BA crew: I was fired after pro-Nazi row

By Marcus Dysch, September 7, 2010
The air steward claims his colleague said Jews ‘deserved’ the Holocaust

The air steward claims his colleague said Jews ‘deserved’ the Holocaust

An air steward has spoken of his anger after being sacked by British Airways after an incident in which a colleague allegedly shouted antisemitic abuse and glorified the Nazis.

Jean-Paul Van der Velde, whose father survived two concentration camps, was dismissed for misconduct after the row with the fellow crew member in a New York bar. He had worked for BA for 23 years.

He said airline staff had been enjoying a drink during a stopover, but tempers frayed when his colleague became "drunk and aggressive".

The 48-year-old said he had been having a discussion with the Munich-based British cabin crew member, when the man allegedly launched his antisemitic tirade.

Mr Van der Velde, who lives near Lisburn, Northern Ireland, said: "We were talking about life in Germany and unemployment and the increase in neo-Nazis. We discussed the war and he said: 'All the Jews deserved it. They are a nuisance'.

"I told him I was Jewish and my father had been in the Buchenwald and Bergen-Belsen camps. He said sarcastically: 'Well, you [Jews] got a monument out of it'. I was really upset and I walked out. I told the rest of the crew how shocked I was."

Around half a dozen colleagues were in the bar, but none saw or heard the argument. Mr Van der Velde said he calmed down and the incident passed, but the issue was raised again when his colleague appeared with a black eye for the return trip to the UK.

The man later complained to BA that Mr van der Velde had punched him.

In April, three weeks after the argument, Mr van der Velde was suspended and accused of a number of breaches of company policy, including physical assault and failing to uphold the prestige of BA. He was later investigated on the assault charge and was dismissed for misconduct last month.

The Amsterdam-born steward said he felt he had been "stitched-up" by his colleague and denied attacking him.

"They said I had confessed, but it is not written down anywhere or taped. What was said was an insult to my family and all Jewish people."

It is understood that a counter-claim by Mr Van der Velde over the alleged antisemitic comments is being investigated by the airline.

A BA spokeswoman said: "Following an internal investigation a
male employee was dismissed for misconduct."

She said there had been a "full and vigorous" investigation and BA takes all allegations of antisemitism, racism or sexism "very seriously".

Last updated: 10:23am, September 8 2010