Cambridge University society bans speaker over Hitler impression

  • Published
Andrew Graham-Dixon during filming of his Art of Scandinavia for the BBC
Image caption,
Andrew Graham-Dixon. pictured during filming of Art of Scandinavia for the BBC in 2016, has been blacklisted by the Cambridge Union

An art historian has been banned from speaking at a Cambridge University debating society after offending students with a Hitler impersonation.

Cambridge Union president Keir Bradwell announced a new blacklist after Andrew Graham-Dixon spoke at the event.

Mr Graham-Dixon said he was trying to "underline the utterly evil nature of Hitler" but apologised for offending.

Mr Bradwell, who joked about the speech directly afterwards, has since apologised to members.

While presiding over the debate, he said he was "quite drunk".

Afterwards he said he had had two glasses of wine with dinner beforehand but was "not impeded in my ability to chair the debate".

However, he said it was "inexcusable" that he had not halted the parody.

The society, which aims to promote free speech through discussion, had been holding a debate on the concept of good taste on November 4.

In a letter, published on Facebook, Mr Bradwell said Mr Graham-Dixon offended members when he used Hitler's "deplorable" words about Jewish and black people in his speech.

Image source, Keir Bradwell
Image caption,
Keir Bradwell, Cambridge Union president, is to oversee a blacklist of speakers

In a statement, Mr Graham-Dixon said: "In my speech I caricatured him (Hitler), briefly, paraphrasing HIS crass and insensitive statements about art and race."

He said it was not his intention to upset but to persuade the audience "that bad taste and bad morality often go hand-in-hand".

During the Third Reich, Hitler curated a major art exhibition "as propaganda for his poisonous views", said the art historian.

Image source, CUS/YouTube
Image caption,
Mr Graham-Dixon said he did not intend to upset anyone with his contribution to the debate

"I apologise sincerely to anyone who found my debating tactics and use of Hitler's own language distressing; on reflection I can see that some of the words I used, even in quotation, are inherently offensive," he said.

Mr Bradwell could not confirm how many complaints the union had received, but said: "It was the largest number in my time in Cambridge by an awfully long way."

He said the union now planned to "institutionalise firm definitions of racism", including anti-black racism and anti-Semitism.

"We will create a blacklist of speakers never to be invited back, and we will share it with other unions too. Andrew will be on that list," Mr Bradwell wrote to members.

Speaking to the BBC, Mr Graham-Dixon said: "Mr Bradwell's implication that I am a racist and anti-Semitic by placing me on his list is utterly rejected and in the context, surprising.

"The speech I gave was a strident attack on Hitler's racism and anti-Semitism."

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