En Guard!

Top Chilean newspaper pays tribute to Nazi leader Hermann Göring  –


By David E. Kaplan

As a Jew staring at this full page illustrated article in a South American newspaper one feels compelled to ask:


Not so must why ‘the article’ was written – although that’s a fair question  – but rather why should one of the largest newspapers in Chile publish it?  After all, it was more than just a featured article about a high-profile character from the Second World War but  a tribute, replete with homely photographs to none other than a monster responsible for the death of millions of Jews –  Hitler’s right hand man, Hermann Göring.

Eulogising a Nazi. Part of the 2-page spread in Chili’s largest newspaper El Mercurio on Hermann Göring  on the ‘occasion’ of the 75th anniversary of his death.

What a sad sign of the times! After some eight decades after the Holocaust, antisemitism is being freely expressed publicly and violently. Classic anti-Semitic tropes like “Jews to the gas” and “Hitler should have finished the job” are common in conversation and print.

Add to this toxic amalgam, Jews are being physically attacked and murdered. 

Only this week in France, two men went on trial over the horrific murder in 2018 of an elderly Jewish woman, Mireille Knoll. Having escaped the notorious roundup and deportation of Jews in Paris in 1942, Knoll would  in  2018 be butchered and burned instead at her home in Paris for the same reason – because she was a Jew! One of the accused had been heard “talking about Jews’ money and their wealth” and that he shouted “Allahu Akbar” while stabbing her eleven times before setting her apartment on fire.

Death in Paris. 85-year-old Mireille Knoll survived the Holocaust only to be murdered at home in Paris – only because she was a Jew!

So, instead of boarding a train and ending in the ovens in Auschwitz, she ended up with the same fate at home.  

Again, earlier this year, Kobili Traoré, a Muslim of Malian origin murdered Sarah Halimi, his Jewish neighbour, a 65-year-old, former kindergarten director by throwing her out her from her flat in north-east Paris. While the attack lasted between 20 and 30 minutes with  Traoré chanting verses from the Koran and shouting “Allahu Akbar”  (God is greatest), he escaped a trial because it was said he was high on marijuana. Whether high or not, it was a low point in French justice – when again it comes to Jews.

French Justice! Top French court declined to prosecute Jewish woman’s killer because he was on weed. Sarah Halimi was beaten before she was thrown off her Paris apartment building’s roof in April 2017. (Courtesy of the Halimi family)

Is it any wonder we are hearing so much French these days on the streets of Israel?

The ‘tribute feature’ which appeared on the Oct. 24, 2021, edition of Chile’s El Mercurio newspaper was timed to coincide with the 75th anniversary of Göring’s death. It read more like celebrating than historically recording the anniversary. Focusing on the Nazi leader’s youth, his military career and close relationship to Adolf Hitler, it read like a eulogy. The full-page illustrative spread on the General’s career included details about his love life, making only a passing mention of his crimes. They were not only “war crimes” but “crimes against humanity”, which he was convicted in Nuremburg and sentenced to death.

It only went to show what El Mercurio thought was of importance or what it felt was of more  – or less – interest to its readers!

Close-Up on a Mass Killer. Details of the Chile’s El Mercurio feature showing Hermann Göring  standing side-by-side with Adolf Hitler followed by accounts of his youth. (Screenshot via JTA)

No lightweight paper, the Santiago edition El Mercurio is considered the country’s newspaper of record and the oldest daily in the Spanish language currently in circulation.

Why would such a newspaper  publish such an article?  Did it feel – in today’s times of spirally global antisemitism – so totally comfortable in doing so? In a statement posted to Twitter, the organisation representing the Jewish Community of Chile called the article “an apology for Nazism” and in case there was no misunderstanding, Germany’s embassy in Santiago went public in expressing it abhorrence. While “it was not customary for the Embassy to comment on newspaper articles”, it felt obliged to tweet that, “…we just want to make it very clear: this man H.Göring committed human rights crimes and was one of the pillars of the Nazi regime. There is no room to justify or minimise, morally or politically, his horrific role during the Nazi regime or the Holocaust.”

Advocate of Hate. Is this a man to eulogise – Hermann Goering, one of the highest-ranking Nazi leaders, second only to Hitler in the party hierarchy?

Compounding its complicity in spreading antisemitism, El Mercurio in a short reply to a letter chastising the piece as a “direct affront” to the victims of the Holocaust, responded that it “deeply regretted” that the piece had been interpreted as such.

How else does El Mercurio – hardly an inexperienced publication founded in 1827 – think it should have been “interpreted”?

Maybe we should have little expectation from this Chilian newspaper when one need look no further than how the Chilian government has behaved in the past vis-à-vis cozying up to Nazis. Remember SS Walter Rauff who was instrumental in the construction and implementation of the mobile gas chambers responsible for killing an estimated 100,000 people during World War II? Later, this Nazi’s wartime experiences included persecuting Jews in Vichy France-controlled Tunisia during 1942 and 1943 and then overseeing Gestapo operations in northwest Italy where he  gained a reputation of ruthlessness for his indiscriminate execution of both Jews and local partisans. After he was arrested in Chile in 1962, he was freed by the country’s Supreme Court and the Chilean dictator, Augusto Pinochet, repeatedly resisted calls from West Germany for Rauff’s extradition. When Rauff died in Chile in 1984, German and Chilean mourners at his funeral gave Nazi salutes and chanted “Heil Hitler”.

From Evading Justice to Evading News Coverage. The crimes for which Hermann Wilhelm Göring was convicted and sentenced to death at Nurenberg (above), were mostly ignored  in the El Mercurio feature spread.

We live in uncertain and unsettling times where today’s global culture is rife with violent bigotry, misguided nationalism and antisemitism. The rhetoric is nothing new – grounded in the attitudes and values from the 1930s and the 1940s in Europe and the United States.

Instead of guarding today against such resuscitated trends, El Mercurio contributes to its lethal longevity.

How easy it is to trivialize the Holocaust to the point of questioning whether it even happened. A recent example reported NBC News is that of a school administrator in Texas, Gina Peddy, who instructed teachers that if they teach a book about the Holocaust, they should “make sure you have one that has opposing, that has other perspectives.”

WHAT? one teacher questioned in disbelief:

How do you oppose the Holocaust?”

Quite easy if you have respected well-established newspapers like Chili’s El Mercurio eulogising monsters like Hermann Göring!

While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO).

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