names, even though most of those involved were now dead, some executed by postwar firing squads. But it gave an exotic list of the professions from which Gestapo agents were recruited.

Among several thousand agents were an actor, a hairdresser, a senior civil servant, a brothel ``madam,'' a butcher and a magician, nearly all of them mostly motivated by money.

Among the most surprising was a pilot whom the Germans asked to travel to the United States to spy on aircraft factories before returning to England to steal a warplane and bring it back to his masters in occupied Europe.

There is no indication any part of the plot ever took place.

One man who knows about the lists is retired senior civil servant Jean-Louis Cremieux-Brilhac, who was an officer in the Interior Ministry of General Charles de Gaulle's Free French government-in-exile in London.

``Our job was to help direct clandestine political activity in occupied France. To do this as safely as possible, we were in close contact with the BCRA's counter-espionage department to draw up lists of people our agents could count on and those we had to beware of,'' he told Reuters.

``There was a third category -- the largest -- which was of people who were doubtful or indifferent. The total number of names in the three lists was perhaps about 100,000.

Cremieux-Brilhac estimated that three percent of the French were active pro-Nazi collaborators and an equal number were in the Resistance when the Allies landed on June 6, 1944.

``The public at large were overwhelmingly in favour of the Allies from late 1942-early 1943 but were not active,'' he said.

In the final months before D-Day, resistance groups in the French police gave London precise information on who collaborated and who did not.

One beneficiary was Cremieux-Brilhac's own wife, who was in Marseille and to whom he discreetly wrote via Switzerland.

``A neighbour denounced her to the Vichy police. The officer who summoned her to headquarters, ostensibly to berate her, was one of our agents and he tipped her off,'' he recounted.


Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.


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Gay Holocaust Victims to Be Honored

By Anne Thompson
Associated Press Writer
Tuesday, January 26, 1999; 3:54 p.m. EST

BERLIN (AP) -- Holocaust memorial day services at the former Sachsenhausen concentration camp will remember homosexual victims of the Nazis, the first official commemoration of the estimated 10,000 gays persecuted during World War II.

Wednesday's program, which includes a wreath-laying ceremony and lectures, is designed to honor a group organizers say has long been overlooked because of prejudice against homosexuals.

``There were different groups of victims, but all were victims and all should be commemorated in the same way. There should be no discrimination between groups of Nazi victims,'' said Horst Seferens, spokesman for the memorial at the former Sachsenhausen camp.

Sachsenhausen had about 1,000 homosexual inmates, more than other concentration camps because of its proximity to Berlin, which had a thriving gay culture in the 1920s, Seferens said. By the 1930s, the slightest glance or kiss between men was enough to warrant incarceration in a Nazi camp.

Identified by pink triangles on their uniforms, gay prisoners were isolated in separate housing and subjected to particularly hard labor. Many were forced to toil in the Nazi's brick making factory at the camp under the slogan ``hard work will make you masculine.''

Occasionally, Nazi camp officials allowed gay musicians to perform for other prisoners, Seferens said, one reason that Thursday's ceremonies will include a concert by a Berlin gay men's choir.

Less is known about gays than other Nazi victims, in part because the continuing stigma against homosexuals makes gay concentration camp survivors reluctant to speak publicly about their experiences, said Seferens.

``They don't attend these memorials, and I doubt they ever will,'' he said. The harsh Nazi law criminalizing homosexuality remained on the books in Germany long after the war.

Since the institution of Holocaust memorial day three years ago, Sachsenhausen has planned programs honoring the so-called ``forgotten'' victims of the Nazis. Last year's theme was Jehovah's Witnesses.

Members of Berlin's gay community welcomed the program as a first step toward homosexuals receiving the same acknowledgment as other victims -- including financial compensation given to Jews and others.

Under pressure to compensate World War II slave laborers, Germany's new center-left government vowed in October also to set up a fund for the ``forgotten victims'' -- including gays.

