German academic compares Tom Cruise to Goebbels

Respected German historian Guido Knopp has compared a speech by US actor Tom Cruise to the Church of Scientology with a call to war by Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels.

In remarks described by the movement as "horrendous and disgraceful," Knopp, an expert on World War II history, said in an interview with Bild am Sonntag newspaper: "Tom Cruise's manner calls to mind Goebbels."

The historian was commenting on a video recording of a rousing sermon Cruise delivered to fellow Scientology members four years ago that was recently posted on the Internet.

The "Mission Impossible" star is seen asking fellow members of the church: "Should we clean this place up?"

Knopp said it was bound to remind Germans of Goebbels' notorious call for "total war" issued in Berlin on February 18, 1943.

"It is possible that the way in which Cruise speaks is common in many empowerment circles in the United States," he said.

"But the scene in which Cruise asks if the Scientologists should clean up the world and they all respond 'yes' will remind any German with an interest in history of Goebbels' infamous Sports Palace speech."

Cruise's portrayal in "Valkyrie" of Nazi resistance hero Claus Schenk von Stauffenberg, an aristocrat who led a failed plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler in 1944, has caused unhappiness in Germany because of the actor's links to Scientology.

The movement is often described here as a sect that exploits its members financially. In December, regional ministers agreed to investigate the possibility of banning it.

The Los Angeles-based movement said: "Bild am Sonntag has disgracefully misinterpreted Mr. Cruise's remarks. He was giving an acceptance speech for a humanitarian award bestowed in honor of his efforts for global literacy. In doing so, he was urging other people to become involved in similar humanitarian activities to the betterment of all.

"Anyone who knows Mr. Cruise knows that he does not have a prejudicial bone in his body and that, unlike Bild am Sonntag and other German anti-religionists, he does not discriminate against any other religion, race or color."

Cruise's role in the Church of Scientology is examined in an explosive unauthorised biography of the actor by British writer Andrew Morton which hit shelves in the United States earlier this month.

The publication of the book has been given wide coverage in German media. It was described by the Church of Scientology as "replete with lies".

"Valkyrie" titled after the code-name of the plot, is due for release later this year

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