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Friday August 10 10:10 AM ET

Provocative German Holocaust Denial Poster Removed

Nie HolocaustBERLIN (Reuters) - A German Jewish fund-raising group Friday pulled down posters apparently denying the Holocaust after they caused controversy across Germany and split opinion in the Jewish community.

The provocative posters declaring "The Holocaust never happened" against a serene lake and a mountain backdrop had hung from billboards and appeared in newspapers for three weeks.

Only much smaller text revealed the true message of a campaign designed to raise funds for a Berlin memorial to Jewish victims of the Nazis and to stir awareness of the Holocaust.

"There are still many people who make this claim. In 20 years there could be even more. Make a donation for the memorial for murdered Jews of Europe," reads the poster's text, written by the Foundation for the Memorial to the Murdered Jews.

The group said the poster, though well-meaning, had caused too much misunderstanding. It plans to continue its campaign with a far milder poster reading:

"The future requires memory -- get involved in the construction of the memorial to the murdered Jews of Europe."

The group, raising funds for a visitors' center next to the memorial, is still short of its two million mark ($900,000) target.

Jewish opinion was sharply divided over the original campaign, some groups suggesting the posters should be ripped down while others insisted they stay up.

Meanwhile, German prosecutors in Berlin are continuing to investigate whether the controversial slogan constitutes incitement to racial hatred. Denial of the Holocaust is illegal in Germany. Prosecutors in Berlin have received 11 complaints.

The German government has pledged 50 million marks ($23 million) to cover the building costs of the monument. The foundation behind the posters believes ordinary Germans should also contribute.

The memorial itself, designed by American architect Peter Eisenman, is scheduled to open by January 2004. Construction near Berlin's Brandenburg Gate will start later this year.

© 2001 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved.

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