Friday, October 17, 2014

Trivialization of Nazism by Spanish nationalists outrages German CDU and Catalan civil society

Comparing Catalonia's self-determination democratic process with the Nazi regime has become one of the arguments the Spanish nationalists have been using over the last two years, repeated in extreme-right television stations and even at the Spanish Parliament. Such an offensive and dishonest comparison outrages most of the Catalan society because of its total unfairness in describing the current democratic and peaceful self-determination process and for trivializing Nazism and the suffering of its victims – including hundreds of Catalans who died in concentration camps. Now, the controversy has reached the European Parliament. 
Last week, the Spanish nationalist party UPyD sent a letter to all 751 MEPs comparing the current situation in Catalonia with that of "Italy and Germany in the 1920s and 1930s", in order to discredit the self-determination process and prevent EU institutions from intervening in it. The CDU MEP Ingeborg Grässle was outraged by such a letter and she urged UPyD "to at least apologise", while she added that "any politician in Germany should have immediately resigned" for making such a statement. 
The European Commission already warned Spanish authorities against trivialising Nazism in September 2013, but nothing has been done so far and comparisons have continued. In 2008 the EU approved rules against xenophobic and hate speech which Member States should have implemented by 2010. However, such rules have not yet been transposed into Spanish legislation. In addition, on Wednesday, a group of civil society organisations filed a complaint to the Public Prosecutor Office in Barcelona for dozens of calumnies against Catalonia's self-determination process and for the comparisons with the Nazi regime.

The German Christian-Democrat Member of the European Parliament, Ingeborg Grässle, reacted to the letter sent last week by another MEP from the Spanish nationalist and populist party UPyD, Beatriz Becerra, in which she compared Catalonia's self-determination process with Nazism. "Trivialising" the Nazi regime "is a shame for the victims", emphasised Grässle. The CDU MEP asked the UPyD "to respect the victims" and "to at least apologise" for such a comparison, which is "inappropriate and false". "Any politician in Germany would have to immediately resign if such a language were used", stressed Grässle, who chairs the Budgetary Control Committee of the European Parliament.

Supporters of former Spanish dictator General Franco gave fascist salutes in Madrid as voters in Catalonia voted in an independence referendum. 
The Spanish Civil War may have ended more than sixty years ago, but a rally on the streets of the Spanish capital has shown that for some, the war goes on Read more...

TELEMADRID, the public news station owned by the region of Madrid, governed by exactly the same ‘People’s Party’ (PP) of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, which disappoints people all over Spain on a daily basis, broadcast last Tuesday (04/30) a news item (Zoom, within the Daily News program), in which the members of the Catalan Parliament who defend the right of self-determination were insulted as ‘nationalists,’ thus comparing their democratic claim with Stalinism first and with National Socialism in the following sentence. Catalan and Basque politicians, democratically elected, are accused of perversely misusing the language and are shown with no hesitation alongside images of Stalin and Hitler right before Artur Mas (CiU, Prime Minister of Catalonia), Oriol Jonqueras (ERC, read more....

Dear German citizens,
Allow me to address you with a problem that concerns the Catalans in two important ways. First, because we have no other choice and second because I believe you will understand me, because German society, just as Catalan and other European societies, have long suffered the consequences of a terrible and violent fascist state.
In Spain - and this will surprise you - not only does the Franco dictatorship's single party remain perfectly legal, but any journalist writing about the criminal nature of this fascist organization, responsible for thousands of deaths during the Civil War and the subsequent repression, runs the risk of ending up in court. For your information, my German friends, Madrid still displays eight streets and an avenue dedicated to the dead or the foremost members of the 250. Infanterie-Division of Spanish volunteers, Franco's Blue Division, who served at the siege of Leningrad. Some of them went on to defend the bunker of the Chancellery fiercely until Adolf Hitler committed suicide.
The People's Party (PP), today Spain's ruling party, was founded by Manuel Fraga, one of Franco's ministers, read more...
UPyD compared Catalonia's situation with that of Germany in the 1930s

