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Lib Dem councillor refuses to apologise for ‘Nazi slur’

Harringay councillor David Schmitz has landed himself in hot water. Picture: Tony Gay Harringay councillor David Schmitz has landed himself in hot water. Picture: Tony Gay

Wednesday, March 5, 2014
6:30 AM

A Lib Dem councillor has been referred to his party’s national standards board for refusing to apologise for a “Nazi slur” he made in the council chamber.

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Councillor Joe Goldberg has taken the complaint to the Lib Dem's national board.Councillor Joe Goldberg has taken the complaint to the Lib Dem's national board.

Cllr Joe Goldberg, who is cabinet member for finance, has said he was left with “no option” but to refer Cllr David Schmitz’s “One Borough, One Fuhrer” comment made at February’s Full Council meeting to the national board after the local party failed to elicit an apology from the latter.

The comment was intended to poke fun at the One Borough, One Future scheme - which has been Cllr Goldberg’s pet project.

In an open letter, Labour councillor Goldberg - who is Jewish, like Cllr Schmitz - said it was not acceptable for “an elected councillor to make comparisons between their democratically elected authority and the regime of Nazi Germany”.

He said the comment was a “Nazi slur”.

Cllr Goldberg had first written privately to Haringey Lib Dem leader Richard Wilson and Cllr David Beacham - the local party whip - “to allow this sensitive and difficult issue to be dealt with appropriately”.

“[But] instead of the apology I had hoped to receive and which I think would have allowed us to put the matter to bed, I receive a hateful response accusing me of dishonoring ‘the dead...to advance...opportunistic ends’.”

In his initial email to Cllrs Wilson and Beacham, Cllr Goldberg described the comments as a “rather insensitive and ill-judged attempt at humour”.

But then it was referred back to Cllr Schmitz for response - and that seems to have escalated the problem.

Cllr Schmitz wrote: “Humorous references to the trappings of the Third Reich have been a part of the tradition of European humour ever since Hitler first entered centre stage.

“To partake of this does not dishonour the memory of the victims of the holocaust, a memory of which I am fully aware because my own grandfather was sent to Dachau in the immediate aftermath of the Austrian Anschluss.

“By contrast, some might say that what does dishonour the victims is the sight politicians presuming to speak for the dead and the bereaved in order to advance their opportunistic ends.”

This is the second time comments made at Full Council have provoked a later complaint. As the Broadway previously reported, Cllr Schmitz’s fellow Lib Dem Cllr Juliet Solomon was forced to apologise after she was accused of making a “racist” comment at November’s meeting.

However, the local party is standing behind Cllr Schmitz - instead accusing the Labour group of using the comment for their own political ends.

Cllr Beacham told the Broadway: “With an election coming up Labour are deliberately choosing to misrepresent this issue in a particularly unpleasant way.

“Cllr Schmitz was making a comment on the dictatorial and undemocratic nature of the council, not making light of extremism in any way - something he would not do and something I would not tolerate.’’

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