Mayor of city that hosted parade with antisemitic floats defends display

The latest Jewish News

Read this week’s digital edition

Click Here

Mayor of city that hosted parade with antisemitic floats defends display

Aalst's leader Christoph D’Haese says his city 'should be allowed' to run the event and 'carnival participants had no sinister intentions'

Jenni Frazer is a freelance journalist

A carnival float, which was paraded through the centre of a Belgian city, is guilty of Nazi-style antisemitism. (Credit: Pen News)
A carnival float, which was paraded through the centre of a Belgian city, is guilty of Nazi-style antisemitism. (Credit: Pen News)

The mayor of the Belgian city whose annual parade featured puppets of Jews and a rat, sitting on money bags, has defended the display, telling local media that “in Aalst it should be allowed.”

Christoph D’Haese told the Het Laatste Nieuws newspaper that “it’s not up to the mayor to forbid” such displays, and that “the carnival participants had no sinister intentions.”

Jewish groups and international organisations, including the European Commission, have condemned the float at the Aalst Carnival.

“It is unthinkable that such imagery is being paraded on European streets 70 years after the Holocaust,” a spokesperson from the European Commission, said.

B’nai B’rith International said it was “disgusted” with the anti-Semitic puppets” that were on display. The Simon Wiesenthal Centre’s director for international relations, Shimon Samuels, wrote to a Belgian Cabinet Minister saying that his group was “sickened” by the display.

The float, titled “Shabbat Year,” was prepared by the Vismooil’n carnival group. It featured two giant puppets with sidelocks and streimels, in pink suits. One, grinning while smoking a cigar, had a white rat on his right shoulder. Both puppets were standing on gold coins and had money bags at their feet.

On a wheeled platform directly behind the float, several dozen people dressed like the puppets danced to a song about full coffers that were “Jewishly beautiful” and about “getting extra fat.”

The annual carnival featuring the display was added in 2010 to the Representative List of UNESCO.

A spokesperson for the carnival group told a blogger last month that the display was meant to address how “everything has become so expensive.”

Vismooil’n created the display as its 2019 theme for the Aalst carnival, the local edition of celebrations that take place throughout parts of Europe and Latin America annually in anticipation of Lent.

In 2013, a different group designed a float resembling a Nazi railway wagon used to transport Jews to death camps. The people who designed the float, known as the FTP Group, marched nearby dressed as Nazi SS officers and Orthodox Jews. A poster on the wagon showed Flemish Belgian politicians dressed as Nazis and holding canisters labelled as containing Zyklon B, used by the Nazis to exterminate Jews in the Holocaust. UNESCO condemned that display.


Support your Jewish community. Support your Jewish News

Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.

For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.

Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.

You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.

100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...


Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.


There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.


In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.


Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish Newsalso produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.

Easy access

In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.

Voice of our community to wider society

The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.

We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.

read more: