Dutch university’s professor emeritus questions Holocaust on TV, calls Jews ‘parasites’


AMSTERDAM (JTA) — A professor emeritus from an esteemed university in the Netherlands whose father was a Nazi called Jews “parasites” in a televised interview.

Jan Tollenaere, a lecturer on medicinal chemistry who retired from the Utrecht University in 2001, also questioned the historical record on the Holocaust in an interview aired Thursday by the Canvas broadcaster in Belgium about children of Nazi collaborators.

Tollenaere, whose father, Raymond, was in charge of propaganda for the Belgian pro-Nazi collaborationist government of Flanders during the German occupation of Belgium in World War II, said Jews “are not a nice people, I don’t feel any warmth toward them.” They are, he added, “parasites, speculators and mean people.”

In the interview, Tollenaere described himself as an anti-Semite.

About the Holocaust, Tollenaere said: “Was it really a reality? I think there was propaganda in play to underscore the Holocaust, to exaggerate it and cynically use it, leverage it to extract money.”

A Utrecht University spokeswoman said her institution “fully and clearly distances itself” from Tollenaere, whom she described as a “former employee and nothing more.” But Tollenaere’s page on the university’s website does not make clear he is no longer active with the university or that he retired from it.

The professor emeritus title “is no honorary title and cannot be taken away, it simply means that he is a retired professor,” the spokeswoman said.

Asked whether, given his heritage, the university had looked into Tollenaere’s politics prior to hiring him, she said, “We don’t judge people according to their parents; that would be unfair. We look at faculty and prospective faculty according to their actions.”

The Center for Information and Documentation on Israel, the Netherlands’ foremost watchdog on anti-Semitism, condemned Tollenaere’s remarks as disgusting.

“Such an anti-Semite must not be allowed to be associated with any educational institute in the Netherlands,” the group said in a statement.

The Forum of Jewish Organizations of the Flemish Region in Belgium and the Joods Actueel Jewish monthly in Antwerp also condemned Tollenaere. But the Forum also criticized Canvas, the broadcaster, for offering “a podium to the views of Tollenaere’s father.”

Separately, the Dutch Party for Freedom, a populist anti-Islam party, kicked out a local politician from Rotterdam who posted congratulations on Facebook to David Irving, a Holocaust denier from Britain, on his birthday in March.

“Many more productive years, you really have my respect,” wrote Géza Hegedüs, who headed the party’s Rotterdam operations.

Geert Wilders, the head of the party, which in the March elections emerged as the country’s second largest, said Friday in a statement that Hegedus “would have never received the position” had the party been aware of his views.

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