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Cllr David Schmitz accused of making 'Nazi slur' at Haringey Borough Council meeting
A councillor has been referred to his party's national standards board for refusing to apologise for a “Nazi slur” made at a Haringey Borough Council meeting.
Labour Councillor Joe Goldberg has accused Liberal Democrat Cllr David Schmitz of drawing an analogy between Hitler's Nazi regime and the council.
Cllr Schmitz referred to the authority’s “One Borough One Future” plan as “One Borough One Fuehrer” at a meeting last Wednesday.
In an open letter to the Liberal Democrats, Labour councillor Goldberg – who, like Cllr Schmitz, is Jewish – said he had “no option” but refer Cllr Schmitz to the national board after the local party failed to order an apology.
In the letter, Cllr Goldberg said: “Your "One Borough One Fuehrer" is a slur on the authority that attempts to equate our authority with that of Nazi Germany.”
The cabinet member for finance originally wrote to the Haringey Lib Dem leader Richard Wilson and the party’s whip Cllr David Beacham to “allow this sensitive and difficult issue to be dealt with appropriately”.
However, the letter was passed to Cllr Schmitz for him to respond directly to Cllr Goldberg.
Cllr Goldberg said: “Instead of the apology I had hoped to receive and which I think would have allowed us to put the matter to bed, I receive a hateful response accusing me of dishonoring ‘the dead to advance opportunistic ends’.
“I am now left with no choice but to make my own standards complaint and a complaint to your national leader Nick Clegg, and the Liberal Democrat party under your own complaints procedure.”
In the email to Cllr Goldberg, Cllr Schmitz defended his comments and said: “Humorous references to the trappings of the Third Reich have been a part of the tradition of European humour ever since Hitler first entered centre stage.
“To partake of this does not dishonour the memory of the victims of the Holocaust, a memory of which I am fully aware because my own grandfather was sent to Dachau in the immediate aftermath of the Austrian Anschluss.
“By contrast, some might say that what does dishonour the victims is the sight of politicians presuming to speak for the dead and the bereaved in order to advance their opportunistic ends.”
Cllr Schmitz said he failed to see how anything he said could possibly amount to an infringement of the councillors’ code of conduct.
He said: “I was of course referring, not to a person, but to a document.
“I made fun of the title of that document because I considered the title to be inept and easily prone to parody.”
Cllr Schmitz added: “Even if I had been referring to any individual or individuals, which repeat I did not do, the use of the term "fuehrer" these days will not taken by any sensible person as amounting to an accusation of National Socialism.
“It would be taken merely as a description of a leader who is overbearing.”
Liberal Democrat whip Cllr Dave Beacham said: “With an election coming up Labour are deliberately choosing to misrepresent this issue in a particularly unpleasant way.
"Cllr Schmitz was making a comment on the dictatorial and undemocratic nature of the council, not making light of extremism in any way - something he would not do and something I would not tolerate."
The Haringey Independent understands that a member of public has also made a complaint against Cllr Schmitz for his comments in the council chamber.
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