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German Holocaust memorial’s ad campaign halted


BERLIN, Aug. 5 (JTA) — In the heart of Berlin’s government center, near the Brandenburg Gate, there is a billboard poster of snow-topped mountains and a pristine blue lake.

The idyllic image contrasts starkly with the words printed over it: “The Holocaust Never Happened.”

This controversial attempt to raise funds campaign for Berlin’s planned national Holocaust memorial will soon come to an end now that Holocaust survivors and German Jewish leaders have joined in condemning it.

Smaller text underneath the headline reads: “There are still many people who make this claim. In 20 years, there could be even more.”

Just the same, Jewish leaders had complained that the ad could fan racial hatred.

Last Friday, the organizers of the campaign — who said they had chosen the provocative ad in an effort to stimulate discussion and drum up donations — announced the advertising effort’s early demise.

Billboards featuring the slogan will cone down in mid-August, instead of in September as originally planned, said Lea Rosh, the head of the foundation responsible for the fund-raising campaign.

Rosh, the non-Jewish television personality who championed the cause of the memorial for more than 10 years, said Paul Speigel, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, has convinced her to abandon the campaign.

Spiegel told reporters last Friday that “the subject of the Holocaust is not suitable for advertising campaigns” and that he would prefer to see the posters disappear immediately.

But, he said, Rosh had meant well.

Frankfurt attorney Michel Friedman, a vice president of the Central Council, said last week that “the poster must go.”

He described its slogan as “unbearable.”

Other critics had claimed the text beneath the headline is too small to be read easily.

Last month, a Holocaust survivor filed a lawsuit against the campaign, saying its headline could be interpreted as Holocaust denial.

The plaintiff, a Berliner who lost family members in Auschwitz, said the clarifying statement does not stand out enough to counteract the negative effect of the opening line.

The man, whose name has not been released, filed his suit with the Berlin police on July 18 — one day before the campaign was officially unveiled.

According to a German law in effect since the early 1990s, Holocaust denial is punishable by a fine or jail sentence of up to five years.

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