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German ministers lash out at Hollywood over Scientology accusations

January 10, 1997 GMT

BONN, Germany (AP) _ Germany launched an angry broadside today against Hollywood stars who used an international newspaper ad to compare its treatment of Scientologists to Hitler’s persecution of Jews.

``It is false to talk about a persecution of Scientology in Germany,‴ Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel said in an interview published today in the Bild Zeitung newspaper.

``When Scientology likens its treatment in Germany with the Holocaust, they are falsifying history,″ he added.

Making similar statements in the front-page Bild article were Labor Minister Norbert Bluem and Family Affairs Minister Claudia Nolte, as well as Rudolf Scharping, parliamentary leader of the opposition Social Democrats.

``The U.S. celebrities have insulted victims of the Nazis″ with the suggestion, Nolte said.

Chancellor Helmut Kohl lashed out Thursday at Dustin Hoffman, Goldie Hawn and other celebrities who signed a letter that was addressed to Kohl and published as a full-page ad in the International Herald Tribune.

The 34 signers said they are worried about ``the invidious discrimination against Scientologists practiced in your country and by your own party.

``This organized oppression is beginning to sound familiar ... like the Germany of 1936 rather than 1996. ... Extremists of your party should not be permitted to believe that the rest of the world will look the other way. Not this time.″

Kohl’s government announced in December that it would set up a central office to coordinate a federal and state campaign against the Church of Scientology and keep people linked to the group out of certain public jobs, such as counseling and teaching. Kohl’s Christian Democratic Union has ousted party members because of their connection with Scientology.

``We are not Scientologists, but we cannot just look the other way while this appalling situation continues and grows,″ the letter in the International Herald Tribune said.

The $56,000 ad was paid for by Los Angeles entertainment lawyer Bertram Fields. He said he began looking into the issue after hearing about attempts by members of Kohl’s party to organize a German boycott of last summer’s blockbuster film ``Mission Impossible″ because its star, Tom Cruise, is a Scientologist.

Kohl said the people who signed the ad ``know nothing about Germany and don’t want to know. Otherwise they wouldn’t have concocted such a thing.″

The German government claims Scientology is largely a money-making organization with some traits of organized crime that seeks world domination and threatens democracy.

The U.S.-based church, which claims 30,000 members in Germany, denies it has political aims and accuses officials there of Nazi-like persecution.

The U.S. State Department, some members of Congress and the U.N. human rights commission also have criticized Germany’s actions.

But Scharping, the parliamentary opposition leader who is frequently at odds with Kohl, agreed totally with the German chancellor.

``This letter is not acceptable, especially because of the scandalous comparison of today’s Germany with Hitler’s fascist rule,″ Scharping said.