Berlin police stop removal of urn that angered Jewish groups

The author Eliyah Havemann reattaches a previously dismantled steel plate to the controversial steel column of the artists’ collective “Centre for Political Beauty” (ZPS) opposite the Reichstag building in Berlin Germany, Sunday, Jan.5, 2019. Several activists have tried to dismantle the controversial steel column of the artists’ collective “Centre for Political Beauty” (ZPS) in Berlin. “One should not make art and politics with ashes of victims of the Holocaust,” Havemann told the dpa on Sunday, explaining the reasons. The police stopped the action and ZPS filed a complaint. (Paul Zinken/dpa via AP)

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BERLIN (AP) — Activists said Sunday that Berlin police prevented them from dismantling an art installation that angered Jewish groups after those who erected it claimed it contained Holocaust victims’ remains.

A group calling itself Performance Art Committee said about 20 of its members attempted to cut down a pillar holding an urn that was placed in front of the German parliament by the left-wing Center for Political Beauty last month.

The Performance Art Committee, which goes by the German acronym AKK, said its members include both Jewish and non-Jewish activists.

Berlin police spokesman Martin Halweg confirmed to The Associated Press that a member of the Center for Political Beauty had submitted a criminal complaint for property damage to police.

Officers at the scene recorded the identities of four people and then ordered them to leave the site, which they did, he said.

The pillar remains stable, Halweg added.

The International Auschwitz Committee condemned the installation last month.

Auschwitz survivors were “aghast at this installation, which hurts their feelings and the eternal peace of the dead of their murdered relatives,” the committee said.

The Center for Political Beauty, which is known for its provocative stunts, said the urn contained soil from 23 locations near Nazi death and concentration camps in Germany, Poland and Ukraine where the remains, including ashes, of Holocaust victims were dumped.

The group said it didn’t open any graves.

“We only looked for earth-covered human remains that were hidden by the Nazis in the surroundings of the former death camps,” it said last month.

Following a public outcry, the group issued a partial apology for hurting the feelings of Holocaust survivors and victims’ families, but defended the purpose of the stunt, which it said was to highlight the ongoing need to examine Germany’s Nazi past and the recent revival of the far right.

Jewish groups said that regardless of whether the urn contained actual remains, the stunt was a sign of deep disrespect to the victims.

Authorities ordered the pillar removed last month, but the Center for Political Beauty appealed the decision.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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