BONN, Jan. 12 (JTA) — German leaders have reacted angrily to an advertisement in which some of Hollywood’s top stars equated Germany’s treatment of members of the Church of Scientology with the persecution of the Jews during the Holocaust. German Chancellor Helmut Kohl said the people who signed the ad did not deserve a reply because they knew nothing about Germany “and they don’t want to know either; otherwise, they would not have lent their names to this campaign.” The prime minister of the German state of Bavaria, Edmund Stoiber, described the ad that appeared last week in the Paris-based International Herald Tribune as a smear campaign. Leaders of the German Jewish community also criticized the ad, saying that it was an insult to the Jewish victims of the Nazis. Among the 34 signers of the ad were actors Dustin Hoffman and Goldie Hawn, director Oliver Stone, author Mario Puzo and talk show host Larry King. German Scientology leader Heber Jentzsch responded to Kohl’s remarks by saying that the chancellor should think twice about his criticism in view of the fact that the “big majority” of those who signed the ad were Jews. The German government maintains that Scientology is primarily a money-making organization and that its leaders seek world domination. A German court ruled last year that the Church of Scientology misrepresented itself as a religion in order to pursue its fund-raising activities. In December, German leaders said they would keep people linked to Scientology out of certain public jobs, such as teaching, and decided to create a central office to oversee a campaign against the organization. The state of Bavaria recently decided to use its intelligence service to scrutinize the activities of the Church of Scientology. “This organized oppression,” the ad stated, sounds like “the Germany of 1936 rather than 1996.” “Extremists of your party should not be permitted to believe that the rest of the world will look the other way. Not this time.” The ad prompted widespread criticism in the German press. The Berlin-based daily Die Welt referred to Scientology as “a psycho group.” The daily General-Anzeiger of Bonn called the ad “a libelous document” and said the “big names” who signed it did not guarantee that they had any insight into complicated issues.
SIGN UP FOR THE JTA DAILY BRIEFING