© Copyright 1999 The Associated Press


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German children stage concentration camp opera
05:34 a.m. Jan 26, 1999 Eastern

By Deborah Cole

BERLIN, Jan 26 (Reuters) - German children prepared to mark Remembrance Day for the Victims of Nazism on Wednesday with a chilling staging of an opera originally performed by young inmates of the Theresienstadt concentration camp.

``Brundibar,'' which is to open in Berlin on Wednesday night on the 54th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz death camp, was written by Hans Krasa, a prisoner of Theresienstadt.

Nazi officials were at first suspicious of the plot, which tells the story of two children who fight and defeat a neighbourhood tyrant. Later they decided the opera had propaganda value and provided instruments and costumes.

``At first we were forced to keep Brundibar secret,'' said Paul Aron Sandfort, who performed in the opera as a child prisoner of Theresienstadt in the 1940s and is working as an advisor to the Berlin production.

``But then the officers encouraged the productions to show outsiders how well we prisoners were doing,'' he said.

Scenes from a Theresienstadt production of Brundibar were used in Adolf Hitler's propaganda film ``The Fuehrer (Leader) Gives the Jews a Town'' featuring scenes of the smiling, singing children.

International Red Cross observers were shown photographs of performances as evidence of the ``humane'' conditions at the camp.

``Of course we children recognised the absurdity of this spectacle but we also loved performing Brundibar,'' said Sandfort, who played the trumpet in the Theresienstadt productions. ``When you are making music, you are no longer a prisoner. You are free for a time.''

Sandfort spent hours talking to the Berlin performers, aged from eight to 14, about his experiences in Theresienstadt.

He described watching the rehearsals as a ``melancholy joy.''

``It is wonderful to see how seriously the children take the performance,'' he said. ``They believe in what they are doing.''

The Berlin production begins with a siren's wail and an adult soprano singing ``never forget'' as jackbooted guards patrol the stage.

According to the conductor and project initiator Carsten Albrecht, the rest of the dramaturgy is true to the original, down to the limited size of the orchestra.

Project coordinator Annette Kinitz said the production, which has been performed in several German cities with other casts and staging, was intended to provide a new, more active way of teaching young people about the Holocaust.

``We wanted to find a new way of reaching children today,'' Kinitz said. ``With Brundibar, the children have a wonderful time without forgetting the history of this opera.''

Of some 141,000 prisoners held from 1941 to 1945 at Theresienstadt, in what is today the Czech Republic, an estimated 33,000 were murdered at the camp while another 88,000 were sent to their deaths in other camps.

Brundibar composer Krasa, a Czech Jew, was moved from Theresienstadt to Auschwitz in October 1944 where he was killed.

On January 27, 1945, Soviet troops liberated Auschwitz. The anniversary was made a German national holiday in 1996.


Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.


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Germans split on Nazi shame as commemoration looms
05:35 a.m. Jan 26, 1999 Eastern

By Fiona Fleck

BONN, Jan 26 (Reuters) - Germany on Wednesday marks Remembrance Day for the Victims of Nazism, divided as ever over how to come to terms with its anti-Semitic and racist past.

Many outstanding issues left after Nazi rule from 1933 to 1945 are being settled, including final state reparations for World War Two as well as claims against industry and business for profiting from the Holocaust.

Germany's new capital, Berlin, finally looks set to have a central memorial to some six million European Jews killed in the Holocaust, after 10 years of wrangling over the concept.

National and state elections last September in which anti-immigrant parties fared poorly suggested that racism is now largely a social problem, not a political one -- in contrast to 1933 when Germans elected Adolf Hitler.

Neo-Nazis and skinheads may boast they have created ``foreigner-free zones,'' but their political parties represent a minority with under four percent of the national vote combined.

``The German people were chiefly responsible for the Holocaust,'' said Lothar Evers, head of a Nazi victims' help group. ``We must continue to heed the lessons from our past.''

