The Israeli government and the Auschwitz museum have accused a Spanish carnival of “trivialising” the Holocaust after a troupe danced through the streets of a small town dressed as Nazi officers and concentration camp prisoners, accompanied by a float bearing a menorah and two crematorium chimneys.
On Monday, the people of Campo de Criptana in the central Spanish region of Castilla-La Mancha celebrated carnival.
Among those taking part was El Chaparral Cultural Association, which staged the Holocaust-themed display.
According to a sign on one of the floats, the association intended its act to be a commemoration of the “6 million Jewish men, women and children who perished in the Holocaust and all those who suffered persecution and extermination because of their race, sexual orientation, religion, ethnic origin or political ideas”.
However, its tribute met with an angry response from the Israeli embassy in Madrid and from the Auschwitz memorial museum.
“We condemn the Campo de Criptana carnival’s vile and repugnant trivialisation of the Holocaust, which mocks the 6 million Jews murdered by the Nazis,” the embassy said in a tweet on Tuesday.
The museum, meanwhile, tweeted: “Hard to describe: memory upside-down, far beyond vulgar kitsch, without any relevance, without reflection & respect.
In a statement, the town council of Campo de Criptana said permission for the act had been granted on the understanding that it would honour the dead of the Holocaust.
“We share the criticisms that have been expressed,” it added. “If the aim was to commemorate the victims, it’s obvious the attempt fell short.”
According to the local Cadena Ser radio station, the town’s mayor said: “I agree that it doesn’t feel like a very carnival-type theme. I don’t think it will happen again.”
Earlier this month, the American Jewish Committee accused the pro-independence Catalan MEP Clara Ponsatí of trivialising the Holocaust and making “unacceptable” remarks after she used a speech in the European parliament to compare Spain’s expulsion of the Jews in 1492 with its treatment of the “Catalan minority” and suggest the mass banishment had inspired Hitler.
In its tweet on Tuesday, the Israeli embassy also said that European countries needed “to actively combat antisemitism”.
Two days prior, carnival organisers in the Belgian town of Aalst were criticised for allowing people to dress up in antisemitic costumes that depicted Jews with huge noses and as ants.
During last year’s three-day carnival in the Flemish town, floats depicted Orthodox Jews with hooked noses standing on sacks of gold coins. Israel’s foreign minister, Israel Katz, had called for the authorities to “condemn and ban this hateful parade in Aalst”. “Belgium as a western democracy should be ashamed to allow such a vitriolic antisemitic display,” Katz had tweeted.
Belgium’s prime minister, Sophie Wilmès, described the parade as an “internal affair”.
Last year, Unesco removed the Aalst carnival from its list of “intangible cultural heritage”, saying the festival had been guilty of “recurring repetition of racist and antisemitic representations”.