Judge bans Holocaust float in Brazil

Source:ap.org Author:MICHAEL ASTOR Date:03/25/14 Click:

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil - There will be no simulated pile of naked, emaciated corpses — and no dancing Hitler — at the world's biggest street party.

A judge on Thursday blocked a carnival float meant to show that the Holocaust "gives you goose bumps."

Workers began dismantling the float to rebuild it for this weekend's parade, television footage showed. Viradouro, the top Rio samba group responsible for the float, said it was designed to remind carnival-goers of past horrors to prevent them from happening again.

But Jewish leaders were outraged. The Jewish Federation of Rio de Janeiro sued under federal laws prohibiting Nazi propaganda and racism in Brazil, said Lara Voges, a court spokeswoman.

"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.

The designer of the float, Paulo Barros, wept as workers tore it apart and said the group meant no disrespect by depicting holocaust victims.

"This an extremely serious work, and people think we're mocking," he said, tears streaming from his eyes. "We're going to speak now of the right to freedom."

Andreia Vieira, the artist who created the mound of dead bodies, called it "a major loss, a lot of money and labor spent." The club's percussion director, known as Master Cica, said the ban was a blow after months of preparation. "To get this court order in the final minute of the game is tremendously frustrating," he said.

Rio de Janeiro state Judge Juliana Kalichszteim called the float 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 to 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, 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 $113,000 if it ignored her order by parading with the mannequins and $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 thinks 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 the parade advocating condom use.

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Associated Press writer Peter Muello in Rio de Janeiro contributed to this report.

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