- BERLIN (Reuters) - U.S. academic
Norman Finkelstein (right) defended the publication in German of his controversial
book "The Holocaust Industry" on Wednesday and urged the country
that spawned the Nazis not to submit to blackmail over its past.
- "It is Germany's right to reject the use of the
Nazi Holocaust as a weapon for political and economic gain," the author
told a packed news conference in Berlin. "The Nazi Holocaust has long
ceased to be a source of moral and historical enlightenment. It has become
a straight-out extortion racket," Finkelstein said.
- Finkelstein, the son of two concentration camp survivors,
argues that Jewish leaders are stoking anti-Semitism in Europe by trying
to force German and Swiss institutions to pay new compensation to those
who suffered under the Nazis.
- "The main fomentor of anti-Semitism now is the Holocaust
industry with its ruthless and reckless extortion tactics," he said.
"The U.S. has no right to instruct Germany in morality. Instead let
the Americans take a hard look at themselves."
- Compensation Delayed
- The German government and industry agreed last year to
pay 10 billion marks ($4.8 billion) compensation to about 900,000 ageing
survivors the Nazis pressed into forced and slave labour during World War
Two, provided they dropped lawsuits in the U.S. But delays in the U.S.
over whether to dismiss class-action suits filed by Holocaust survivors
and victims' heirs have delayed the start to compensation payments.
- Faced with a raft of hostile questions, Finkelstein said
survivors should be compensated directly and not through bodies like the
Jewish Claims Conference or World Jewish Congress.
- "The German government should, on its own, distribute
the compensation monies. It is time to close down the offices of the Claims
Conference," said Finkelstein, who has accused the body of holding
up payments to his late mother while his father regularly received a monthly
pension from the German government.
- "My father loathed and hated every German. He never
distinguished between bad Germans and good Germans. But he never uttered
one single complaint in the matter of compensation."
- Finkelstein, whose book has been criticised as "full
of errors" by Germany's Jewish leader Paul Spiegel (left, with Schroeder
and friends) , admitted he was worried his thesis could be exploited by
neo-Nazis whose have attracted increasing support since German reunification.
"I would be dishonest if I did not acknowledge that I am concerned
about the enthusiastic response to my book that may occur in right-wing
circles," he said.
- Publishers Piper Verlag have come under heavy criticism
in Germany for agreeing to publish the book and SWR television temporarily
pulled a documentary on Finkelstein, saying they would air the programme
on Saturday after it had been reworked.
- But the author, a political scientist at Hunter College
in New York, said he hoped his book would spark more open debate about
the Holocaust in Germany. "In the case of Germany I think there is
a kind of political correctness on this topic which makes difficult an
open and honest discussion on the issues that I raise," he said. "I
hope that one outcome of the book is that it will initiate a serious response
from morally responsible Germans and prompt a discussion in public which
currently takes place in private."
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