Nazi comparison raises Wilders followers' hackles
Geert Wilders' anti-Muslim PVV is at risk of becoming like the Nazi-era NSB party, according to Dutch singer and performer Herman van Veen.
Following his warning he received thousands of hatemails from Wilders supporters "which contained very nasty things" after he had warned against the undemocratic structure of Wilders' Freedom Party. Geert Wilders issued a statement on Tuesday saying that he disapproves of any threats by his followers against Van Veen.
The Berlin Wall
Populist daily De Telegraaf reported on Monday about a speech which Van Veen, who is 64, gave at a a meeting in Utrecht to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Van Veen reminded his audience that the Freedom Party does not accept members and is financed only by donations, not by fees. "Such a party is a threat to democracy," he said.
On his own website, Herman van Veen explained his view. His remarks on Sunday were prompted by reminiscences of a politically controversial interview he gave in East Berlin in 1989, three weeks before the Wall fell. The East-German reporter got into trouble with the communist authorities over the interview. Looking back at those events,
"I expressed my concern about the old totalitarian systems and said we must make sure that the structure of political parties is based on democratic principles. I want to explain that the Freedom Party should not become like the NSB. The history of one person should not become the future of another. In my view, the Freedom Party is not a political party, but an association, a movement, where one single man decides. That is not democratic. Hence my concern.
The character of the thousands of reactions I am receiving is confirming my worries."
The NSB was the Dutch pro-Nazi party between 1931 and 1945.
Geert Wilders' lawyer, Bram Moszkowicz, said in a reaction on prime time TV that Van Veen's words are "farcical" and added, "I am tempted to use the words 'infamous' and 'abject'." The artist's remarks "are insulting two million people," Moskowicz added, in a reference to the estimated following of the Freedom Party. He warned against the danger of "demonising" Geert Wilders. "It could lead to an attack. Demonised people have been killed in the past," he said, referring to the assassination of popular maverick politician Pim Fortuyn in 2002.
The media-savvy lawyer refuted any hints to Nazi tendencies in the Freedom Party by pointing to a meeting Geert Wilders recently had in the US with prominent Jewish writer Elie Wiesel. "Wiesel would never have sat down with an NSB leader," Moszkowicz said.
So why is Wilders' Freedom Party a one-man band without party members? "If there was a membership, all kinds of shadowy figures would be able to destroy the Freedom Party from within," Moskowicz explained. Wilders himself has not reacted to the statements, the lawyer said, because he thinks everyone in the Netherlands is entitled to speak out in public.
Reactions on the Telegraaf website point out that Geert Wilders is constantly referring to his freedom of expression when making statements seen by many as hate-mongering. But when someone else, like Herman van Veen, uses that same freedom, Wilders' followers rise in anger. Respondents also claim that the entire row was caused by the Telegraaf's incorrect reporting of Van Veen's words.