Old Nazi benefits from some embarrassing Spanish practices

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The Independent Online
Considering he was one of Hitler's most loyal aides, things could be worse for Otto Ernst Remer. Last night, the ex-Waffen SS officer was sipping schnapps in a villa overlooking the Mediterranean at Marbella on Spain's Costa del Sol. The only inconvenience came in the shape of two policemen posted outside his door in case the 82-year- old were stupid enough to flee such de luxe house arrest.

The detention at Malaga airport on Wednesday of the man said to have saved Hitler from a 1944 assassination attempt was met more with disbelief than relief by most Spaniards, who wondered why he had been allowed to live in this country in style in the first place. Spanish Jews were incensed, insisting Mr Remer be extradited to Germany, where he faces a jail term for 'inciting hatred and racism.' They blamed a network of supporters of dictator Francisco Franco in the security forces and judiciary for making Spain 'a paradise for Nazi refugees'.

A young High Court magistrate with a reputation for rigid honesty, Baltasar Garzon, ordered Mr Remer into preventive detention on Wednesday on the basis of Interpol reports. But another judge, with a conservative reputation, quickly overturned the order and replaced it with house arrest, citing age and poor health.

The judge noted that what Mr Remer had been convicted of in Germany was not a crime in Spain and he should not therefore be extradited. Mr Remer's lawyer dropped a further bombshell by revealing that a request for political asylum was being considered.

'This man should be kicked out. He is one of those who have turned Spain into a base for churning out garbage in the form of books, pamphlets and films that try to pretend the Holocaust never happened,' said Violeta Friedman, a 64-year-old survivor of Auschwitz. 'He entered Spain illegally. He even gave an interview on Spanish state television in which he denied the Holocaust. If there was the political will, they would find a way to throw him out.'

Mr Remer was never charged with war crimes. But he continued in Nazi circles and was sentenced in Germany in October 1992 to 22 months' jail for denying the extermination of Jews. By the time his sentence was ratified, he had fled. He was seen earlier this year at a house in Barcelona with an Austrian neo- Nazi, Gerd Honsik.

Mrs Friedman who saw her entire family led to the gas chambers, won a test case here in 1991 when the Constitutional Court upheld her protest against the so-called 'Auschwitz Lie' publicly pronounced by another former SS officer living in Spain, Belgian Leon Degrelle.