Becerra sent a letter last Thursday in which she said that the current situation in Catalonia is like the one "in Italy and Germany in the 1920s and 1930s". The UPyD MEP urged European institutions "to defend democracy", "which means stopping [Catalonia's] illegal non-binding referendum vote". However, so far, no Court has declared such a non-binding referendum vote illegal, as Spain's Constitutional Court has temporarily suspended it while it reaches a definitive decision, stressing the suspension was not a prejudgement of the final decision. Furthermore, Becerra added that "Catalonia has never been a European nation" and that has "always been part of Spain", while she added that "only 23% of Catalans" want a self-determination vote. However, all the polls published in the last 2 years indicate that between 70% and 80% want to hold such a vote. Those percentages coincide with the last Catalan Parliament elections (held in November 2012), when 80% of the elected MPs backed self-determination.


El Mundo (second most widely read news source in Spain) compares the Catalan Ministry of Interior, Felip Puig, with the nazi leader Ernst Röhm, founder of the Sturmabteilung¸ the criminal SA. Will anyone bring it to trial?
Enough, do we have dignity as a country?. What else must we put up with from this hatemongering media outlet that carries on with their campaign
Spanish nationalists often compare Catalonia's self-determination process with Nazism

However, Becerra's statement is far from being the first time that UPyD and other Spanish nationalist politicians have compared Catalonia's self-determination process with the Nazi regime or dictatorships. In fact, such a comparison is recurrent on several TV and radio talk shows (mostly in extreme-right read more....




Democrats cannot trivialise Nazism, states the CDU MEP

"I was very upset with [the statement saying that] anyone who does not follow the law is using Nazi methods", stated the CDU MEP. "I was astonished in the way such a comparison was made", Grässle added. "In a democratic country, calling your political enemies Nazis is totally out of line". "What happened in Germany in the 1920s and 1930s and afterwards was so cruel and so terrible that such a language should be never used", she stated. "Try to solve your problems in a fair and democratic way, but please do not use these types of examples", Grässle asked Becerra, because the Nazi regime "continues to be very painful" for the German people, the victims and their relatives.

The Christian-Democrat politician added that she was hesitating about whether to answer Becerra or not, but finally she decided to do so considering the implications of the comparison and how upset it had made her. The German representative decided to react to ask UPyD "to respect the victims" of the Nazi regime. Moreover, because "calling somebody else Nazi means that the atmosphere is totally poisoned and something must be done urgently, now that it is still possible". "Democrats cannot treat each other in this way".

Despite the controversy, Grässle did not want to react "in favour or against" Catalonia's self-determination process and the plans to hold such a vote in November. However, she admitted that "the way in which Scotland's referendum took place" offers a great lesson. "It was done in a very fair way" and "I admire the British and also the Scottish people for the way they solved such a difficult question and how they treated each other", she emphasized. "Come to your own conclusions and try to solve the problem in a democratic way, treating the others as democrats and not as people who do not deserve to be called people", the CDU MEP concluded.


As already reported, the Spanish Government’s highest official in Catalonia recently paid homage to the “Blue Division”, a unit of the Wermacht. This did not lead to her firing or resignation, but instead Madrid has explicitly supported  Ms Maria de los Llanos de Luna. Many details have already been discussed in the press and the social media, but in order to understand how odd this is in the European context, we need to remember that the members of this unit made a personal, public, oath of allegiance to the Führer.
Thus, although this was Franco’s contribution to Hitler’s war in the East, together with economic cooperation and intelligence support, each soldier of the Wermacht’s 250th division personally made an oath of loyalty to the German dictator. Therefore, we are not talking read more...

The Nazi victims' association Amical of Mauthausen and Other Camps regrets that, once again, the greatest crimes that humanity has suffered is put to trivial, irresponsible and malicious use as a weapon against movements or ideological positions, even though they may convince but a few.

