Antisemitism row breaks out after Spanish town stages Holocaust parade for carnival

It wouldn't be carnival in Spain without a bit of controversy over chosen themes. But one town in Spain has really taken it too far.

Antisemitism row breaks out after Spanish town stages Holocaust parade for carnival
Photos by Dimas Donate

Young children paraded through the streets with yellow stars sewn to their left lapels, dancers in striped pyjamas waving Israeli flags and behind them officers  in SS Waffen uniforms toting machine guns.

Welcome to the carnival procession in Las Mesas, a town in Cuenca province of Castilla-La Mancha, when a cultural association chose the Holocaust as their theme for celebration.

The display continued with a swastika wearing dominatrix brandishing her whip and flanked by dobermans atop a float designed to recreate Auschwitz, complete with twin chimneys.

The whole procession was choreographed to a Rosalia song. Another float represented the gates of the death camp with the infamous slogan “Arbeit macht frei“ – work sets you free” and yet another was a representation of a German tank.

Watch a video clip of the carnival parade below:

Pictures from the event were posted on social media and quickly drew criticism from the Israeli Embassy in Spain which condemned the “blatant display of antisemitism” from the Asociación Cultural El Chaparral, which organised the event.

“My revulsion and total rejection of the atrocious banalization of the #Holocaust that took place at the Carnival of Campo de Criptana. It is an affront to the memory of the victims of the Shoá and an intolerable display of #antisemitism,” wrote Israeli ambassador to Madrid, Rodica Radian-Gordon.

It also produced strong condemnation on social media across Spain with the slogan #EsFascismoNoesCarnaval (Fascism is not for Carnival) becoming a trending topic.


Dimas Donate, a local school teacher witnessed the parade and was absolutely appalled. He took photographs which he has shared with The Local Spain because he simply couldn't believe his eyes.

The parade included kids dressed as Jewish children with yellow stars pinned to their chests. Photo by Dimas Donate.

“The reaction of the people around me seemed to suggest they were not aware of what was happening,”he told The Local Spain. “That's what happens when you normalize fascism at a party, it's taken as a party.”

The city council of Campo de Criptana, the authority responsible for staging the carnival event was forced to release a statement on Tuesday distancing itself from the misguided choice of theme.

A statement explained that although the cultural association had stated its intention to represent the Holocaust as a carnival theme, the understanding was that it would be in a way that would be “a tribute to the millions of people who unjustly died in the extermination that took place during the Second World War”.  

“As stated in his request to participate in the regional parade of the municipality, the assembly intends to make mention of one of the most dishonorable events in the history of mankind: the Holocaust,” says the City Council.

Permission for the parade was granted, the statement explained, because it was expected to represent a “strong condemnation of the Holocaust”.

“However, once we saw the display we share the criticisms it produced. If the initial objective was to commemorate the victims, it is clear that it has not been achieved,” the statement concluded.

Further parades planned for carnival events by the same troupe in neighbouring towns have now been cancelled.


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Black people in Germany face ‘widespread’ racism, survey finds

In the Afrocensus, a first-of-its-kind survey charting the lived experiences of black people in Germany, the vast majority revealed they experienced 'extensive' discrimination in almost all aspects of public life.

Dr Karamba Diaby
Dr Karamba Diaby, an SPD politician and anti-racism advocate, carries out voluntary work in his constituency of Halle, Saxony-Anhalt. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Hendrik Schmidt

“The results of the Afrocensus indicate that anti-Black racism is widespread in Germany and anchored in institutions,” the authors of the new report said in a press release on Tuesday. “There is no area of life in which discrimination and racism are not extensive problems.”

Though the overwhelming majority of respondents said they had experienced discrimination at least ‘sometimes’ in almost all areas of life, housing was the area where they said they were discriminated against most often.

Just two percent of respondents to the Afrocensus said they had ‘rarely’ or ‘never’ experienced racism in the housing market, compared to more than 90 percent who said they had experienced it ‘often’ or ‘very often’.

READ ALSO: ‘Black lives need to matter in Germany’ New project to uncover racism in everyday life

Experiences with police and security personnel also counted among areas of life where racism was particularly prevalent: 88 percent of respondents had experienced discrimination from security staff ‘often’ or ‘very often’, while around 85 percent had had the same experience with police.

More than 85 percent had also experienced racism in their education or in the workplace ‘often’ or ‘very often’ in Germany. One in seven had lost their job during the Covid crisis. 

According to the report, 90 percent of respondents had also experienced having their hair grabbed, while more than half (56 percent) had been stopped by the police or asked for drugs by strangers.

Meanwhile, 80 percent said people had made comments about the colour of their skin or sexualised comments about their race on dating apps. A vast majority – 90 percent – also revealed they hadn’t been believed when they’d spoken out about racism in the past, or that people had said they were “too sensitive”. 

READ ALSO: OPINION: My experiences of everyday racism in Germany

In spite of widespread discrimination, almost half (47 percent) of the respondents were engaged and active in their community – mostly carrying out some form of social or voluntary work.

First of its kind

Based on wide-ranging data, the findings paint a vivid and concerning picture of what life is like for the one million or so black people living in Germany today.

To produce the report, researchers from Berlin-based Black community group Each One Teach One and Citizens for Europe conducted an extended survey of 6,000 black people from the Africans and Afrodiasporic community to try and discover more about on the everyday lives and experiences of this group. The survey was carried out between July and September 2020. 

It represents one of the first attempts to gather a wealth of quantitative data on this subject, and as such offers some of the first truly scientific insights into anti-Black racism in modern Germany.

“With the Afrocensus, we have succeeded in doing exactly what has long been demanded within the black community for a long time: making the realities of our lives visible within the framework of qualitative, but above all quantitative research,” Dr. Pierrette Herzberger-Fofana und Dr. Karamba Diaby wrote in a foreword to the report. 

Diaby, a high-profile politician within the centre-left SPD party, was one of only two Afro-German politicians in parliament when he first took his seat in 2013. He has since become known for promoting political engagement and empowerment within the migrant and black community. 

In January 2020, an unknown gunman fired shots through the window of his constituency office in Halle, Saxony-Anhalt, in a suspected racially motivated attack. 

READ ALSO: How people with migrant backgrounds remain underrepresented in German politics

Since the Second World War, Germany has avoided gathering data that allows people to be traced by ethnicity as a means of protecting persecuted groups.

However, critics say this approach only works to make the issues faced by these groups invisible. 

Writing on Twitter, Daniel Gyamerah, Division Lead at Citizens For Europe, called for an “action plan for tackling anti-Black racism and for empowering black, African and Afrodiasporic people” and the establishment of advice centres for people facing racism and discrimination.

More research into the intersectional experience of black people in Germany is needed, he added.