SAO PAULO, Brazil (Oct. 4)
A recent spate of anti-Semitic incidents here has the Jewish community worried at a time of instability in Brazil, where the president has just been impeached.
The focus of the incidents has been Sao Paulo, home to half of the nation’s 150,000 Jews, and Porto Alegre, capital of Rio Grande do Sul, whose Jewish community numbers about 12,000.
Reports of the attacks come as the nation copes with an unprecedented impeachment proceeding that has led to the suspension of powers of President Fernando Collor de Mello. Both he and his wife, Rosane Malta Collor, face trial on corruption charges.
In mid-September, members of a neo-Nazi group beat up two Jewish teen-age boys wearing kipot at a luncheonette near a Chabad facility in Santo Andre, in Greater Sao Paulo.
The attack was carried out by members of a group called Skinheads-White Power. It was reported to local police but brought to public attention only when a Holocaust survivor and self-styled Nazi-hunter, Ben Abraham, contacted the media and reported the incident to them. The group is known to foster hatred for other groups, as well.
Six Skinheads are believed responsible for an attack Sept. 24 on a Sao Paulo radio station with a listenership among Brazilian migrants from the northeast of the country. The attackers daubed a wall of the station with a swastika and slogans such as “Death to the Northeasterners.”
Two shots were fired during the assault, which was possibly staged in reprisal for criticism voiced by the station of a Sept. 17 television documentary in which the Skinheads called for extermination of Jews, Northeasterners, blacks and homosexuals. The incident triggered the creation of a forum for action against neo-Nazism. Participants include the Jewish Federation of Sao Paulo, the Order of Attorneys of Brazil, the Commission of the Catholic Diocese on Justice and Peace, the National Federation of Engineers, a major labor union and several political parties.
The president of the Sao Paulo Jewish Federation said the Skinheads have a movement behind them.
“They are not merely rebel teen-agers. There are leaders who imbue ideas in the heads of young people, who come to believe in the Nazi flag,” said Jayme Bobrow.
A founding meeting of the new anti-racist forum was addressed by the mayor of Sao Paulo.
Reports said federal police have knowledge of international groups that are subsidizing Skinheads-White Power in Brazil.
They include the neo-Nazi Condemned 84 in Ipswich, England; Streetwise in Maussluis, Holland; the Junta for National Defense in Lisbon, Portugal; and the Church Creator in the United States. The last named has issued a racist book, “The Bible of the White Man,” in North Carolina, with the support of the Ku Klux Klan. It also distributes a newspaper called Racial Loyalty.
Two other magazines with a limited circulation in the Sao Paulo area have called for death to the Jews and Northeasterners. The publications, Determination and Courage, and Paulista (Sao Paulo) Pride, have included a drawing of a “good Jew” with a bullet through his head. Other photos show Skinhead-White Power groups marching to commemorate Adolf Hitler’s birthday on April 20.
Forum spokespersons said they plan to issue a manifesto Oct. 8 calling for the preventive imprisonment of the Skinheads, who appeared on the Sept. 17 television documentary. But police say they have not yet identified them.
The manifesto is titled “Nazism Never Again.” It will be read at a public meeting at the headquarters of the Order of Attorneys of Brazil.
The document says, “The hour has arrived to combat the myth that there is racial democracy in Brazil.”
In Porto Alegre, the state governor has acceded to the request of the Jewish Federation and will provide police protection for the city’s five synagogues and two cemeteries.
The request followed attacks Sept. 26 and Oct. 1, when the walls of two Jewish cemeteries were painted with swastikas and graffiti that included “Six million was too little.” The identity of the perpetrators has not been determined.
In the city of Pelotas, in the state of Rio Grande do Sul, red swastikas were painted on the wall of the Sociedade Israelita. Police say they have suspects in the case.
The president of the Jewish Federation, Samuel Burd, said the incidents demonstrate that “the effects of a worldwide neo-Nazi movement are beginning to arrive here.” Meanwhile, federal police in Brasilia, the capital, are investigating a possible connection between neo-Nazis here and an American magazine founded by American political extremist Lyndon LaRouche.
The magazine, Executive Intelligence Review, has published articles attacking two prominent Brazilian Jewish political leaders.
Articles published about two years ago attacked Congressman Fabio Feldmann for “encouraging the destruction of the armed forces” and for “defending the exchange of the external debt for internationalization of the Amazon.”
And they attacked former education minister Jose Goldemberg as “an agent of the neo-colonials.”
The magazine’s correspondent in Brazil, Lorenzo Carrasco, is a former candidate for Congress.