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Kohl lambasts Hollywood rebuke over Scientology

RT 9 Jan 1997

By Erik Kirschbaum
BONN, Jan 9 (Reuter) - Chancellor Helmut Kohl on Thursday dismissed as "rubbish" an open letter from a group of American celebrities who accused Germany of persecuting Scientologists in the way Jews were persecuted under Hitler.
Kohl said he had no intention of replying to the letter, which was printed as a full-page advertisement in the Paris-based International Herald Tribune. He said it was signed by people who were only displaying their ignorance of Germany.
The letter, signed by actors Dustin Hoffman and Goldie Hawn, film director Oliver Stone and novelists Mario Puzo and Gore Vidal along with 21 other entertainment figures, urged Kohl to put "an end to this shameful pattern of organised persecution" which it compared to Nazi Germany's treatment of the Jews in the 1930s.
"They don't know anything about Germany and they don't want to either," Kohl told a news conference in Bonn. "Otherwise they wouldn't have talked such rubbish."
Kohl said he had not seen the letter addressed to "Dear Chancellor Kohl."
Asked if he planned to respond, he said: "No, I do not have any intention whatsoever of reacting. I haven't read the names of those who signed this thing. I have only heard about it."
Rudolf Scharping, the parliamentary leader of the opposition Social Democrats, backed Kohl.
"This letter is unacceptable, alone because of the scandalous comparison between today's Germany and Hitler's fascism," he told the newspaper Bild, which released an advance of his remarks to be carried on Friday.
The letter writers said they were not members of the Church of Scientology but were deeply concerned that Germany, and Kohl's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in particular, were harassing scientologists because of their religious beliefs.
The letter likened the Nazi book-burnings of the 1930s to the boycott last summer called by the CDU's youth wing against the 1996 Tom Cruise film "Mission Impossible" because Cruise is a Scientologist.
The letter also cited boycotts in Germany aimed at two other Scientologists -- actor John Travolta and musician Chick Corea -- because of their religious beliefs.
"In the Germany of the 1930s, Hitler made religious intolerance official government policy," the letter stated. "Jews were first marginalised, then excluded from many activities, then vilified and ultimately subjected to unspeakable horrors."
It added: "In the 1930s, it was the Jews. Today it is the Scientologists."
A spokesman for the International Herald Tribune in Paris said the advertisement was placed by Bertram Fields, a Los Angeles entertainment attorney who also signed the letter. The spokesman said a full-page ad typically costs $62,000.
Heber Jentzsch, president of the Church of Scientology International, said in a statement released in London that he hoped "Chancellor Kohl heeds their admonition to restore democratic principles in his country."
The German federal and regional governments agreed last month to a series of steps to counter what they called the Scientologists' "expansionist aims and claim to domination."
Authorities also agreed to consider putting Scientology under surveillance by the anti-extremist Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV).
"These acts are intolerable in any country that conceives of itself as a modern democracy," the letter said. "This organised oppression is beginning to sound familiar...like the Germany of 1936 rather than 1996. It should be stopped -- now, before it spreads and increases in virulence as it did before."
Bonn has published a booklet warning of what it says are the dangers of the Scientology organisation. Bavaria is making state employees fill out questionnaires about ties to the group. The group says it has 30,000 members in Germany but the government puts the figure between 10,000 and 20,000.


