Headlines 25 April, 2014
Europe's hidden shame: Romani Nazi death camps barely merit signposts
By John Lennon, Director of Moffat Centre for Travel and Tourism Business Development and Vice Dean for Glasgow School for Business and Society at Glasgow Caledonian University
25/4/2014- Gypsies, tinkers, pikeys, travellers – everyone knows the terms, not to mention the even more derogatory ones. The Roma and Sinti people have been the subject of prejudice and discrimination in Europe for centuries. This has ranged from gypsy hunts in 16th century Bohemia, to incarceration and extermination under the Nazi regime, to present day discrimination against a population of more than 12 million people across Europe. In the UK, a third of residents said in a survey a few years ago that they were prejudiced against gypsies, travellers and Eastern European Romani. This scale of bigotry pervades much of Europe. Somewhere between 220,000 and 500,000 Roma and Sinti people are estimated to have lost their lives during the World War II. This imprecise statistic is a deliberate result of the disregard given to the process of forced labour and extermination that they went through.
The people beneath the Jews
In Nazi racist ideology such people were beneath contempt and considered to be worth less than Jews, so they did not see a need to record their incarceration or death. The lack of detailed record by an otherwise fastidious and technically obsessed regime is one of the reasons for the absence in history and concentration camp museums of the gypsy holocaust, or porrajmos, as the Romani call it. Of the concentration camp sites across many of the countries that the Third Reich successfully invaded and annexed during World War II, there are few signs of the places where the Roma and Sinti were incarcerated and the vast majority lost their lives. It would seem that even remembrance is denied to a culture where the oral rather than written tradition is more common in recounting history.
My own research into the field known as dark tourism – the attraction by visitors to sites of death, destruction and mass killing – has recognised the enduring attraction of concentration camps and sites associated with the Nazi holocaust. These sites exist to preserve a memorial and educate future generations about the mistakes of the past. Their preservation is normally linked to education, promoting future tolerance and understanding. Auschwitz, near Krakow in Poland records more than one million visitors per year; and Sachsenhausen, just north of Berlin achieves close to 400,000 visitors every year.
The limited number of sites associated with the gypsy holocaust has also been the subject of exploratory work. For example the remains of so-called gypsy camps in many parts of the Czech Republic – where there was a significant Roma and Sinti population prior to the war – have been lost and their locations are rarely commemorated. Indeed, Lety Concentration Camp, one of the largest Roma and Sinti camps is commemorated by a single sign (in Czech) and just one interpretive board. The site of this former camp is now covered by a sprawling industrial pig farm and pork processing plant established after the war and of such a scale that there is no vestige of the former buildings. Czech nationals collaborated and participated in identifying and incarcerating Roma and Sinti, but this dark period of the country’s history is a narrative that is yet to find a proper voice.
Echoes of the past
This lack of commemoration and concern is not limited to the past. In contemporary Europe, Roma and Sinti still suffer discrimination and prejudice. It is notable that the European Commissioner for Human Rights Thomas Hammarberg declared in 2008, “today’s rhetoric against the Roma is very similar to the one used by Nazis and fascists …” Roma and Sinti often live in ghetto-like conditions around Europe. Their settlements are characterised by crumbling infrastructure, high rates of unemployment, low educational participation and poor levels of educational attainment. In the UK between 75,000 and 300,000 gypsies and travellers are functionally illiterate. The average school leaving age is under 13 years and the propensity for depression and other mental health problems is 20 times higher than the norm. Domestic abuse is common and infant mortality rates are among the nation’s highest.
This depressing and tragic evidence of discrimination has set these peoples apart from much of Europe for centuries. Their problems and issues go largely unreported and even their tragic past is either partially ignored or deliberately overlooked. It has been said that until a nation can confront the very worst of its past, it cannot progress and grow. Here we have a tragedy that is both part of our shared past and a real element of our present. This excluded and oppressed minority require both a voice and our urgent attention.
© The Conversation
Spanish fascists make Euro election bid
The list of candidates submitted by two far-right Spanish parties for May's European parliamentary elections includes people who were arrested for attacking Madrid's Catalan centre last year and criminals convicted of possessing explosives.
