Spain probes anti-Semitic speech at ‘horrific’ neo-Nazi rally

Prosecutors in Madrid on Tuesday said they had opened an investigation into anti-Semitic comments made at a neo-Nazi rally held at the weekend which drew ire from Spain's Jewish community.

Spain probes anti-Semitic speech at 'horrific' neo-Nazi rally
File photo of a man making a fascist salute in Madrid. Photo: AFP

The incident took place Saturday when around 300 people gathered at La Almudena cemetery, with footage on social media showing several people in the crowd repeatedly giving the Nazi salute.

The rally, which was also attended by a Catholic priest, was a commemoration of the so-called “Blue Division”, a unit of Spanish military volunteers that fought for the Nazis during World War II.

At the cemetery, they laid flowers in front of the memorial to the fallen Blue Division soldiers.

During the rally, a young woman gave an inflammatory speech echoing rhetoric from the 1930s.   

The region's prosecutors confirmed they had opened “criminal investigation to gather information about the anti-Semitic statements” which could constitute an offence relating to the exercise of fundamental rights and public freedoms, according to a statement received by AFP.    

“It is unacceptable that such serious anti-Semitic manifestations go unpunished,” said Isaac Benzaquen, head of the Spanish Federation of Jewish Communities, indicating that a complaint had been filed.

Israel's ambassador to Spain, Rodica Radian-Gordon, also tweeted her condemnation, saying the statements were “repugnant and have no place in a democratic society”.

And the American Jewish Committee (AJC) described the rally as “horrific”, calling on the Spanish government on Twitter “to censure these groups endangering democracy”.

At least 200,000 Spanish Jews were forced into exile by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella in 1492. Known as Sephardim — the Hebrew term for Jews of Spanish origin — many fled to the Ottoman Empire or North Africa and later to Latin America.   

Today the Jewish community in Spain numbers around 40,000 people, community sources say.

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New army scandal: Germany vows to punish soldiers caught singing anti-Semitic songs

Germany's Defence Minister on Tuesday vowed to severely punish soldiers stationed in Lithuania who were accused of singing racist and anti-Semitic songs, if the allegations turned out to be true.

New army scandal: Germany vows to punish soldiers caught singing anti-Semitic songs
German soldiers training in Saxony-Anhalt in May. credit: dpa-Zentralbild | Klaus-Dietmar Gabbert

“Whatever happened is in no way acceptable,” said Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer.

Those implicated would be “vigorously prosecuted and punished”, she added.

The Spiegel Online news site had on Monday reported that German soldiers in Lithuania sang racist and anti-Semitic songs during a party at a hotel in April.

One had also sought to sexually assault another soldier while he was asleep, a scene which was caught on film, said Spiegel.

According to Spiegel Online, the scenes took place at a party at which soldiers consumed large quantities of alcohol. They are also alleged to have arranged a “birthday table” for Adolf Hitler on April 20th and to have sung songs for him.

It is unclear to what extent more senior ranked soldiers were aware of the incidents.

Three soldiers have been removed from the contingent stationed in the Baltic country and an investigation is ongoing to identify other suspects, said the report.

The German armed forces have been repeatedly rocked by allegations of right-wing extremism within their ranks.

Kramp-Karrenbauer last year ordered the partial dissolution of the KSK commando force after revelations that some of its members harboured neo-Nazi sympathies.

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