``But we should not turn remembrance into a ritual,'' he said.

German writer Martin Walser sparked an impassioned debate in Germany last year after he criticised repeated images of the Holocaust in the media, saying they were counterproductive to genuine remembrance and in some cases used as a ``moral cudgel.''

Critics, including German Jewish leader Ignatz Bubis, accused Walser of denying the past but hundreds of Germans wrote letters thanking him for giving voice to the feelings they were too afraid to express.

``It is clear from the Walser-Bubis debate the Germans are split on how to deal with their past,'' Evers said.

``Some, particularly the younger generation, would like to turn away, but others still have a sense of responsibility.''

Germany has released billions of marks for millions of victims in the former eastern bloc who had been barred from reparations during the Cold War and became eligible for damages from unified Germany after the collapse of communism.

Bonn also recently agreed to pay millions of marks in reparations to American citizens who suffered under the Nazis but were exempt from reparations due to legal loopholes.

These are included in 120 billion marks ($71 billion) in World War Two reparations Germany has paid to date. Officials say they expect the figure to rise to 130 billion marks by 2030.

It became clear only in 1995 just how many Nazi victims' groups had gone empty-handed, after commemoration events across the globe marking 50 years since the end of World War Two.

The anniversary also drove home the fact that many elderly survivors had died and time was running out for the others.

Since then more archives around the world have opened and researchers have delved deeper to find relevations about Germany's corporate collaboration during the Third Reich.

Their findings have prompted a flurry of U.S. class-action lawsuits against many of the country's top companies.

Banks have been accused of profiting from confiscated victims' assets and trading in concentration camp victims' looted gold.

Insurers face charges of failure to honour victims' life policies and manufacturers are accused of using slave labour.

The companies, who say they were ordered to act as they did by the Nazi authorities and deny wrongdoing, have commissioned historians to investigate their past hoping for vindication.

Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has stepped in to avert potentially damaging U.S. lawsuits against German industry by helping to negotiate a deal with Holocaust and slave labour survivors in the United States.

Even companies unlikely to face lawsuits are sending historians into their archives, such as media giant Bertelsmann AG, the world's largest publisher of English-language books, following revelations it published Nazi propaganda.

January 27, the day Auschwitz death camp was liberated in 1945, was inaugurated as the annual remembrance day by German President Roman Herzog in 1996. It is not a public holiday.

($1-1.691 Mark)


Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.


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Bill Hurts Role of Liberal Judaism

By Emma Blijdenstein
Associated Press Writer
Tuesday, January 26, 1999; 8:28 a.m. EST

JERUSALEM (AP) -- Deepening the rift between Israel and American Jewry, parliament today narrowly passed a bill aimed at preventing liberal streams of Judaism from playing a more active role in Israel's day-to-day religious life.

The bill requires representatives of the Reform and Conservative movements on local religious councils to pledge allegiance to the Orthodox Chief Rabbinate. The Chief Rabbinate dominates religious and personal status matters in Israel, including marriage, divorce and burial.

The legislation, sponsored by Orthodox legislators, passed 50-49, with one abstention.

The Reform and Conservative streams of Judaism are predominant in the United States, but have fewer followers in Israel. American Jewish leaders have warned that attempts by Israel's Orthodox religious establishment to prevent the liberal movements from gaining more recognition in Israel are dividing the Jewish people.

``The Knesset today pushed away two-thirds of the Jewish people and caused a split between Israel and the Diaspora,'' said Rabbi Ehud Bendel, chairman of the Conservative movement in Israel.

Bendel said the liberal streams would not be deterred by the legislation. He said Reform and Conservative members would go through the motions of pledging allegiance to the Chief Rabbinate rather than stay away from the religious councils

``They (religious council members) will sign what they have to sign ... but of course we don't see the Chief Rabbinate as the only arbiter of Jewish religious questions,'' he said.

