January 31, 2008 / 4:56 PM / 10 years ago

Judge bans Holocaust-themed Rio Carnival float

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - A Brazilian judge barred a samba group on Thursday from featuring a Holocaust display and a dancer dressed as Adolf Hitler in its Carnival parade after fierce complaints from Jewish groups.

<p>A worker prepares a carnival float depicting the Holocaust, at the Viradouro samba school's warehouse in Rio de Janeiro January 28, 2008. REUTERS/Sergio Moraes</p>

State judge Juliana Kalichszteim ruled the Viradouro samba group, or school, would be subject to a $110,000 fine for the float and $28,000 for the Hitler impersonation if it went ahead with its original parade plan.

“Carnival should not be used as an instrument of hatred, any kind of racism and clear trivialization or barbaric and unjustified acts against minorities,” the judge said.

Viradouro planned to feature a tableau of a pile of dead model bodies when it marches in the Sambadrome stadium on Sunday night.

The globally televised parades, led by virtually naked Carnival queens and featuring thousands of dancers and drummers, are the highlight of the celebrations in Rio de Janeiro.

The official script also said an actor would pose as Nazi leader Hitler on the float.

<p>A worker prepares a carnival float depicting the Holocaust, at the Viradouro samba school's warehouse in Rio de Janeiro January 28, 2008. REUTERS/Sergio Moraes</p>

Viradouro officials said they have not yet received the judge’s ruling and would decide later whether to appeal.

The Israelite Federation in Rio de Janeiro state was the first to object earlier this week and was later joined by the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a prominent international Jewish human rights group.

Some six million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust, an extermination program carried out in World War Two by Nazi Germany.

“A guy dressed as Hitler atop a pile of dead Jews, that’s too much. It’s beyond the limits of common sense. There is no way we could accept that,” said Sergio Niskier, president of the Rio federation, hailing the judge’s decision.

Viradouro officials have said the float was “extremely respectful” and was meant as a warning about the horrors of the past so that they never happen again.

The school’s parade theme is “Shockers” and it includes floats depicting the shock of birth, the shock of horror and the shock of cold.

On Wednesday, another samba group agreed to remove the swastika symbol from uniforms that its dancers planned to wear in its Carnival parade about the predictions of Nostradamus after complaints from the Jewish federation. The Estacio de Sa group also said it would drop a section of the parade named after Hitler.

Writing by Andrei Khalip; Editing by Angus MacSwan and Alan Elsner

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