Brazil’s Culture secretary, Roberto Alvim, was fired on Friday, a day after his office posted a video on social media in which he quoted parts of a speech delivered by the Nazi propaganda boss, Joseph Goebbels.
The video was posted by the Special Culture Office of the Jair Bolsonaro administration to promote a national arts prize.
“Brazilian art in the next decade will be heroic and national,” said Alvim, with the Brazilian flag and a portrait of Bolsonaro in the background. The video played to Wagner’s Lohengrin, infamously said to be Hitler’s favorite opera.
The president of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, released a statement confirming the resignation of the secretary, arguing that it was no longer possible to keep him in office because of his “unfortunate pronouncement.”
Bolsonaro expressed his support to the Jewish community. “I reiterate our repudiation of totalitarian and genocidal ideologies, as well as of any kind of illation about them.”
After the video of Alvim sparked outrage, the now ex-secretary claimed that he was not familiar with the source of the sentence. He posted a statement on Facebook blaming his advisers for his “unintentional mistake.”
He argued that the sentence didn’t make any references to Nazism, and claimed that “the speech was written based on several ideas related to nationalist art, which were brought to me by advisers.” “If I had known the source of the sentence, I would have never had said it,” he wrote.
Backlash in Brasília
Alvim’s speech sparked backlash among politicians in the broad political spectrum in Brasília, the capital of Brazil. The speaker of the country’s lower house, Rodrigo Maia, and the president of the Senate, Davi Alcolumbre, called for the immediate resignation of the secretary.
“The Culture secretary crossed all the lines. It’s unacceptable. The Brazilian government must fire him immediately,” Maia said, before Alvim’s resignation.
“It’s completely unacceptable that, in this day and age, we have representatives that think like that. And even worse: that they use the position they may hold to express their sympathy for the Nazi ideology and, what’s most absurd, repeat the ideas of the Information and Propaganda minister of Adolf Hitler, who inflicted the worst blight to humanity,” Alcolumbre protested.
The opposition leader in the Senate, Randolfe Rodrigues, pointed out that there is nothing to celebrate in the resignation of Alvim. “There is nothing heroic about this decision. That’s meeting the duty of respecting democracy! Why did an official with Nazi inclinations felt comfortable in this government? We will remain watchful and standing up for the rule of law.”
After the backlash, the federal Culture office removed the video from its social media channels “in respect for all the citizens who were offended by the content recorded by the ex-secretary.”
Compare Goebbles and Alvim’s speeches:
“The German art of the next decade will be heroic, it will be steely romantic, it will be factual and completely free of sentimentality, it will be national with great pathos, and it will be mindful of its communal duty, or it will be nothing,” Goebbels said addressing stage directors, according to the book Goebbels: a Biography, by Peter Longerich.
“The Brazilian art of the next decade will be heroic and it will be national. It will be endowed with great ability to engage emotionally, and it will be equally imperative, as it will be deeply connected to the pressing aspirations of our people, or it will be nothing,” Alvim said in the video.