Education Minister Yitzhak Levy, a member of the National Religious Party, said there could only be one authority on religious law. ``It is impossible to have several points of view, several religions, in the same council,'' he said.

Capping a prolonged court battle, the liberal streams only recently were awarded the right to be represented on religious councils which disburse government funds to synagogues and supervise the inspection of kosher eateries and ritual baths.

The Supreme Court ruling in favor of the Conservative and Reform movements was hailed as a major victory in their battle for recognition.

As part of the bitter debate over the religious councils, a top Orthodox rabbi sparked outrage today when he said the Reform movement encouraged intermarriage and assimilation and was eroding the Jewish population just as the Holocaust did.

Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron, the chief Sephardi rabbi, said assimilation has reduced the number of Jews by more than the Holocaust did 50 years ago.

``I compared the numerical decimation of the Jewish people from the Holocaust, which was by one-third, with the number lost through assimilation because of Reform Jews, which is more,'' Bakshi--Doron told The Associated Press.

Bakshi-Doron said he regretted that people were offended by his statements, but said Jewish leaders have long referred to assimilation as the ``quiet holocaust.''

Still, the rabbi's comments caused anger in a country that has given refuge to hundreds of thousands of survivors of the Nazi genocide in which 6 million Jews perished.

``It's incitement, I would say, almost a call to bloodshed,'' said Bendel.

© Copyright 1999 The Associated Press


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Israeli rabbi's Holocaust remark ignites row
07:11 a.m. Jan 26, 1999 Eastern

JERUSALEM, Jan 26 (Reuters) - An Israeli chief rabbi ignited a religious uproar on Tuesday with remarks blaming Reform Judaism for the loss of more Jews to assimilation than were wiped out in the Nazi Holocaust.

Ha'aretz newspaper quoted Sephardic Chief Rabbi Eliahu Bakshi-Doron as telling the Chief Rabbinate Council on Monday: ``The damage the Reforms are causing the Jewish people through assimilation is greater in numbers than the damage caused by the Holocaust.''

The comparison, by an Orthodox Jewish religious chief, irked leaders of progressive Jewish movements and Israeli survivors of the Holocaust, in which more than six million Jews were killed by the Nazis during World War Two.

Rabbi Ehud Bandel, head of the Conservative Jewish movement in Israel, said: ``This is certainly incitement, nearly a call for bloodshed and such things when said by a man who bears the title 'chief rabbi' are no doubt desecration of God's name.''

Bakshi-Doron told Israel Radio on Tuesday the Reform movement was contributing to assimilation by sanctioning the marriage of Jews to non-Jews and by ignoring ritual law that a Jew be the offspring of a Jewish mother or else converted in accordance with Orthodox practice.

``A third of the people were lost in the Holocaust. I said that today we have a problem that the people of Israel will lose more than a third in a harsh assimilation -- until the end of the Jewish people,'' he said.

Bakshi-Doron's remarks surfaced as parliament approved a bill, backed by Orthodox Jewish parties, requiring Reform and Conservative Jews on local religious councils to acknowledge the Chief Rabbinate's authority.

Orthodox Jewish parties flex political muscle in Israel, while an overwhelming majority of U.S. Jews belong to the Reform and Conservative movements that are trying to break the Orthodox monopoly on Israeli religious affairs.

Yossi Sarid, leader of the leftist Meretz movement in Israel's parliament, said: ``Rabbi Bakshi-Doron must apologise to all of the Jewish people, and primarily to the Reforms and Conservatives.''

Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, a Holocaust survivor, said Bakshi-Doron had merely wanted to underscore that millions of U.S. Jews were being lost to assimilation -- and the numbers were greater among the Reform and Conservative movements.

Bar-Ilan University President Moshe Kaveh issued a statement urging Jews everywhere to work together to save the next generation from assimilation and intermarriage.

``No one has the right to write any Jew out of Jewish peoplehood. This is a time when we should be speaking and acting to preserve what little Jewish unity we have left,'' he said.


Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.


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FOCUS-Israel's Who is a Jew controversy heats up
01:16 p.m Jan 26, 1999 Eastern

By Jeffrey Heller

JERUSALEM, Jan 26 (Reuters) - Israel's ``Who is a Jew'' war escalated on Tuesday with the passage of a religious authority law in parliament and an Orthodox chief rabbi's perceived comparison of Reform Judaism to the Nazi Holocaust.

Pressed by religious political parties ahead of the May general election, legislators voted 50-49 to oblige Reform and Conservative members of municipal religious councils to pledge to abide by ritual rulings of the Orthodox Chief Rabbinate.

``(Parliament) is now saying that we believe, we are legislating, that Orthodox Jews are in a higher class than non-Orthodox Jews,'' said Rabbi Ammiel Hirsch, executive director of the Association of Reform Zionists of America.

It was not immediately clear if non-Orthodox members of the councils would sign the pledge of allegiance although several interviewed in the Israeli media said they recognised the authority of the Chief Rabbinate.

Orthodox Jewish parties flex political muscle in Israel, while an overwhelming majority of U.S. Jews belong to the Reform and Conservative movements that are trying to break the Orthodox monopoly on Israeli religious affairs.

Accusing the Israeli establishment of hypocrisy, Hirsch said it was happy to take non-Orthodox American Jews' ``first class money'' and ``first class political support'' while relegating their religious values and institutions to second class status.

In some of the sharpest words voiced yet in the fight for the soul of the Jewish state, Chief Rabbi Eliahu Bakshi Doron suggested Reform Judaism would be responsible for the loss of more Jews to assimilation than were wiped out by the Nazis in World War Two.

Bakshi-Doron, who represents the Sephardic community of Jews with origins in North African and Arab countries, told Israel Radio on Tuesday: ``A third of the people were lost in the Holocaust.

``I said that today we have a problem that the people of Israel will lose more than a third in a harsh assimilation -- until the end of the Jewish people.''

Bakshi-Doron accused the Reform movement of contributing to assimilation by sanctioning the marriage of Jews to non-Jews and by ignoring ritual law that a Jew be the offspring of a Jewish mother or else be converted in accordance with Orthodox practice.

The comparison, by an Orthodox Jewish religious chief, irked leaders of progressive Jewish movements and Israeli survivors of the Holocaust, in which more than six million Jews were killed by the Nazis during World War Two.

Rabbi Ehud Bandel, head of the Conservative Jewish movement in Israel, said: ``This is certainly incitement, nearly a call for bloodshed and such things when said by a man who bears the title 'chief rabbi' are no doubt desecration of God's name.''

``We've been used to these comments from the chief rabbi for years,'' Hirsch told Reuters. ``To react to it is almost to dignify a perverse, perverted world view.''


Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.


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Holocaust Heir Can Sue for Insurance

Tuesday, January 26, 1999; 1:19 p.m. EST

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The heir of a Holocaust victim can sue a European insurance company in California for not honoring a life insurance policy at the end of World War II, a judge ruled.

The decision was a major step in Adolf Stern's attempt to collect from policies bought in 1929 by his brother, Moshe ``Mor'' Stern, who was killed in a Nazi death camp.

Adolf Stern and his family have tried to collect at least a dozen times since 1945.

Superior Court Judge Florence-Marie Cooper ruled Monday that the company, Assicurazioni Generali, had adequate business ties to California to justify a lawsuit in the state.

The ruling could affect more than 6,000 Nazi Holocaust survivors who live in California, according to court records.

Generali lawyers had argued that the lawsuit should be filed in the Czech Republic, because the policy had been bought in Prague. But the judge noted that the company has owned a California subsidiary, filed lawsuits here and sold $27 million in insurance here in 1997.

The company said it would appeal the ruling, saying the claims were denied because the postwar communist government of Czechoslovakia seized all the company's assets.

© Copyright 1999 The Associated Press

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