A police report has been filed against the author of a biography about Adolf Hitler, while the German ambassador in Malta has condemned any attempts to belittle the Nazi leader’s crimes as being “erroneous to the extreme”, in addition to being illegal in many countries.
It follows widespread outrage after author Ronald Bugeja appeared on national broadcaster TVM to promote his book, Mein Führer Adolf Hitler – L-Istorja u l-Bijografija.
Bugeja said he had wanted to find out if there was anything good about Hitler, before claiming that the Nazi leader had no knowledge of the “atrocities” carried out during the second world war, and that Jews and Communists had “broken” Germany.
In a letter published in Times of Malta, German ambassador Walter Haßmann said the embassy had taken note of the discussions around the book. He said eminent historians and scholars had proven “beyond doubt” Hitler’s ultimate responsibility for the Holocaust and countless crimes against humanity.
“Of course, freedom of opinion is an important value and has to be protected and respected,” he wrote. “However, ill-guided attempts to attribute allegedly positive characteristics to Hitler and/or to belittle the enormity of his crimes are erroneous to the extreme.”
He said it was everyone’s responsibility to keep “the truthful memory alive”, and pointed out that “denial of the Holocaust constitutes a crime in Germany and 17 other European countries”.
Meanwhile, an anonymous member of the local Jewish community has filed a police report against Bugeja, citing the author’s actions as racist and Nazi in nature.
According to Article 82B of the Criminal Code, those who condone, deny or trivialise genocide and crimes against humanity in a manner that is likely to incite violence or disturb public order may be liable to a prison sentence between eight months to two years.
'Reprehensible' to glorify principal architect of Holocaust
Speaking on behalf of the Jewish community, Mushka Segal, a founder of the Chabad of Malta-Jewish Community Centre, said that it is consulting with its lawyers on whether to take legal action.
In a message to Bugeja, they said: “Stop promoting this hideous and dangerous propaganda, which has caused immense suffering to millions of people.”
She said anything promoting Nazism is “shocking and unacceptable” and that “glorifying or praising a person, who was the principal architect of the Holocaust, is without doubt reprehensible”.
Since the backlash, TVM has removed the episode of Ħajjitna Ktieb, presented by John Demanuele, while the book is no longer available on Agenda Bookshop’s website.
Demanuele has since apologised “to those who felt offended” by the programme’s content. “I apologise and I hope that we will not have episodes like this one in the future,” he said.
Earlier, PBS editor Charles Dalli said that the station found the promotion of Bugeja’s book to be unacceptable and that the programme has been put under review to address the issue. Dalli said that the producer typically informs PBS of the authors who are invited to the show but not the content, and that quality control had not flagged any issues with the programme.
However, Peppi Azzopardi, who was producer of prime time talk show Xarabank, which aired on TVM for 23 years, said that the national broadcaster’s quality control was only focused on local politics.
'All PBS cares about is the government looks good'
“TVM is only concerned, and they only check, the programmes that are discussion programmes and news to see if they are serving the government,” Azzopardi told Times of Malta. “All PBS cares about is that the government looks good but everything else goes. It is there to serve the state, not the people.”
Azzopardi referenced a time when he said he had to defy the broadcaster’s attempt to stop him from having former PN leader Simon Busuttil on Xarabank. “So they tried to censor Xarabank but then they don’t censor something like this? Just look at the irony!”
The National Book Council dissociated itself from the “author, this book and its contents”, while PEN Malta, an association of writers, said it was “shocked and disgusted” at TVM for serving as a “pulpit for Nazi ideas”.
Culture minister Owen Bonnici said any content directly or indirectly defending Hitler is “absolutely condemnable”.
Speaking to Lovin Malta, Bugeja stood by his book, saying its intention was not to offend. “I condemn all Nazi atrocities. I do not agree with them at all,” he said. “I felt terrible when I saw the headlines – I didn’t do the interview to promote Nazi propaganda but to explain the story with a new perspective.”