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Brazil's Culture Minister Fired For Using Language Similar To Nazi Joseph Goebbels

Roberto Alvim claims he accidentally plagiarized the Third Reich propaganda minister.

Posted on January 17, 2020, at 2:36 p.m. ET

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Brazil’s secretary of culture has been fired after using phrases from an infamous speech by Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels in a recent video, in which one of Adolf Hitler’s favorite operas was also playing in the background.

President Jair Bolsonaro announced that Roberto Alvim would be dismissed from his position on Friday after outcry from politicians and organizations across the country.

In a video posted to social media announcing a national art award, Alvim invoked ties between art and nationalism.

“Brazilian art of the next decade will be heroic and will be national,” Alvim said, adding that it would be tied to the aspirations of the people, "or else it will be nothing.”

Playing in the background of the video is music from the opera Lohengrin, composed by Richard Wagner, who is often associated with Nazism. It was also a favorite of Hitler’s.

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Alvim’s phrasing was eerily similar to a 1930s speech from Goebbels.

“German art in the next decade will be heroic, steely but romantic, factual without sentimentality; it will be nationalistic, with great depth of feeling; it will be binding and it will unite, or it will cease to exist,” Goebbels said.

After the parallels to a Goebbels speech were discovered, Alvim gave an interview insisting he was not a Nazi, denying he was knowingly quoting the Third Reich leader, and claiming he had accidentally plagiarized the words.

“That phrase fell on my desk, I didn’t know it was from Goebbels and I rewrote it,” Alvim told Brazilian news outlet Rádio Gaúcha, adding that it was a “rhetorical coincidence.”

The incident plays into broader accusations against Brazil’s far-right president for perceived fascist leanings. Bolsonaro has praised the country’s former military dictatorship, opposes immigration, and has made disparaging comments about indigenous groups, women, and the LGBTQ community.

In the video, which has since been removed from Twitter, Alvim sits next to a Brazilian flag and beneath a framed picture of Bolsonaro.

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Dr. Joseph Goebbels speaks at a Nazi meeting in 1936.

After it was published, Alvim’s video was renounced across Brazil.

Conib, the Brazilian Israelite Confederation, issued a statement calling the use of a Nazi speech “unacceptable.”

“Emulating the vision of Hitler's Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels is a frightening sign of his vision of culture, which must be countered and contained,” Conib said. “Goebbels was one of the leading leaders of the Nazi regime, which employed propaganda and culture to misrepresent the hearts and minds of Germans and Nazi allies to the point of committing the Holocaust, the extermination of 6 million Jews in Europe, among so many other victims.”

The German embassy in Brazil also released a statement denouncing any indulgence of Nazi ideology.

“The period of national socialism and the darkest chapter in German history brought infinite suffering to mankind. Germany retains its responsibility,” the embassy said. “We oppose any attempt to trivialize or even glorify the era of National Socialism.”

And Rodrigo Maia, president of Brazil’s lower house, wrote on Friday that Alvim had “gone beyond all limits” and the “Brazilian government should urgently remove him from office.”

Bolsonaro on Friday also said that his government “repudiates totalitarian and genocidal ideologies."

Tatiana Farah and Guilherme Lúcio Rocha contributed reporting to this article.

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