Brazil minister quits over accusations of Nazi quotes


Brasília (AFP)

Brazil's culture secretary Roberto Alvim resigned on Friday over a speech in which he appeared to quote Adolf Hitler's propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels.

In a video, Alvim, a member of far-right President Jair Bolsonaro's government, announced a new arts funding program to the background of music by Richard Wagner, a composer many associate with Nazism.

"Brazil art over the next decade will be heroic and national," said Alvim, sitting behind a desk as he stared intensely at the camera, with a picture of Bolsonaro behind him, a Brazilian flag to one side and two-barred cross to the other.

"It will be endowed with a great capacity for emotional involvement and will also be imperative, because it will be profoundly linked to the urgent aspirations of our people, or it will be nothing," he said, speaking in Portuguese.

The wording was similar to phrases attributed to Goebbels in a biography written by German holocaust expert Peter Longerich and published originally in German in 2010.

"German art over the next decade will be heroic, it will be resolutely romantic, it will be objective and free of sentimentality," Goebbels was quoted in the book as saying in German.

"It will be national with great poignancy and also imperative or it will be nothing."

Having initially claimed any similarities between the two speeches were a "rhetorical coincidence," Alvim later stepped down.

"Given the huge discomfort caused by this unfortunate episode, I presented my immediate resignation," Alvim wrote on Facebook.

"I deeply repudiate any totalitarian regime and declare my absolute repugnance of the Nazi regime."

- 'There was a coincidence' -

Earlier Rodrigo Maia, the president of the House of Deputies, called for Alvim to be sacked over the speech, which lasted several minutes.

The Israeli Confederation of Brazil, which represents Jews in the country, described the comments as "unacceptable" and also demanded his removal.

Alvim initially blamed the furore on "the left" and said the similarities were "a fallacy of remote association."

"The whole speech is based on a nationalist ideal for Brazilian art and there was a coincidence with one phrase from a speech by Goebbels... I didn't quote him and I never would," he said.

However, Alvim admitted he was a fan of what Goebbels said.

"The phrase, in itself, is perfect: heroism and the people's aspirations is what we want to see in national art."

Bolsonaro described the speech on Twitter as "an unfortunate statement" and said it made Alvim's position "untenable."

The president too expressed "rejection of totalitarian and genocidal ideologies, such as Nazism and communism."

Alvim had struck an unexpectedly solemn tone in the speech, which announced the creation of an arts prize worth 20 million reais (around $5 million).

When taking on his current role in November, he promised to launch a "cultural war" against progressiveness and vowed to align public policy to conservative values.