OPINION: Spain’s foolish politicians need a history lesson on the true horrors of the Holocaust

This week in Spain a politician likened the Catalan independence cause to the plight of Anne Frank. Another compared their political opponent to war criminal Adolf Eichmann. Have they all lost the plot or do they just need a reminder of the true horrors of Nazi Germany, writes Matthew Bennett.

OPINION: Spain's foolish politicians need a history lesson on the true horrors of the Holocaust
Can those struggling for Catalan independence be compared to Anne Frank? Image from the Westerbork Remembrance Centre in Hooghalen, Netherlands.
Maybe it was listening to John Major being interviewed by Nick Robinson on his BBC podcast, Political Thinking.
Or maybe that was just the first time I was aware of the thought. Then, when José-Maria Aznar went back to Congress in September for a generational clash with Gabriel Rufián, a younger—and ideologically opposed—MP who grilled the former Prime Minister at a commission, I had the thought again. Even Tony Blair sounded reasonable on Brexit. Perhaps it was just me getting slightly older and slightly wiser about the ways of the world.
But then this past week it went right off the scale and left me convinced that the newer younger generation of politicians has lost contact with reality.
First, a clip appeared of Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias chatting with another gentleman, Jaume Asens (who is now going to run as a Podemos Catalonia candidate at the general election), on Iglesias's online talk show, La Tuerka. They appear to be enjoying the experience, musing about the law and totalitarianism, when Asens brought up the leader of Ciudadanos, Albert Rivera. “Rivera could be…”, he began to wonder out loud. Mr. Iglesias finished the sentence for him, with a giggle: “…Eichmann”. Exactly, responded Asens: “Rivera is Eichmann”. “We all have a bit of Eichmann inside us”, he continued.

Second, the current spokeswoman for the regional government in Catalonia, Elsa Artadi, published a tweet, with a little yellow separatist ribbon, and a quote she said was from…Anne Frank's diary. “We are not allowed to have our own opinion”, wrote Artadi: “People want us to keep our mouth shut, but that doesn't stop you from having your own opinion. Everyone must be able to say what they think”.

Artadi's version—a misquote compared to the original—was, she said, “very appropriate for today”, and she got in a reference to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. According to the Catalan separatist narrative, of course, Junqueras, Forcadell and the rest are on trial at the Supreme Court for their opinions, not what they are accused of doing.
Iglesias giggling about Albert Rivera being Adolf Eichmann and Artadi comparing Catalan separatism to Anne Frank's torment. This must stop.
Iglesias holds a doctorate in political science. Artadi holds a doctorate in development economics from Harvard University. They are both, in theory, intelligent political leaders.
“Shameful”, was the Israeli Embassy's response to Artadi's Anne Frank tweet. Quite right.
Do Iglesias and Artadi really need reminding who Eichmann was and what he was responsible for? “I will leap into my grave laughing because the feeling that I have five million human beings on my conscience is for me a source of extraordinary satisfaction”, he said, according to one of the prosecutor's at his trial.
Do we need to dust off the history books and dig out more quotes? Let's just grab a random interesting one, of the hundreds available, “The Nuremberg Interviews”, by Leon Goldensohn, who was an American psychiatrist at Nuremberg. One of the chapters is about Rudolf Hoess, the commandant of Auschwitz, who appeared as a witness at that trial.
“In about 1945, Eichmann had to submit a report to Himmler”, Hoess told Goldensohn: “because Eichmann was the only one who had to save the numbers for Himmler. Eichmann told me before he went to Himmler that in Auschwitz alone 2.5 million people were killed by gassing. It is quite impossible to give an exact figure”.
The Nazis had built a death factory so efficient that it was overloaded with corpses to dispose of: “Burning two thousand people took about twenty-four hours in the five stoves”, said Hoess, the man in-charge of it all: “Usually we could mange to cremate only about seventeen hundred. We were thus always behind in our cremating…”.
Comparing a political opponent in a modern democracy to a monster such as Eichmann is vile. Comparing the “plight” of Catalan separatists on trial according to the procedures of the rule of law at a Supreme Court to the torment Anne Frank suffered is pathetic.
Hanna Arendt, who covered Eichmann's trial in 1961 for The New Yorker, famously described “the banality of evil”.
Perhaps we should now have a serious debate about the frivolity of fools in 21st Century politics, detached from reality, always striving for the latest cool tweet or viral video during an election campaign, the latest stupid stunt in parliament to get on the lunchtime news, or, as we have seen with Catalan separatism, a whole sub-culture of imaginary unreality, an entire make-believe worldview sold to two million supporters as a plausible political option by a man who ran away to Belgium and pretends his house is the seat of the new republic.