24/4/2014- When a group of fascists stormed the Madrid offices of the Catalan government on Catalonia's national day last year, few thought that it would be a launch-pad for their political careers. But the six co-called 'ultras' — or right-wing activists — who pushed their way into the Centre Cultural Blanquerna on September 11th, chanting "Catalonia is Spain" and setting off pepper spray before being apprehended by police have been selected by two far-right parties to represent them in the European elections on May 25th this year. Spanish daily El Mundo reported that Democracia Nacional (National Democracy) and La España en Marcha (a coalition of Spain's fascist party the Falange, the National Alliance and the Spanish Catholic Movement) have both submitted their candidate lists to the Spanish Electoral Board (JEC) for approval. Alongside those arrested in Madrid, the candidates for the two parties include two men jailed in 2006 for possession of explosives, believed to be meant for use in terrorist attacks in the Basque Country.
A total of 41 Spanish parties have put themselves forward to stand at the European elections but they must first be given the green light by the electoral board. They are required to demonstrate public support by presenting 15,000 signatures before being assessed to determine their legality. Another potential newcomer to the European political scene is the currently suspended anti-corruption judge, Elpidio José Silva. His newly formed RED (Democratic Citizen Renovation) platform announced this week that they would run an crowdfunding campaign to cover election costs, including the sale of t-shirts, autographs and dinner dates with the magistrate who became famous after jailing Miguel Blesa, the former head of Caja Madrid bank.
© The Local - Spain
Spain loses asylum seeker deportation battle
The European Court of Human Rights ruled on Tuesday that Spain could not go ahead with plans to deport 30 Sahrawi asylum seekers from the Western Sahara because Spanish authorities had failed to properly hear their claims.
22/4/2014- The immigrants claim that they fled the Gdeim Izik refugee camp in the territory of Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony annexed by Morocco in 1975, after it was forcibly dismantled by the Moroccan police, according to a Council of Europe press release. They arrived on makeshift boats on the coast of Spain's Canary Islands in 2011 and lodged applications for international protection. These were rejected after being considered twice by the Spanish Minister of the Interior who ordered their deportation. Seeking a stay of execution for their deportation orders, they applied in January 2011 for a judicial review and Spain's National Court ordered a provisional suspension of the procedure for their removal. This would allow the court to thoroughly examine their allegations about the risks they would face if they were returned to Morocco. But the following day, the court rejected the asylum seekers' application for a stay of execution. The asylum seekers then turned to the European Court of Human Rights (EHCR).
They claimed that they had been subjected to ill-treatment by the Moroccan authorities because of their Sahrawi origin and that they would feel threatened in the event of their return. The immigrants alleged they had been physically assaulted and that some of their family members had been sexually assaulted or tortured by police officers. In the findings of the hearing, the court noted that the asylum-seekers' fears "did not seem irrational" and noted that "because of the expedited nature of the proceedings, the applicants had not had the opportunity to provide any further explanations on these points". The EHCR found unanimously that there had been a violation of Article 13 (right to an effective remedy) and Articles 2 (right to life) and 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment). The court held that Spain "was to ensure that the applicants remained within its territory while their cases were being examined, pending a final decision by the domestic authorities on their applications for international protection".
© The Local - Spain
With friends like these, my Jewish brothers and sisters do not need enemies (Denmark)
Report by Bashy Quraishy. ENAR - Denmark
24/4/2014- On 23rd February 2013, Copenhagen witnessed a very strange set of events in Nørrebro, the Northern borough of the city, which has been in the eye of the media and political storm for the last few weeks. The reason: A school headmaster had warned some Jewish parents, not to think of enrolling their children in her school because of the fear of harassment by some Palestinian kids. As a result of the ensuing statements – from the Prime Minister to Chief Editors of national newspapers - even the racist and anti-Islam political parties and movements like Danish Peoples Party and “Stop Islamization of Denmark” sprang into action, with anti-Islam statements and the later arranged a demonstration, under the title; “Today, we are all Jews”. Their aim was not so much to support the Jewish people, but to create an atmosphere of hate and conflict between Jews and Muslim in the area.
