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Germany

German Historian Compares Tom Cruise Speech to Nazi Minister

Scientology has rejected comments by a German historian comparing a speech by Hollywood star Tom Cruise to one by a Nazi minister, accusing the paper that published it of being "grossly irresponsible."

Tom Cruise in the role of failed Hitler assassin Claus Schenk von Stauffenberg

It's not the first time Cruise has sparked controversy in Germany

The Church of Scientology, of which Cruise is a leading member, reacted furiously to a newspaper interview by German historian Guido Knopp in which he drew parallels between the Hollywood star and Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels.

"Bild am Sonntag is grossly irresponsible for publishing horrendous and disgraceful claims about Mr. Cruise," the church's public affairs director, Karin Pouw said, referring to the German mass-selling tabloid which published the interview.

Pouw said the footage, which surfaced on the YouTube Web site this week, was a pirated, edited video taken from a three-hour event.

"Bild am Sonntag has disgracefully misinterpreted Mr Cruise's remarks," Pouw said. "He was giving an acceptance speech for a humanitarian award bestowed in honor of his efforts for global literacy. In doing so, he was urging other people to become involved in similar humanitarian activities to the betterment of all.

Historian says speech stirs ugly memories

Knopp, who works for German broadcaster ZDF and heads their programs on contemporary history, said over the weekend that the Mission Impossible star's speech to other Scientology members, leaked on to the Internet this week, was reminiscent of a 1943 speech by propaganda minister, Joseph Göbbels.

Tom Cruise and Joseph Göbbels

Knopp drew parallels between Cruise's speech and that of Göbbels, right

The speech that Cruise made four years ago asks fellow members of the church: "Should we clean this place up?"

Knopp said it was sure to remind Germans of Göbbel's notorious speech in Berlin on Feb. 18, 1943 when he asked the audience: "Do you want total war?"

"It may be the case that Cruise's delivery style is not uncommon in certain religious movements in the US," Knopp said. "But for Germans with an interest in history, that scene where he asks whether the Scientologists should clean up the world and everyone shouts 'yes' is inevitably reminiscent of Göbbel's notorious speech."

Scientology deeply controversial in Germany

Unlike the US, Germany does not recognize Scientology as a church and there are debates about whether to ban the organization. The movement is often described as a sect that exploits its members financially. In December, regional ministers agreed to investigate the possibility of banning it.

Cruise also sparked controversy in Germany last year because of his role as a Nazi resistance hero Claus Schenk von Stauffenberg in a new film, "Valkyrie" of which he is also the producer. Von Stauffenberg led the failed Valkyrie plot, from which the film takes its name, to assassinate Adolf Hitler in 1944.

Cruise's plans to film a part of the film at the German defense ministry in Berlin, where Stauffenberg was executed after the failed assassination attempt, met with resistance from German government officials because of his links with Scientology.

The officials later changed tack and allowed the filming to go ahead. Cruise's role in Scientology is examined in an explosive unauthorized biography of the actor by British writer Andrew Morton which hit shelves in the United States earlier this month.

The publication of the book has been given wide coverage in German media. It was described by Scientology as "replete with lies."

Karin Pouw said Germany had misunderstood the US actor.

"Anyone who knows Mr Cruise knows that he does not have a prejudicial bone in his body and that, unlike Bild am Sonntag and other German anti-religionists, he does not discriminate against any other religion, race or color."

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