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Latin America & Caribbean
Latin America & Caribbean

Brazil's culture minister fired after echoing Goebbels

  • 17 January 2020
A screen grab of the speech by Brazil's culture secretary Image copyright Twitter Brazil's culture secretary Image caption The minister said his speech was a "rhetorical coincidence"

Brazil's culture minister has been sacked after using parts of a speech by Nazi Germany's propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels in a video, sparking outrage.

In the clip posted on the ministry's Twitter page, Roberto Alvim detailed an award for "heroic" and "national" art.

Lohengrin by Wagner, Hitler's favourite composer, played in the background. Earlier, Mr Alvim said the now-deleted video was a "rhetorical coincidence".

Far-right President Jair Bolsonaro said the speech had been "unfortunate".

"I reiterate our rejection of totalitarian and genocidal ideologies, such as Nazism and communism, as well as any inference to them. We also express our full and unrestricted support for the Jewish community, of which we're friends and share many common values," the president said on Twitter.

In the six-minute video detailing the National Arts Awards, Mr Alvim said: "The Brazilian art of the next decade will be heroic and will be national, will be endowed with great capacity for emotional involvement... deeply linked to the urgent aspirations of our people, or else it will be nothing."

Parts of it were identical to a speech quoted in the book Joseph Goebbels: A Biography, by German historian Peter Longerich, who has written several works on the Holocaust.

"The German art of the next decade will be heroic, it will be steely-romantic, it will be factual and completely free of sentimentality, it will be national with great pathos and binding, or it will be nothing."

Goebbels led the Ministry of Enlightenment and Propaganda, designed to brainwash people into obeying the Nazis and idolising leader Adolf Hitler. Its methods included censorship of the press and control of radio broadcasts, as well as control of culture and arts.

In a post on his Facebook page, Mr Alvim, a theatre director who was appointed to the ministerial post last year, said "the left was doing a fallacious remote association" between the two speeches, and that "there was nothing wrong with his sentence".

"The whole speech was based on a nationalistic ideal for the Brazilian art and there was a coincidence with ONE sentence of a speech by Goebbels. I didn't quote him and I'd NEVER do it... But the sentence itself is perfect."

Later, in a second post, he said "the speech had been written from various ideas linked to nationalist art that had been brought by his advisers". He did not comment on the music that played in the video in any of his posts.

Among those who called for him to be fired was the Speaker of the lower house of Brazil's Congress, Rodrigo Maia, who said Mr Alvim had "gone beyond all limits" with an "inacceptable" video.

The Brazilian Israelite Confederation said: "To emulate [Goebbels'] view... is a frightening sign of his vision of culture, which must be combated and contained."

It called for Mr Alvim's immediate removal, adding: "Brazil, which sent brave soldiers to combat Nazism on European soil, doesn't deserve it."

Mr Bolsonaro, a former army captain with a conservative social agenda, has frequently accused Brazil's artists and cultural productions including schoolbooks and movies of "left-wing bias".

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