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Posted Friday, February 9, 2001

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Thursday February 8, 2001

Author Criticizes Holocaust Claims

Associated Press Writer

BERLIN (AP) - An American author defended a book in which he contends that Jewish elites exploit the plight of Holocaust victims for profit - a thesis denounced by some here who fear it will stoke Germany's resurgent far right.

Norman Finkelstein, a 47-year-old New York academic, was in Berlin on Wednesday to promote the German edition of his book "The Holocaust Industry." The book argues that Jewish organizations use the Holocaust to "blackmail" European governments into paying compensation.

He already stirred controversy after a regional TV station pulled a documentary featuring his theories for fear of stoking anti-Semitism.

The program, originally due to run Monday, shows interviews with Finkelstein, Holocaust survivors and academics on how billions of dollars in compensation is handled by Jewish organizations. It is now to be shown later with modifications.

"I think it's shameful that Germany television will not let them be heard," Finkelstein said at a news conference organized by his Munich publisher.

"There's a kind of political correctness which makes difficult an open and honest discussion of the issues I raise," he said, acknowledging that the initial German reaction to his work has been "quite hostile."

That's not surprising, as the 234-page volume, priced at $18, is peppered with language that few Germans would dare to use in public, even the minority who complain it is time for Germany to stop apologizing for its dark past.

Jewish groups "wildly inflate" the numbers of Holocaust survivors, Finkelstein said Wednesday. "A handful of American Jews have effectively hijacked the Holocaust to blackmail Europe," he said.

The head of the Jewish community in Frankfurt, Salomon Korn, accused Finkelstein of spreading a "conspiracy theory," and criticized the publisher for releasing a "shabby" book.

Finkelstein said he strongly supports the principle of compensation and said he too was concerned that his work could be taken up by the far-right. But he argued that milking the suffering of the victims was even more damaging.

"The main fomenter of anti-Semitism is the Holocaust industry with its ruthless extortion tactics," he said.

The English original of Finkelstein's book was released last summer by a London publisher. The German edition went on sale Wednesday.square

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