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Anti-Semitism in Norway: Renewed Concerns
The following letter was sent to the Norwegian ambassador to the United States expressing concern about several recent instances of anti-Semitism in Norway, including a nationally broadcast remark by a Norwegian entertainer who made deeply offensive statements about the Holocaust.

  December 29, 2008

His Excellency Wegger Chr. Strommen
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
Royal Norwegian Embassy
2720 34th Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20008

Dear Ambassador Strommen,

At the beginning of this year, on January 3, we wrote to you about unspecified expressions of concern we had received regarding anti-Semitism in Norway.  Today, however, we write to you about clear instances of anti-Semitism that have been broadcast nationally to the Norwegian people.

Otto Jespersen, a Norwegian entertainer, said on a November 27 program on TV2: “I would like to take the opportunity to remember all the billions of fleas and lice that lost their lives in German gas chambers, without having done anything wrong other than settling on persons of Jewish background.”  It was reported that a police complaint was made against Jespersen in the city of Bærum shortly thereafter, but we are not aware of the result of any investigation of the complaint.

We understand that Tore W. Tvedt, the founder of the neo-Nazi Vigrid group, was convicted under Norwegian hate speech law for saying in an interview that Jews “are parasites that must be wiped out.”  In that case, it was reported that the police had decided not to act on the complaint, but the state prosecutor overruled the police and decided to press charges.  Regardless of Jespersen’s attempt at humor, he clearly implied that Jews are even inferior to parasites.  We urge your government to ensure that this complaint too is taken seriously.

Appearing again on the same program on December 4, Jespersen apparently tried to make light of the accusation of anti-Semitism, but only exacerbated the situation with two classic anti-Semitic canards – accusations of usury and deicide:

    In all honesty, I have hardly met any Jews. But I suspect this will change, now that the financial crisis is in progress. Because just like many others I suppose I will soon also have to go to the pawnbroker.  (…)

    Finally, I would like to wish all Norwegian Jews a Merry Christmas… no, what am I saying! You don’t celebrate Christmas, do you!? It was you who crucified Jesus.
We call on your government to make clear that such anti-Semitic hate speech has no place in Norwegian society.  Following the publication of caricatures of Mohammed in the Norwegian paper Magazinit, it was reported that Foreign Minister Støre wrote:
    I am sorry that the publication of a few cartoons in the Norwegian paper Magazinet has caused unrest among Muslims. I fully understand that these drawings are seen to give offence by Muslims worldwide. (…) Let it be clear that the Norwegian government condemns every expression or act which expresses contempt for people on the basis of their religion or ethnic origin.
Though ADL defended the right of the media to print those caricatures, we also believe that the principle of non-discrimination in government policy toward minorities is also an important principle.  As a matter of equal treatment, we urge your government to speak out against Jespersen’s expressions of anti-Semitism, so it is clear to the Norwegian public that such hate speech is unacceptable and so it is clear to the Norwegian Jewish community that their rights will be protected.

We look forward to your earliest response.


Abraham H. Foxman
National Director
Anti-Defamation League

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Related Press Release
Renewed Concern About Anti-Semitism in Norway
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