Holocaust-themed Rio Carnival float causes strain

RIO DE JANEIRO Tue Jan 29, 2008 2:55pm EST

1 of 2. A worker prepares a carnival float depicting the Holocaust, at the Viradouro samba school's warehouse in Rio de Janeiro January 28, 2008. Viradouroi is one of 12 samba schools that will parade along Rio's Sambadrome during carnival, with parades beginning on February 2.

Credit: Reuters/Sergio Moraes

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RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - A Carnival float with a pile of model dead bodies commemorating the Holocaust is causing unease before the lavish parades in Rio de Janeiro this weekend.

The Viradouro samba organization, or school, plans to feature the grim display when it marches in the Sambadrome parade strip on Sunday, despite objections from a local Jewish group.

"Really, it makes no sense addressing this theme with drums and dancing girls," said Sergio Niskier, president of the Israelite Federation in Rio de Janeiro state, referring to the slaughter of Jews by Nazi Germany in World War Two.

"There are still survivors of that horror who have the marks of that tragedy on their skin," he said.

Rio's Carnival is famed for the parades by samba schools with glitzy floats and costumes and street parties where costumed revelers drink and dance all night.

The elaborately decorated floats are a key part of each samba school's presentation, along with thousands of dancers and drummers led by near naked Carnival queens.

Viradouro insisted its Holocaust float is not meant to offend anyone.

"The float is extremely respectful, it's a warning, it's something shocking that we don't want to happen ever again," said Paulo Barros, Viradouro's artistic director.

Viradouro's parade theme is "Shockers" and it includes floats depicting the shock of birth, the shock of horror and the shock of cold.

Barrossaid the Holocaust float would be the only one without dancers on top.

"If we had people dancing on top of dead bodies that would indeed be disrespectful," he told Reuters.

Traditionally, the use of religious references causes last-minute problems for samba schools. In the past, the Roman Catholic Church has barred floats with figures of Christ and the Virgin Mary and samba schools had to cover or modify them.

(Reporting by Pedro Fonseca and Andrei Khalip, Editing by Kieran Murray)

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