Germany rebuffs stars' accusations over Scientology

RT 10 Jan 1997

By Erik Kirschbaum
BONN, Germany (Reuter) - German political leaders Friday angrily rejected accusations leveled by a group of American celebrities that Germany was mistreating Scientologists in the same way Hitler persecuted Jews.
Editorialists and a leading member of the German Jewish community also denounced the authors of an open letter printed as a full-page advertisement in the Paris-based International Herald Tribune for likening contemporary Germany to Nazi Germany.
"Scientology is distorting history and harming the feelings of the victims of the Nazis when it equates the Holocaust with its treatment in Germany," Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel said.
"Scientology is not being persecuted in Germany," he told the Bild daily, one of many papers to carry front-page reports of the letter.
Labor Minister Norbert Bluem and Family Affairs Minister Claudia Nolte said it was tasteless and outrageous to compare modern Germany with the country under Nazi dictatorship.
"To compare our efforts to expose the machinations of Scientology with the methods of Hitler is nothing more than a display of coarse tastelessness towards the victims of Auschwitz," said Bluem, a frequent critic of Scientology.
The letter was signed by about two dozen American entertainment figures, including actors Dustin Hoffman and Goldie Hawn, director Oliver Stone, writers Mario Puzo and Gore Vidal and talk show host Larry King.
It urged Kohl to put "an end to this shameful pattern of organized persecution" which it compared to Nazi Germany's treatment of the Jews in the 1930s.
"It is disgraceful and irresponsible to draw such historical parallels that are completely out of touch with reality," said Michel Friedman, a board member of the Central Council of Jews in Germany. "It's totally off the mark."
"Today we have a democracy and a state based on the rule of law," he told ZDF television. "Then it was a dictatorship."
The German federal and regional governments agreed last month to a series of steps to counter what they called the Scientologists' "expansionist aims and claim to domination."
Authorities also agreed to consider putting Scientology under surveillance by the anti-extremist Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV).
Edmund Stoiber, premier in the state of Bavaria that has clamped down on Scientologists, called the letter an outrage.
"We will go after this organization with all our means, including the means of the BfV." Stoiber said. "And we will definitely keep dedicated Scientologists out of state jobs."
Chancellor Helmut Kohl said Thursday he had no plans to respond to the letter and added it was written by people who were only displaying their ignorance of Germany.
The letter-writers said they were not members of the Church of Scientology but were deeply concerned that Germany, and Kohl's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in particular, were harassing Scientologists because of their religious beliefs.
"To compare Jews and Scientology with Hitler's Germany and the federal republic is in fact obscene," commentator Josef Joffe wrote in the liberal Sueddeutsche Zeitung. "The federal republic as a totalitarian state of mass murderers?
"How narrow-minded these brains must be to hatch these sorts of comparisons."
The celebrities' letter likened the Nazi book-burnings of the 1930s to the boycott last summer called by the CDU's youth wing against the 1996 Tom Cruise film "Mission Impossible" on the grounds that Cruise is a Scientologist.
"They picked the highest address in Bonn and the lowest point in German history," wrote the Die Welt daily. "The result is the nastiest public attack against the federal republic."
Even the left-leaning Frankfurter Rundschau, no friend of Kohl's government, attacked the letter.
"The comparison with Hitler and the Nazis of the 1930s is completely off base," the paper wrote. "This is a free country and people can believe what they wish. But the comparison disqualifies the signers and is shameless demagoguery."
The Scientology group says it has 30,000 members in Germany but the government puts the figure between 10,000 and 20,000.


January 10, 1997; Friday 15:23 Eastern Time

Germany Lashes At Hollywood

TERRENCE PETTY
AP- Germany-Scientology

BONN, Germany

Germany lashed out at Hollywood on Friday, scolding Oliver Stone, Goldie Hawn and other celebrities for likening its treatment of Scientologists to Hitler's persecution of Jews.
''It is false to talk about a persecution of Scientology in Germany, ''' Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel was quoted by the Bild Zeitung newspaper as saying. ''When Scientology likens its treatment in Germany with the Holocaust, they are falsifying history.''
Labor Minister Norbert Bluem, Family Affairs Minister Claudia Nolte, and Rudolf Scharping, parliamentary leader of the opposition Social Democrats, made similar statements in a front-page Bild article Friday.
''The U.S. celebrities have insulted victims of the Nazis,'' Nolte said.

A Jewish leader agreed.

''Comparing the Third Reich's Final Solution ideology with the democratic realities of Germany today is absurd, historically wrong, politically irresponsible,'' Michel Friedman, of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, was quoted by the Berliner Zeitung newspaper as saying.

On Thursday, Chancellor Helmut Kohl chastised the celebrities who also include Dustin Hoffman and Larry King for signing a letter addressed to Kohl and published as a full-page ad in the International Herald Tribune.
The 34 signers told Kohl they are worried about ''the invidious discrimination against Scientologists practiced in your country and by your own party.''
In December, Germany said it would set up a central office to coordinate a federal and state campaign against the Church of Scientology, and would keep people linked to the group out of certain public jobs, such as counseling and teaching. Kohl's Christian Democratic Union has ousted party members because of their connection to Scientology.
''This organized oppression is beginning to sound familiar like the Germany of 1936 rather than 1996,'' the Hollywood letter said. ''Extremists of your party should not be permitted to believe that the rest of the world will look the other way. Not this time.
''We are not Scientologists, but we cannot just look the other way while this appalling situation continues and grows.''
The $56,000 advertisement was paid for by Los Angeles entertainment lawyer Bertram Fields. He said he acted after hearing about attempts by members of Kohl's party to organize a German boycott of last summer's blockbuster film ''Mission: Impossible'' because its star, Tom Cruise, is a Scientologist. Fields said he could not get any major German newspaper to publish the ad.
Kohl said the people who signed the ad ''know nothing about Germany and don't want to know.''
''Otherwise they wouldn't have concocted such a thing.''
The German government claims Scientology is largely a money-making organization with some traits of organized crime that seeks world domination and threatens democracy.
The U.S.-based church, which claims 30,000 members in Germany, denies it has political aims and accuses German officials of Nazi-like persecution.
The U.S. State Department, some members of Congress and the U.N. human rights commission also have criticized Germany's actions.

LOAD-DATE: January 10, 1997