Winnipeg Police are asking for the public’s help in tracking down the perpetrators of anti-Semitic posters that were put up around downtown Friday.
The posters, which reference Adolf Hitler, accuse Mayor Sam Katz of funnelling hundreds of millions of dollars into the pockets of a dozen prominent business people, all but two of whom are Jewish, since he was elected in 2004.
The Free Press is not publishing a photo of the poster or quoting directly from it in order to prevent the spread of its anti-Semitic smear.
The messages are not signed and there is no reference to any individual or group who might be behind them.
"I consider them anti-Semitic, a hate crime," said David Matas, lawyer for B’nai Brith Canada, a Jewish advocacy and community volunteer service organization.
"This is systematic, it’s intentional. It wasn’t somebody losing their temper or getting drunk."
A dollar sign on the poster, Matas contends, is reminiscent of Nazi propaganda, which said Jews were "corrupt, greedy and controlling the world for their own interests."
"This is a reminder and replication of all that," he said. "It picks on Sam Katz and some other people not because of something they did that may have been wrong, but because of a personal attribute, the fact that he’s Jewish."
Katz issued the following statement on the posters late Saturday afternoon:
"I am extremely saddened and disheartened that an individual, or group of individuals, is posting such material. I have faith that the people of Winnipeg will not support such malice," he said.
Earl Barish, president and CEO of Salisbury House, was one of the names included on the list. Barish said it saddens him there are still people in the world who think it’s OK to launch attacks like this.
"I’m not happy to be on any list of that sort. I hope the police are able to find whoever does this kind of thing. There are unfortunately a lot of people who still spew hate in a variety of forms. This is a pretty direct form. I spend my life trying to do good things," he said.
Katz has been under fire recently for having purchased an Arizona-based shell company from the city's chief administrative officer Phil Sheegl — a close friend — for $1 as well as a city plan to exchange two old fire halls and a parcel of Fort Rouge land for the Shindico Realty-owned site of a new fire-paramedic station. Shindico is controlled by the Shindleman family.
Matas said he can’t recall this kind of activity occurring in Winnipeg in recent years. There weren’t unprovoked attacks against women when Susan Thompson was mayor or against the gay community with Glen Murray succeeded her, he said.
"When the Jewish community is attacked because the mayor is Jewish, it ceases to be criticism of the mayor. It’s a much broader attack. It’s most disconcerting," he said.