I went to the demonstration in Nørrebro where organisation - Stop Islamization of Denmark - had Israeli flags and poster such as: Today, we all are Jews. They were no more than 20 people. I went to their leader - Anders Gravers - and asked him, if he really wanted to demonstrate against anti-Semitism, then why was he shouting anti-Islam slogans. I also asked him, why Jewish people were not supporting him. He said that the reason, Jews were not with him today, was because they were in the Synagogue. I could not believe my ears as to how stupid statements, this man was making. I told him then, who I was and how Jewish and Muslim people are involved in our network. What I disliked most was that people who are racist and openly anti-Islam and anti-Muslims were presenting themselves as pro-Jewish by shouting anti-Muslim slogans, carrying the Israeli flags and the posters of the Star of David.
With friends like these, my Jewish brothers and sisters do not need enemies. To counter demonstrate, nearly 100 anti-racist activists marched towards the demonstration but were stopped by 200 riot police, with dogs, armored cars and by blocking all the entrance roads. I took some pictures and left.
Bashy Quraishy on antisemitism in Denmark
© Bashy Quraishy
PVV MEP quit because of planned EU alliance with 'dodgy types' (Netherlands)
24/4/2014- A European MP for the anti-immigration PVV said he pulled out of this year’s election because he did not want to work with ‘wrong people’ such as the French Front National and Austrian FPÖ. Lucas Hartong said in an interview with the Volkskrant he had always distanced himself from extremists but that would be difficult to do because of PVV leader Geert Wilders’ hopes of forming a European grouping within the parliament. 'The FPÖ remains a party which was set up by old members of the SS,’ he told the Volkskrant. ‘One of the people in the Swedish Democrats has made Hitler salutes. He has been expelled from the party but still.’
Wilders and Front National leader Marine le Pen are keen to form an official European parliamentary group after the May vote but need at least seven parties and 27 MPs to achieve this. The FPO, Swedish Democrats and Belgian far-right group Vlaams Belang have agreed to join the alliance and Wilders has also been wooing Italy’s Lega Nord. Wilders has been heavily criticised for linking up with Le Pen, whose father has convictions for anti-semitism and is still on the party’s candidate list for the European parliament. ‘I can no longer explain to my friends that I am working with father Le Pen,’ Hartong told the Volkskrant. ‘I cannot work with dodgy types.’
The PVV currently has four MPs in the European parliament and is on target to remain at that figure in the May 22 vote. Wilders has also dismissed criticism of his working with parties which oppose gay rights as not relevant to the campaign against European control and mass immigration. Wilders told Nos television last year: ‘these are not reasons not to work together’. He also refused to denounce the presence of people making Nazi salutes and carrying a flag from the Dutch national socialist party NSB at a PVV demonstration last year.
© The Dutch News
State Member PVV leaves party (Netherlands)
23/4/2014- Stephan Jansen, State Member for the PVV in South-Holland is leaving the party. The personal employee of party-leader Geert Wilders published a farewell letter in the Volkskrant. In the letter, he writes that the party will “never be taken seriously anymore” after the now-notorious anti-Moroccan expressions of Wilders. As a second reason for his departure, Jansen argues that the party is taking a leftist course: “With the departure of, among others, Joram van Klaveren it seems that the right wing of healthily-thinking conservatives definitely seems to have taken off within the PVV. The left side of the party will determine the policy further in the coming years. I presented myself to the PVV in 2006 due to the rightist noise of Klare Wijn and the Pland for a new Golden Age. Of this thinking, little to nothing is left.” The 31-year old State Member has been part of the PVV since 2006. In 2011 Jansen became State Member in South-Holland. Next to that, he was Wilders’ right-hand man. Jansen will continue as independent State Member, he writes, and will “strain myself to shine a rightist light on current issues.”
Jansen’s departure is one in a steady stream of PVV members who feel the party has veered into an ideology that they no longer want to be a part of. It is especially Wilders’ comments about “fewer Moroccans” on election night, the 19th of March, that has members fleeing. Members of Parliament Roland van Vliet and Joram van Klaveren left after those comments, as European Parliamentarian Laurence Stassen. State Members in Friesland and a municipal council member for the party in The Hague stepped down. Jansen and Van Klaveren also state that the party is taking a more leftist course now. Van Klaveren now works with MP Louis Bontes, who had stepped out of the PVV earlier. They are setting up a new right wing party.
© The NL Times
De Hond defends Dutch poll as 43% say they want fewer Moroccans in NL
22/4/2014- Some 43% of the Dutch agree they would rather there were fewer Moroccans in the Netherlands, according to an opinion poll by Maurice de Hond for the anti-immigration PVV. PVV leader Geert Wilders could be facing prosecution for leading his supporters in chanting 'fewer, fewer, fewer' when asked if they would like more or fewer Moroccans in the Netherlands after last month’s local elections. The Maurice the Hond result, based on a poll of 2,500 people, is in line with other surveys after the ‘fewer Moroccans’ incident. It also shows 48% of people don’t care about the number of Moroccans in the country.
De Hond himself has responded to criticism of the poll by saying he carries out research for all political parties. A number of prominent people had sent Twitter messages to De Hond asking if he was also prepared to take on commissions asking if people would like to see fewer Jews or Catholics. De Hond said in his blog that he denounced all forms of discrimination and referred to his Jewish parents who survived the Holocaust but had been shocked by the anti-Semitism of Dutch people they thought they knew.
‘And it will not go way by not making research visible,’ he said. ‘I think my parents before the war would have rather known how the world actually was.’ A survey carried out by De Hond shortly after the ‘fewer, fewer, fewer’ chant showed 72% thought Wilders’ behaviour was unacceptable, including 20% of PVV supporters.
© The Dutch News
Why Europe's Far Right Is Getting Cozy With Russia
24/4/2014- As Western governments edge toward tougher sanctions on Russia, at least one group of European politicians has come to Moscow’s defense: leaders of the region’s far-right parties. Marine Le Pen, head of France’s National Front, visited Moscow this month—her second trip there in less than a year—and lambasted the West for declaring a ruinous new “Cold War” on Russia. Her party also sent election observers who validated the results of the referendum in which Russia annexed Crimea. Geert Wilders, who heads the far-right Dutch Freedom Party, has accused the European Union of creating “a big mess” in Ukraine. And Nigel Farage, head of Britain’s UK Independence Party said in an April 1 interview that Vladimir Putin was the world leader he admired most. Such comments may seem bizarre, considering that Putin has justified intervention in Ukraine by saying he’s protecting Russian speakers from right-wing elements in the new government.
In fact, the rhetoric is driven more by political calculations than by ideology. With polls suggesting far-right parties could score big gains in European parliamentary elections on May 25, rightist leaders “want to highlight the dangers of EU overreach,” says Cas Mudde, an assistant professor at the University of Georgia’s School of Public & International Affairs. Le Pen, Wilders, and Farage all want their countries to leave the 28-nation bloc. The EU’s offer of emergency financial aid to Ukraine also makes an inviting target for the rightists, who routinely accuse Brussels of wasting taxpayers’ money. Even as they attack the EU, some rightist leaders don’t seem keen to get too close to Russia. Wilders, for example, is strongly pro-U.S. and pro-Israel, putting him at odds with Kremlin policy. His comments on the Ukraine crisis “have nothing to do with Putin or with foreign policy,” Mudde says. Wilders views the situation as “a bailout,” in which European taxpayers are being asked to support a corrupt regime, he says.
UKIP’s Farage said he has respect for Putin, “compared with the kids who run foreign policy” in Britain. But, he added: “I don’t like him, I wouldn’t trust him, and I wouldn’t want to live in his country.” Others, though, seem flattered at the treatment they’ve received in Moscow. Le Pen was snubbed by American politicians when she visited the U.S. in 2011. In Moscow, though, she had an audience with the speaker of the Duma, the lower house of parliament, telling him that she opposed sanctions and wanted to restore “traditional, friendly” relations with Russia. Along with the National Front, rightist parties from Austria, Belgium, Hungary, and Italy sent observers for the Crimea referendum. (Some others, including UKIP and the Dutch Freedom Party, didn’t participate.) The European rightist party that’s closest to Putin may be Hungary’s Jobbik. Its leader, Gabor Vona, made a high-profile visit to Moscow last year and declared that Russia considered Jobbik “a partner.” Mitchell A. Orenstein, a professor of political science at Northeastern University, writes in a recent Foreign Affairs article that the Kremlin may be subsidizing some smaller rightist European parties, such as Greece’s Golden Dawn.
