Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Germans Call Scientology Protest 'Distortion'

BONN -- German political leaders on Friday angrily rejected accusations by American celebrities that Germany was oppressing Scientologists in the same way as Hitler persecuted Jews.

Editorial writers and a leading member of the German Jewish community also denounced the writers of a letter printed as a full-page advertisement in the Paris-based International Herald Tribune for likening contemporary Germany to Nazi Germany.

"Scientology is distorting history and harming the feelings of the victims of the Nazis when it equates the Holocaust with its treatment in Germany," Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel said.

"Scientology is not being persecuted in Germany," he told the Bild daily, one of many papers to carry front-page reports of the letter.

Labor Minister Norbert Bluem and Family Affairs Minister Claudia Nolte said it was tasteless and outrageous to compare modern Germany with the country under Nazi dictatorship.

The letter, signed by Dustin Hoffman, Goldie Hawn, Oliver Stone, Mario Puzo, Gore Vidal and Larry King along with other entertainment figures, urged Kohl to put "an end to this shameful pattern of organized persecution."

"It is disgraceful and irresponsible to draw such historical parallels that are completely out of touch with reality," said Michel Friedman, a Central Council of Jews in Germany board member.

The German federal and regional governments agreed last month to a series of steps to counter what they called the Scientologists' "expansionist aims and claim to domination."

Authorities also agreed to consider putting Scientology under surveillance by the anti-extremist Office for the Protection of the Constitution, or BfV.

Edmund Stoiber, premier in Bavaria, which has clamped down on Scientologists, called the letter an outrage.

"We will go after this organization with all our means, including the means of the BfV." he said.