In democracy, we need to know how to disagree by reasoning, and the subtleties and nuances (which in their report are called perversion of the language), are precisely what characterizes a mature democratic society. Nazism should be the red line that indicates the barrier that must not be crossed, but not the easy resort to silence those who read more....



The PP has also compared Catalonia with dictatorial regimes and Nazism

Moreover, on the 5th of September, the 'number 2' of the governing People's Party (PP), María Dolores de Cospedal, stated that the current political situation in Catalonia "is totalitarianism and a dictatorship; an undercover one, but even so, it is one". It was not the first time that she has made such a comparison in the last few months. The statement is quite ironic coming from the Secretary General of a party that was founded by a former minister of Franco's dictatorship, who also controlled the police in the months while the dictatorial regime was still in place after the dictator's death.

Also recently, the day 1.8 million Catalans peacefully formed a colossal V-shaped demonstration in Barcelona asking for independence, the leader of the PP in Sabadell's City Council – which is one of Catalonia's main cities – compared the rally with Mussolini's Fascism and Hitler's Nazism. Esteban Gesa published on Twitter a picture of a group of Italian Fascist forming a V-shape, another image of a Nazi propaganda banner with the swastika and a V for 'victory' and a third picture of the Catalan V-shaped demonstration. Gesa linked the 3 images by adding that "things always come in threes". On this occasion, this member of the PP apologised for his comment later on. Such apologies are rare. 

Furthermore, the Spanish Government's Delegate in Catalonia, María de los Llanos de Luna, who is also a PP member, paid tribute to Spanish soldiers who fought in the Nazi army during World War II in an official ceremony. In May 2013, De Luna (who is Mariano Rajoy's main representative in Catalonia) gave a diploma of honour to a brotherhood of soldiers and supporters of the 'División Azul' (known as 'Blaue Division'), an infantry-division of Spanish volunteers who fought in the Nazi Germany's Wehrmacht on the Eastern Front. Such an episode represents the main collaboration between Franco's dictatorship and Adolph Hitler, as well as the Condor Division – which bombed Gernika – and the arrest of the Catalan Government's President Lluís Companys by the Gestapo. On top of this, the 12 members of the brotherhood who attended the diploma ceremony were wearing the Falange uniform, the Franco's Fascist party, which was the only one allowed in Spain during the 40-year dictatorship and which is still legal.


Jonatan Cobo Ortega, a councilman in Rubí (Catalonia) for Spain's Popular Party (PP), and former president of PP's youth organization, posted a caricature on Twitter of Catalan President Artur Mas dressed in Nazi uniform. His tweet seems to suggest that Artur Mas‘ call for a referendum on independence is tantamount to being a Nazi. Although he later deleted this tweet, PP has yet to condemn Mr. Cobo's action, or other similar ones by Pedro J. Ramírez.
This is but one among many other examples in which Spanish media and politicians, hell-bound on instigating hatred against all things Catalan, insist on comparing Barça and Catalans with Nazis read more....


The Nazi extermination camp victims' association, Amical de Mauthausen, has demanded the resignation of the Spanish Government's Delegada, or representative, in Catalonia, Maria de los Llanos de Luna. The Delegada recently awarded a certificate of merit to the members of the Division Azul, a Spanish volunteer army division that swore allegiance to Hitler and fought on the side of the Nazis during the Second World War read more...


The European Commission already warned Spain in September 2013

The European Commission already warned Spanish authorities against trivialising Nazism. In September 2013, the Commission Vice President, Viviane Reding, said that "the intentional public condoning, denial or gross trivialisation of the Nazi crimes is to be made criminally punishable". Reding was replying to Catalan MEPs, who complained against De Luna's tribute to the Blaue Division. Back then, the Commission Vice President added that Brussels will start to punish Member States that do not prosecute "incitement to violence or hatred". However, comparisons have continued after Reding's words.