Matthew Bennett is the creator of The Spain Report. You can read more of his writing on Patreon, and follow him on Twitter. Don't miss his podcast series with weekly in-depth analysis on Spain.


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Air-con, ties and lights: How Europe plans to save energy and get through winter without blackouts

In the face of possible energy shortages due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, countries around Europe are taking action to cut their energy use and ensure that the lights remain on this winter. Here's a look at some of the rules and recommendations that governments are introducing.

Air-con, ties and lights: How Europe plans to save energy and get through winter without blackouts

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and ensuing sanctions has seen energy prices soar, while the Russian leader is also threatening to cut off gas supplies to the west in retaliation for the sanctions.

All this means that countries around Europe face a difficult winter and the prospect of energy shortages – so many are already taking action to stockpile gas and cut energy usage.

Here’s a roundup of what actions are being taken. 


Heavily dependant on Russian gas, Germany is already feeling the effects of the energy squeeze, with many households and businesses turning down the thermostat or dimming the lights as gas storage facilities are being filled at a slower pace.

RulesEarly in July, Germany’s lower house of parliament or Bundestag passed a plan to turn off the hot water in its offices and keep the air temperature no higher than 20C in the winter. This limit is merely recommended for households.

However homeowners will not be allowed to heat private pools with gas “this winter”, according to government plans, while a regulation requiring minimum temperatures in rented homes is expected to be suspended “so that tenants who want to save energy and turn down the heating are allowed to do so”.

As well as national rules, many German cities have also adopted their own energy-savings plans.

The Bavarian city of Augsburg, for example, has turned off its fountains, dimmed the facades of public buildings at night and is debating switching off some under-used traffic lights – and a housing cooperative in Dresden made national headlines when it announced it would limit hot water to certain times of day.

With certain exceptions, public buildings in Berlin will not have heating from April to the end of September each year, with room temperatures limited to a maximum of 20C for the rest of the year. In areas such as warehouses, technical rooms, corridors, the maximum will range from 10 to 15C.

Private enterprise has been getting in on the act too – Vonovia, Germany’s largest property group, plans to limit the temperature in its 350,000 homes to a maximum of 17C at night.

The head of consumer chemicals group Henkel has said that work-from-home practices may be reintroduced, while chemicals giant BASF has raised the possibility of putting its employees on furlough.

Recommendations – Economy Minister Robert Habeck has made headlines for extolling the virtues of shorter, colder showers.


France has an ambitious plan to cut its energy usage by 10 percent within two years and a government plan for sobriété énergétique (energy sobriety) is expected by September.

In the meantime, some rules have already been put in place while there are also some official recommendations. The general principle is that changes will be obligatory for government buildings and businesses, but voluntary for private households. 

Rules – In 2013, a law obliging businesses to switch off outside lights by 1am came into force. That deadline may be brought forward and towns and villages may have to switch off streetlights earlier – some areas have already taken this decision.

Shops that have air conditioning may not leave their doors open, so that less energy is lost.

Limits have been suggested for heating and air conditioning – keep heating to a maximum of 19C and air con to a minimum of 26C at the height of summer. The Prime Minister says she ‘expects’ government buildings to show an example and adhere to these, but they are voluntary for households.

Meanwhile, the heads of large supermarket chains in France have made a voluntary agreement for all stores to employ energy-saving techniques, such as turning off electric signs at closing times, reducing light usage, and managing store temperatures, from October 15th this year. They will also cut lighting by half before opening time, and by 30 percent during “critical consumption periods”.

Additionally, they will “cut off air renewal at night” and “lower the temperature in outlets to 17C this autumn and winter, if requested by a regulatory authority”.

Recommendations – The government has urged individuals to adopt energy-saving practices – by switching off wifi routers when on holiday, turning off lights, unplugging electric appliances when not in use, and lowering the air-con.

France’s energy transition minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher has urged people to keep heating to a maximum of 19C and air con to a minimum of 26C at the height of summer.


