Why this matters
Hate crimes are on the rise across the U.S. Hateful speech and conspiracy theories can fuel violence against marginalized groups.
A neo-Nazi who once lived in San Diego County has been extradited to the Netherlands to face hate speech charges in connection with an antisemitic incident that took place at the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam earlier this year.
Forty-one-year-old Robert Wilson, a former Chula Vista resident, is accused of projecting an antisemitic message on the exterior of the Anne Frank House on Feb. 6 and publishing a video of the incident on social media.
On Aug. 28, the Netherlands Public Prosecution Service issued a press release explaining the suspect had been surrendered to the country for prosecution and will face his first court date in early October. The statement doesn’t explicitly name Wilson, but the description of the suspect matches Wilson’s background and follows his arrest in Poland, which he recorded and posted online.
The text displayed on the Anne Frank House claimed that the Holocaust victim was the “inventor of the ballpoint.” The message refers to an antisemitic conspiracy theory suggesting Anne Frank’s diary is a hoax and could not have been written by her, because it was crafted with a ballpoint pen, which was not used widely until after World War II. This claim has been disproven, as researchers and scholars have shown the diary was not written in ballpoint pen.
Mary, a Netherlands resident who has been tracking right-wing extremism through her group Capitol Terrorist Exposers, said the incident had a big impact across the country.
“It caused a shocking effect, not only in Dutch Jewish society but the entire society,” she said. inewsource has agreed to only use Mary’s first name to protect her safety.
The statement from the Netherlands prosecution service says the suspect has Polish and Canadian nationalities and returned to his home in Poland after propagating the message.
inewsource has previously written about the accusations against Wilson, a Canadian native, in San Diego — a few years after moving to the area, he was arrested for assaulting his next-door neighbor while yelling homophobic slurs and charged with a hate crime. He fled the country to Poland while awaiting trial.
Mary said Wilson’s arrest in Europe will hopefully prevent other antisemitic incidents in the future.
“These well-known Nazis think they can flee prosecution in the United States and think that they can do whatever they want to do here, but it’s not gonna happen,” Mary said.
Wilson is a high-profile member of the Goyim Defense League, an antisemitic hate group that originated in California. It takes its name from the Anti-Defamation League — a organization defending Jewish people and civil rights — and the Yiddish word, “goyim,” meaning “non-Jewish person.”
The Goyim Defense League was responsible for hundreds of antisemitic incidents across the U.S. last year. Its members are known for distributing flyers with hate-based messages and yelling slurs at people, which they record and post to their online platforms.
Willem Wagenaar, a right-wing extremism researcher for the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, said the incident in February was the first of its kind for the museum, which operates out of the building where Anne Frank penned her diary.
He said antisemitic actors have been emboldened over the past decade as experiences from the Holocaust become less salient due to the dwindling number of living survivors.
“That’s worrisome,” Wagenaar said.
The Netherlands Prosecution Service issued a European arrest warrant for the suspect earlier this year after he fled the country, according to the press release. The warrant listed four offenses: coercion, deliberately insulting a religious group, incitement of hatred, violence or discrimination and disclosure of a discriminatory statement.
The suspect was then arrested on April 25 by Polish authorities, who searched his car and home in Poland in the presence of two Amsterdam detectives.
Wilson posted a video online in late April showing police officers walking through his house in Poland and collecting evidence.
Though the suspect was told not to leave Poland as police continued investigating, the press release says he was arrested again on July 8 while trying to leave for Canada and was temporarily held in Germany. He was transferred to Amsterdam on Aug. 25 and, a few days later, ordered by a judge to stay in detention for two weeks, which could be extended.
His next court date is Oct. 5, when he will be brought before the three-judge section of the District Court of Amsterdam.
“It will be a very interesting case,” Wagenaar said. “A test case. Is this a punishable offense in the Netherlands, or is this freedom of speech? It’s in the gray area in between. So we will find out.”
Wagenaar said the maximum penalty for the offenses is several years in prison, but it’s unlikely someone found guilty would face significant jail time.
“If he will be punished, it will be probably a punishment that for Americans, they will laugh about. A fine, maybe he has to do some work in the park, something like that, or a very light prison sentence.
“But that’s not what’s at stake. More what is at stake is: Is this punishable or not? Do we tolerate this or not in our society?”
Type of Content
News: Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.