UNESCO official slams ‘anti-Semitic display’ at agency’s Belgian carnival


 (JTA) — The director-general of UNESCO expressed indignation over a Nazi-themed display at a Belgian parade sponsored by her organization.

“The director-general is shocked by the anti-Semitic representation at the Aalst carnival that caricatures the Holocaust,” read a statement posted Tuesday on the website of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

The carnival held two days earlier had featured a float designed to resemble a Nazi railway wagon used to transport Jews to death camps. The people who designed the float, known as the FTP Group, marched near the float dressed as Nazi SS officers and haredi Orthodox Jews. A poster on the wagon showed Flemish Belgian politicians dressed as Nazis and holding canisters labeled as containing Zyklon B, the poison used by the Nazis to exterminate Jews in gas chambers in the Holocaust.

The Aalst Carnival is listed on UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

“UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova learned with deep indignation about the fake Nazi rail car … where SS officers revel and drink champagne, to the tune of popular German songs,” the statement read.

Bokova said in the statement, “I am deeply shocked by this unacceptable act that is an insult to the memory of the six million Jews who were killed in the Holocaust. This Nazi rail car goes against all the values of the Aalst Carnival.”

Belgium is a federal entity made up of three regions populated by two ethnic groups, the Flemish and the Waloons, who speak French. Over the past two decades, some Flemish political parties have called for secession.

The spectacle reportedly was meant as a protest against the perceived anti-Waloon policies of some nationalist Flemish politicians of the Flemish nationalist N-VA party, its leader Bart de Wever and Aalst Mayor Christoph D’Haese.

But Bokova wrote, “The history of the Holocaust must not be trivialized for the purposes of a local political situation or to fuel hatred. This testifies to the deeply worrying belittling of the Holocaust and the deportations, in the very heart of the continent where this tragedy occurred.”

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