Spain has introduced perhaps the most wide-ranging set of rules in its new energy-saving bill, which comes into force on August 10th.

Public buildings as well as shops, restaurants, cafés, supermarkets, transport hubs and cultural spaces must:

  • Set heating and cooling temperatures to limits of 19C and 27C respectively;
  • Install doors that automatically close by September 30th to prevent energy waste, as can happen with regular doors that are left open;
  • Lights in shop windows must be turned off by 10pm;
  • Posters must be put up to explain the energy saving measures in every building or establishment, and thermometers must be displayed to show the temperature and humidity of the room.

READ ALSO: Is it realistic for Spain to set the air con limit at 27C during summer?

Recommendations – the above rules do not apply to private homes, but it is recommended to follow the heating and cooling limits.

Meanwhile, working from home is recommended for large companies and public administration buildings to help “save on the displacement and thermal consumption of buildings”, Spain’s Minister for Ecological Transition Teresa Ribera said.

And have you thought about your outfit? Here’s Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez explaining why he’s ditching his tie to stay a little bit cooler.


Back in April the Italian government approved limits on the use of air conditioning in public offices and schools from May 1st, to save energy and wean itself off reliance on Russian gas imports.

At the time Ministers said that Italy would be able to end its reliance on Russian gas within 18 months, after previously giving a timeframe of at least two years.

Rules – In public buildings, energy use will be measured in individual rooms of each building – the temperature must not exceed 19C in winter and cannot be any lower than 27C in summer, with a margin of tolerance of two degrees – meaning the lowest allowed temperature is actually 25C.

Fines for non-compliance with the rules are said to range from €500 to €3,000. The measure does not currently apply to clinics, hospitals and nursing homes.

Italy has long had rules in place limiting the usage of heating in homes and public buildings during winter. Northern and mountainous areas are allowed to switch on the heat in October, while some parts of the south can’t turn up the dial until December.

Even then, there are limits on how long you’re allowed to keep the central heating on each day, ranging from six hours in the warmest parts of the country to 14 hours in chillier regions.

And there are rules on maximum temperatures – private homes, offices and schools should not be heated to more than 20C, with a 2C tolerance. Meanwhile factories and workshops should generally be kept at 18C.


The Austrian government has said it will work on measures to encourage energy saving among households and businesses while putting a cap on electricity prices.

The aim is to “support the Austrian population to ensure unaffordable energy supply for a certain basic need”, according to a government statement. 

The government didn’t give details on the price cap but said that conditions would be developed by the end of August.


Sweden has announced no new measures in response to the energy crisis, but already has certain limits in place. 

Many Swedish apartment buildings and housing cooperatives have a strict maximum heating limit of 21C indoors and in some buildings radiators have a limiter on them so they cannot be turned too high.

In Denmark, too, the government has introduced no specific new measures.


In common with other countries, Switzerland is at risk of a gas shortage this winter and the government has warned that restrictions on consumption during the coldest months cannot be excluded.

Nearly half of its annual supply is of Russian origin. “We are not an island, so the war in Ukraine and the global energy crisis also affect Switzerland,” Energy Minister Simonetta Sommaruga said at the end of June. “In this context, there is no certainty about what awaits us.”

The possibility that Swiss households will have to turn down the thermostat this winter is very real. 

In the event of an actual shortage, “consumption restrictions may be ordered, for example restrictions on the heating of unoccupied buildings. The switching to biofuel could be imposed by ordinance”, Economy Minister Guy Parmelin has said.

If shortages persist, a quota system would be implemented – with households and essential services, such as hospitals, among the last to be affected.

But Parmelin insisted, “the role of the State is to guarantee a good supply of gas and electricity to the country. We want at all costs to avoid a disruption in supply, which would have a strong impact on businesses and  would then lead to an economic crisis”.


Less reliant on Russian gas because of its own gas reserves, the UK is currently less worried about supply than price – soaring utility bills may force many households into poverty this winter, campaigners have warned.

Households in the UK will start receiving a discount worth a total £400 (€478) off their energy bills from October, the British government has said, with the support package rises to £1,200 (€1,430) for the poorest households.

A recent report by National Grid said there was little chance of the lights going out in the UK this winter – though experts have warned that a severe cold spell could prompt action, such as shutdowns of non-critical factory operations, to ensure homes can be heated.