A still from a video showing part of a laser projection of an antisemitic message on the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam on Feb. 6, 2023. The video garnered widespread condemnation and was referenced in high-profile news articles in several countries.

Why this matters

Networks of hate groups with roots in California extend around the globe and have far-reaching impacts on marginalized communities.

Former Chula Vista resident Robert Wilson sat in front of a judge in Amsterdam last week to face hate speech charges after being accused of projecting an antisemitic message on the Anne Frank House — an incident that received international attention in February.

In a hearing on Oct. 5, the Netherlands Public Prosecution Service asked the judge to grant Wilson a six-month prison sentence and ban him from Amsterdam for five years.

Wilson, a 42-year-old Canadian native, had already spent three months in jail when the hearing took place. Media outlets in the Netherlands reported that Wilson denied the charges against him and was released from custody after the hearing while he awaits the judge’s ruling.

The text displayed on the Anne Frank House claimed that the Holocaust victim was the “inventor of the ballpoint,” referencing a conspiracy theory suggesting her diary is a hoax, because it was crafted with a ballpoint pen, which was not used widely until after World War II. This claim has been disproven by researchers and scholars.

A photo of the exterior of the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam. © Anne Frank House / Photographer: Cris Toala Olivares

Wilson is also accused of publishing a video of the laser projection on social media along with antisemitic music and hateful messages about Jewish people.

Netherlands media outlet De Telegraaf reported that Wilson said during the hearing that he did not see the difference between the video and the work of rappers and hip hop artists, whose lyrics may be offensive to some groups.

In his closing speech at the hearing, a Dutch prosecutor strongly denounced the laser projection and accompanying video.

“The Shoah (Holocaust of the Jews) was an exceptionally shocking event in the history of mankind and caused indescribable suffering to the victims and their surviving relatives,” the prosecutor said in Dutch.

“The Public Prosecution Service reproaches the suspect for the fact that he insults the person who did describe that suffering so compassionately,” he said. “The suspect’s actions have severely infringed the rights held by all Jews and violated their honor and dignity in (a) horrible way.”

A screenshot of footage showing Robert Wilson speaking to CBS 8 reporter, David Gotfredson, outside a San Diego courthouse on Dec. 27, 2021.

Wilson is a public-facing member of the Goyim Defense League, an antisemitic hate group that spreads white supremacist and conspiratorial messages online, through fliers and through other methods. The group was responsible for orchestrating hundreds of antisemitic incidents across the U.S. last year.

In 2021, a few years after settling in the area, Wilson was charged with a hate crime in San Diego for allegedly assaulting his neighbor while yelling homophobic slurs at him. He fled the country while awaiting trial and moved to Poland where he has citizenship. 

In April, Wilson was arrested in Poland on suspicion of conducting the Anne Frank incident. Prosecutors say that when police searched his home, they found the drone and laser beam used during the stunt. Wilson was arrested again on July 8 in Germany after leaving Poland without permission.

A screenshot of a video showing Robert Wilson, a member of the Goyim Defense League, driving a van through Beverly Hills that is covered with antisemitic messages. The video was posted to the Goyim Defense League’s online channels in an effort to promote itself.

In August, Wilson was extradited from Poland to Amsterdam to face charges of coercion, insulting Jews as a group and making discriminatory statements in public.

Netherlands news sites reported that Wilson acknowledged having a similar vehicle to the one believed to belong to the suspect in the case — and that he was in Amsterdam in February — but denied driving it near the Anne Frank House or even knowing where the building was located.

De Telegraaf reported that Wilson cried when describing missing his daughter’s third birthday while incarcerated and told the court that his Brazilian girlfriend and child are in danger of being deported from Poland.

Wilson’s attorney argued in court that Wilson’s 90 days in custody was already much longer than one would expect for Dutch people who commit similar offenses, according to De Telegraaf.

The judge is expected to issue a ruling on Oct. 19.

Type of Content

News: Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Jill Castellano is a former investigative data coordinator for inewsource. When she's not deep in a spreadsheet or holed up reporting and writing her next story, she's probably hiking, running or rock climbing. She also loves playing board games and discussing the latest chapters with her book club....