Brazil’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, fired his secretary of culture, Roberto Alvim, after Alvim released a video on his Twitter account on Thursday, January 16, in which he quotes a speech by Joseph Goebbels, who served as the minister of propaganda for the Third Reich from 1933 to 1945. The Rio Times reports that Alvim made the six-minute video to announce a new National Arts Award.
“The Brazilian art of the next decade will be heroic and will be national; it will be endowed with great capacity for emotional involvement and deeply linked to the urgent aspirations of our people, or else it will be nothing,” Alvim says in the video. According to the BBC, Alvim lifted some of the words from a speech by Goebbels that is published in Goebbels: A Biography (2010) by German historian Peter Longerich, the founder of the Holocaust Research Center at the University of London.
Goebbels originally said: “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 committed, or it will be nothing.” In addition, the music playing in the background of the video is from the opera Lohengrin by Wagner, who is notorious for his anti-Semitism and admiration by the Nazis.
The video resulted in a swift and fierce backlash from the Brazilian public. In a statement, Bolsonaro said Alvim’s position had become untenable following his “unfortunate remarks.” He added: “I reiterate our rejection of totalitarian and genocidal ideologies.” Bolsonaro dismissed Alvim on Friday, less than twenty-four hours after the release of the video.
Alvim defended his statement on social media. On Facebook, he wrote that “the left is making a fallacious remote association” between the two speeches. He also claimed that the similarities between them are a mere coincidence and that the outrage over his words is part of an attempt to discredit the award. “There’s nothing wrong with the sentence,” he wrote.
In a separate, more recent post, Alvim argued that he didn’t know the origin of the words and that his statement was written from “various ideas related to national art, brought to me by advisors.” He then asked for forgiveness from the Jewish community and declared that he is putting his “position at the disposal of President Jair Bolsonaro in order to protect him.”