In addition, neo-Nazi attacks against Catalan Government's offices or pro-self-determination events have also happened. In September 2013, a week after Reding's statement, a group of Fascists broke into the Catalan Government's representation in Madrid on Catalonia's National Day. The attack happened on the afternoon that 1.6 million Catalans had formed a 400-km-long human chain, imitating the 'Baltic Way', to ask for independence. The Fascists insulted and intimidated the people present at the Catalan Government's representation, who were participating in a small institutional ceremony in celebration of that day. Furthermore, Fascist supporters have also attacked the presentation of Súmate, a group of Spanish-speakers who support Catalonia's independence. The attack took place in Mataró, a Catalan coastal town in Greater Barcelona. Both episodes ended without leaving anyone injured, although there were some tense moments.



Don’t trivialise Nazism – European Commission warns Spain 

Warning to Spain by the European Commission: trivialising Nazism or other totalitarian regimes is unacceptable. “The intentional public condoning, denial or gross trivialisation of the Nazi crimes is to be made criminally punishable” said the Commissioner for Justice, Viviane Reding, the ACN can confirm. Following a complaint by Catalan MEPs about the honours received by a brotherhood of soldiers and supporters of the ‘División Azul’ that fought alongside the Nazis, Brussels warned that next year it will be able to fine member states that do not prosecute “incitement to violence or hatred”. Read full article...

Catalan civil society organisations ask the Public Prosecutor Office to act

On Wednesday, the week after the UPyD letter and after the reaction of the CDU MEP, a group of Catalan civil society organisations have filed a formal complaint to the Public Prosecutor Office in Barcelona, which is a body linked to the Spanish Justice Minister, for the trivialisation of Nazism and for the threats, insults and calumnies against Catalonia's self-determination process. They have also presented the 'Manifesto for the democratic dignity against the trivialisation of Nazism'. They emphasised that comparing the current self-determination process with the Nazi regime, the Holocaust, Goebbels' propaganda or Fascism represents "incite to hate", which can be prosecuted in court. Furthermore, they consider that it is particularly worrying that this is done by politicians and journalists in public institutions, audio-visual media or social media. In fact, many talk-shows of extreme-right wing or Spanish nationalist television stations and radios have been making similar comparisons for the last two years.

The complaint has been filed on the 74th anniversary of the execution of Lluís Companys, the Catalan President who was arrested by the Nazi Gestapo and executed by Franco, once the Civil War had already ended. Companys, who was a member of the left-wing independence party ERC (currently Catalonia's second largest party), was the only president of a democratically elected government to be executed during World War II in the whole of Europe.


A far-right demo in Madrid in 2012. File photo: Dominique Faget/AFP
Neo-nazi 'not sorry' over 'blood bath' speech

The head of a Spanish far-right group appeared in court on Wednesday over statements he made justifying a blood bath in Catalonia if the Spanish national government failed to quash an independence movement in the region read more...


Spain is fast becoming a rogue state, a country acting against the most basic values of the international community. Proof of this is the way in which her leaders approach the memory of the Second World War. This could, however, see some in Russian prisons, if they persist in publicly praising Hitler and Nazism. While the civilized war remembers the men and women who defeated the Third Reich, and makes sure their deeds are not forgotten, so that evil does not rise again, Spanish politicians award medals to Nazi units, while they keep thousands of monuments and street names praising read more....

The economic pain from the Wall Street crash of 2008 and the ensuing Great Recession has fueled the right-wing Tea Party movement in the United States and a revival of fascism in parts of Europe, including hard-hit Spain where some leaders are promoting the brutal Franco era, writes Andrés Cala.

By Andrés Cala
Last week, a mayor of a Madrid suburb threatened through his Twitter account to send some “skinheads” to target opposition political leaders. The mayor, a member of the ruling conservative Popular Party, later said he was just joking – and no “skinheads” actually showed up to rough up the mayor’s opponents.
In Galicia, an area in Spain’s northwest, the mayor of another town under Popular Party rule proudly showcases in his office a picture of fascist dictator Francisco Franco. The mayor also plays the fascist anthem to anyone who will listen. Yet, he has faced no official reprimand. (Some weeks ago, a small bomb read more...



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