On January 31, a judge in Rio de Janeiro issued an order telling a group not to proceed with its plans to offer a float in the city’s Carnaval parade because the Holocaust-themed float depicted a heap of naked corpses and one or more dancing Adolf Hitlers.
"I think it’s in terribly bad taste," was the somewhat obvious conclusion of "sociologist and Carnaval scholar" Roberto DaMatta, who explained that a group’s choice of an unusual or even shocking theme might be explained by the festival’s "sacrilegious origins." He conceded, though, that this was a little outdated. "We’re not in the Middle Ages anymore," he said. "It doesn’t work in a modern society."
Besides being in bad taste, the theme also violated Brazilian laws prohibiting racism and the display of Nazi propaganda, which were the basis of the lawsuit by the Jewish Federation of Rio de Janeiro. "It’s inadmissible," said a spokesman, "that they could have a parade float depicting dead Jews and a live Hitler on top of them." The group responsible for the float insisted that it was consistent with its overall theme, "It Gives You Goose Bumps," noting that its other floats depicted the "shock of birth," fear, and cold. Its creative director, Paulo Barros, said he believed the float was a "very respectful" reminder of the Holocaust and was meant only as a reminder that it should not be repeated.
But the judge sided with the plaintiffs. Saying the float was a "trivialization of barbaric events," and that Carnaval "should not be used as an instrument of hatred," she said the group would be fined if it ignored her order and proceeded with its plans. The apparent plan to have multiple dancing Hitlers came in for special criticism. The decision reportedly threatened fines of $113,000 if the bodies (mannequins) were displayed, plus another $28,000 "for each dancer dressed as Hitler."
The group said it had never planned to have a dancing Hitler (let alone several), but refused to comment on the reference to that effect in the official parade description of the float.