Just as European rightists seek political advantage in the Ukraine crisis, Putin has his own reasons for cultivating them. “Russian support of the far right in Europe has less to do with ideology,” Orenstein writes, than with Putin’s desire “to destabilize European governments, prevent EU expansion, and help bring to power European governments that are friendly to Russia.” For the rightists, getting friendly with Russia is a low-risk strategy, says Matthew Goodwin, an associate professor at the University of Nottingham who has studied the European right. “Most European voters will not notice this issue,” he says, “compared to the core motives behind support for the radical right, which are opposition to immigration, distrust of domestic political elites, and hostility toward the European Union.”
© Bloomberg Businessweek
Neo-Nazi Hitler party shocks French village
The mayor of a small village in eastern France was forced to explain this week how he ended up giving the green light for a neo-Nazi party commemorating the 125th anniversiary of Hitler’s birth. The mayor said he presumed it was just going to be an ordinary birthday party.
24/4/2014- When André Sherrer, the mayor of the tiny village of Oltingue, in the Alsace region of Eastern France, gave the go-ahead for a function in a municipal building he had no idea the outrage it would provoke. Sherrer, who is in charge of the village of 700 residents thought he was renting the room out for an ordinary birthday party but little did he know that 150 to 200 neo-Nazis would be turning up to commemorate the 125th anniversary of Hitler’s birth on April 20th 1889. “Two people showed up to book a room. They had all the right papers and insurance. Everything was in order. We had no idea we were being tricked,” said Sherrer. The party, that was held last Saturday April 19th, was planned months in advance via the internet and saw neo-Nazi sympathizers descend on the village from far and wide, mostly from Germany, but also some from Italy and France.
Once inside the village hall, locals reported hearing chanting and live music. When the stunned mayor realized what was going on, he called the local police, who allowed the gathering to continue. “When we got there the people were already set up inside,” police told local newspaper Les Dernières Nouvelles d’Alsace. Officers kept a presence around the village and outside the venue, but did not carry out any checks on the neo-Nazis. “From a legal point of view it would have been complicated to cancel the event. The aim was to maintain calm in the village,” police continued. Mayor Sherrer himself did not go to the venue with police to confront the organizers, who were believed to be from Germany, fearing it would lead to violence. “I didn’t go because the police were already there. And when you have 50 to 100 neo-Nazis in a room, you are not going to tell them to get out. If you did it would be you who’d be thrown out,” he said.
Mayor Sherrer was inundated with calls the following day from people wanting to know how a neo-Nazi party could have been held in the tiny village. “We were tricked and I regret it,” he said. “It hurts because in the eyes of colleagues we look like idiots,” he told Europe1 radio. But it wasn't just the mayor who was asked to come up with answers as to how the party went ahead. The deputy leader of France's main opposition party the UMP wrote to the Prime Minister to demand why the police did not intervene. "How can 200 neo-Nazis get away with celebrating the birth of Hitler in a municipal building in a French village?" wrote an outraged Roger Karoutchi. "If German authorities had warned their French counterparts about this meeting then why was it allowed to take place?" he added.
© The Local - France
Far-right mayor moves to block mosque project in Paris (France)
24/4/2014- Cyril Nauth, a newly elected far-right mayor in the Mantes-la-Ville district of Paris, has set out to deliver on one of his election campaign promises by blocking a project to build a new mosque. The Socialist-led city council prior to Nauth's election in the recent local polls had planned to buy a publicly owned building only to sell it later to a local Muslim organization which would later redevelop the property into a mosque. Abdelaziz El Jaouhari, the head of the mosque committee, told Le Monde “Besides discriminating against us [Muslims], I don’t see any reason to oppose this project.” “We have been trying to build a dignified place to pray for the past 25 years. Every other religious group has a place, and I don’t see why it is different for us,” he said.
Earlier this month, the mosque launched a complaint after slices of pork paté and a threatening letter was found in its mailbox calling Muslims "cockroaches" and wishing new mayor Cyril Nauth good luck in cleansing the "Muslim race". "There is no question this was a racist and provocative act. It is the first time in the 12 years of the mosque's existence that it has been the target of this kind of racist attack," Jaouhari said. Islam is the second-most widely practiced religion in France behind Roman Catholicism by number of worshippers, with an estimated total of about 10% of the national population or 6.3 million adherents, the majority of whom come from Algeria and Morocco.
© World Bulletin