Saturday, February 09, 2008

Holocaust carnival float in Brazil 

Brazil judge bans carnival float depicting naked Holocaust victims

By The Associated Press
Sat., February 02, 2008 Shvat 26, 5768

A judge issued an order Thursday prohibiting a Rio samba group from parading during carnival with a float depicting naked bodies of Holocaust victims.

Judge Juliana Kalichsztein issued the injunction against the float in response to a lawsuit by the Jewish Federation of Rio de Janeiro, which asked for the float be removed from this city's famed carnival parade next week, a spokeswoman for the judge told reporters.

The Jewish Federation of Rio de Janeiro filed the lawsuit under federal laws prohibiting Nazi propaganda and racism in Brazil, said Lara Voges, a court spokeswoman.

Viradouro, a top Rio samba group who planned the float, said it would not comment until its president saw the court's decision. The float was designed to remind carnival-goers of past horrors to prevent them from happening again, the group said.

But Jewish leaders were outraged by the float, which contained piles of naked mannequins meant to depict corpses of Holocaust victims.

"It's inadmissible that they could have a parade float depicting dead Jews and a live Hitler on top of them," said federation spokesman Jose Roitberg.

Rio de Janeiro state Judge Juliana Kalichszteim agreed, calling Viradouro's plans a clear trivialization of barbaric events.

Carnival should not be used as a tool for the cult of hate, any form of racism, the judge said.

Rio's two-night Samba parade, featuring thousands of scantily clad and elaborately plumed dancers, is the high point of Brazil's carnival celebrations and is televised nationally in a country of 185 million people.

During the event, Rio's 12 top-tier samba groups each present an 80-minute parade featuring hundreds of drummers and thousands of dancers who compete to be the year's champion.

Each group chooses a theme reflected in music, costumes and floats.

Viradouro, which is scheduled to parade early Monday morning, chose the theme, It Gives You Goose Bumps, featuring floats depicting the shock of birth and cold, along with the pile of Holocaust victims.

Although the samba group refused to say whether it had planned to have a dancing Hitler, it was listed in the official parade description as part of the float.

According to Kalichszteim's decision, the group would face fines of 200,000 reals ($113,000) if it ignored her order by parading with the mannequins and 50,000 reals ($28,000) for each dancer dressed as Hitler.

News of the float drew worldwide attention. Earlier this week, the international Jewish human rights group Simon Wiesenthal Center issued a statement of protest.

On Wednesday, a second-division samba group agreed to remove swastikas from dancers' costumes following complaints from the Rio Jewish federation. The group, Estacio de Sa, also agreed to drop a section of the parade named after Hitler.

"I think it's in terribly bad taste," said sociologist and carnival scholar Roberto DaMatta. "But it makes sense considering the festival's sacrilegious origins," he added.

"The only problem is we're not in the Middle Ages anymore. It doesn't work in a modern society," DaMatta said.

Past carnival groups have had to change floats because of the Roman Catholic Church, which doesn't want depictions of the Virgin Mary or Christ.

In 2004, the Grande Rio group had to alter a float depicting Adam and Eve having sex and another featuring sexy scenes from Hinduism's Kama Sutra after the Catholic Church sued over its parade advocating condom use.


Holocaust carnival float shocks in Brazil

Posted Wed Jan 30, 2008 11:39am AEDT
Updated Wed Jan 30, 2008 12:25pm AEDT

Jewish groups in Brazil have expressed disgust over a controversial float to appear in Brazil's upcoming carnival parade that depicts dead victims of the Nazi Holocaust.

The display, by the Unidos da Viradouro school, will be sandwiched among 11 others that are to parade along the city's carnival avenue on Sunday.

In dramatic contrast to the floats carrying sequined, scantily clad dancers smiling and gyrating, the Holocaust entry will show only motionless, skeletal figures piled on top of each other.

Its creator defended the float, which will move along under the theme "It's Horrifying".

"It's a very respectful float. It's going to depict it [the Holocaust] as a sort of alarm, so that it never be repeated," the creator, Paulo Barros, said.

"I believe the carnival is also a way of showing what happens in the world," he said.

But Brazilian Jewish groups are not seeing it that way.

'Tragedy in their skin'

Sergio Niskier, the president of the Israelite Federation of Rio de Janerio, said it was "inappropriate" to punctuate the festival atmosphere of carnival with a scene symbolising the systematic murder of 6 million people in Nazi concentration camps between 1938 and 1945.

"Really, it makes no sense to highlight this issue with drums and dancing girls when there are still survivors of that horror and many of their descendants who carry the mark of that tragedy in their skin," he told reporters.

Barros, however, said he informed the Jewish group of his plans months ago.

"They were anxious about putting this float in a carnival atmosphere," he admitted.

But, he predicted: "When the float goes by, people will feel respect."

A counterpart at the rival Grande Rio samba school, Roberto Szaniecki - himself of Polish Jew descent - disagreed.

"It's insensitive. The parade is going to be broadcast in Europe. I don't have grandparents because of the Holocaust," he told the newspaper O Dia.


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