Florida campaign stands behind ‘Gestapo’ reference

WASHINGTON (JTA) — A Republican challenging a Florida Jewish Democrat in a congressional race stood by his use of "Gestapo" to describe a videographer.

Josh Grodin, Allen West’s campaign manager, told JTA on Monday afternoon that the term aptly described how operatives for the Florida Democratic Party and Rep. Ron Klein (D-Fla.) constantly trailed West with cameras.

"We’re not apologizing for it. What they’re doing, what the Democratic party is doing — they are engaging in intimidation and fear tactics," said Grodin, who said West fears going out with his family because of the camera.

Grodin, who is Jewish and who said his grandfather helped liberate concentration camps, said the controversy would not hurt his candidate, who has worked hard to establish a pro-Israel profile in the heavily Jewish district.

"The Gestapo tactics were fear and intimidation, although they used other means than a video camera," Grodin said.

The Gestapo, Hitler’s secret police, beat, imprisoned and murdered Jews in Nazi Germany and helped set up the first concentration camps.

At a campaign event on Aug. 19, West compared the videographer filming his speech to the Gestapo. The videographer is reportedly the grandson of Holocaust survivors.

“I know here today we have a representative from the Florida Democratic Party and he is here to film me and his whole purpose of filming me is to take what I say and allow other people to distort it so they can misrepresent me,” West said. “You know if we allow those Gestapo-type intimidation tactics to prevail in the United States of America what happens to our liberties? What happens to our freedoms?”

It has in recent years become standard procedure on the campaign trail for a candidate to photograph or video an opponent.

Klein called had for an apology after the Gestapo remark.

“Allen West has shown reckless disregard and appalling disrespect to Holocaust victims and survivors,” Klein said in a statement. “By peppering his speeches with references to the Gestapo and Nazis, Allen West demonstrates how despite his claim to be a student of history, he fails to comprehend the enormity of the crimes committed by the Nazi regime.”

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