TALLINN - Estonian Justice Minister Rein Lang has defended himself against claims of inappropriate conduct for holding a private performance of a play about Adolf Hitler on his 50th birthday.
On July 4 Lang held a party for some 40 guests at the Tartu restaurant Pussirohukelder, and commissioned a performance of the play "Adolf."
The one-man play, written by Pip Utton and performed to acclaim across the world, depicts the final hours of the Nazi leader.
Lang's party was greeted with howls of resurgent fascism in Russia. "Estonian justice minister 'decorates' his birthday party with swastika," read one headline from the Regnum news agency, while the ITAR-TASS agency reported: "Estonian minister marks jubilee under aegis of Nazi Swastika."
The opposition party the People's Union called for Lang's resignation, saying the Reform party minister "deliberately staged a provocative event."
"The justice minister's conduct is in contradiction with European customs and normsâ€¦ Lang as minister has not taken into consideration the higher moral and ethical requirements applying to him," a People's Union statement read.
"Tying a theatrical performance associated with the fuehrer and Nazi symbols and performed in a beer restaurant to the minister's birthday clearly departs from a normal performance of the play."
Lang said the criticism ignored the fact that "Adolf" was a "deeply anti-fascist text."
"I wanted to treat my guests without fail to a play both pertinent and up to date," Lang said.
"The Republic of Estonia has condemned Nazi crimes and my birthday was attended by people who all and without an exception despise Nazism."
He said it was also pertinent to remember how a charismatic leader can control a state, given that "today's Russia is a dead ringer for 1930s Germany."
"Apparently (Russia's) principle is that even the most anti-Nazi work of art, such as Charlie Chaplin's "The Great Dictator," becomes pro-Nazi as soon as a member of the Estonian government goes to see it," Lang said.