BA steward 'head butted colleague over anti-Semitic remarks'
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A British Airways steward, whose father survived two Nazi concentration camps, has been dismissed after claims he headbutted a colleague who told him "the Jews deserved it".
The row began in New York bar the Pig and Whistle during a stopover on 6 March, 2010.
Cabin steward Jean-Paul Ven der Velde, who had worked for BA for 17 years, said he was talking to a colleague called Paul Meek about his background when he became "aggressive" and launched into an anti-Semitic tirade.
According to the Telegraph, in his witness statement to Watford Employment Tribunal, Mr Van der Velde, 50, said: "He was aggressive and agitated and also appeared to me to be drunk.
"I offered him a drink. I started some casual conversation and asked him where he lived. He told me that he was from Manchester but lived in Munich in Germany for the past two years.
"He asked me where I came from and I said that I was Dutch. He then replied that the Germans hated the Dutch. I said that since the Berlin Wall came down there had been an uprising of neo Nazis because of unemployment.
"I also replied that the Dutch suffered a great deal. In response he said that 'the Jews were a nuisance, that they deserved it.'
"At that stage I had not mentioned at all that I was Jewish. I said to him that my family had suffered a great deal in the war and I confirmed that I was Jewish and my father and several other family members had been in concentration camps. His next comment was 'at least you got a monument out of it.'
He added: "I found his comments very offensive and I was also quite scared that in this day and age someone could quite openly say such aggressive and hurtful things.
"I was shocked and felt very insulted. I decided to walk out of the bar. This was very soon after he had actually made these comments. On my way out I said to the members of the other group, 'this guy is a racist.'"
Mr Meek then left to go back to the hotel, and the following day Mr Van der Velde flew back to Heathrow.
He said he talked on the flight with the cabin services director, saying he was still upset about the comments made by Paul Meek.
He said: Mr Meek did not come back on my flight from New York. I did not see him on the morning of the 8th when I returned to the country.
"I understand that he was due back on a different flight. I understand that he flew back on 8 March. I also understand that about five minutes before he checked in to come back on that flight, he claimed that I had headbutted him in the Pig and Whistle on the evening of 6 March."
The tribunal heard that Mr Meek had a black eye when he arrived for the flight.
On 14 April 2010, Mr Van der Velde was told he was being suspended for allegedly assaulting Mr Meek.
Mr Van der Velde said he was incredulous, and described Mr Meek as a "neo Nazi".
He was eventually dismissed by BA in August and is now claiming unfair dismissal against the airline.
Marc Learoyd, Worldwide Crew Manager at the time who conducted the disciplinary hearing, told the tribunal Mr Meek claimed Mr Van der Velde had spoken with him on the flight over to New York, and had told him he was Jewish and "said the only good German was a dead German".
In the bar later that evening, Mr Van der Velde "had berated him for living in Germany" and the disagreement resulted in the headbutting, claimed Mr Meek.
Mr Learoyd added: "I find it strange that no one in the Pig and Whistle said they saw the assault take place. However, with my 17 years experience of crew, I thought there was a real possibility that the crew were 'sticking together' to cover up the assault."
He added: "It was clear from [Mr Meek's] interview that he did not want to take the matter further so it seemed unlikely to me that he had made the allegation up to get Jean-Paul in trouble."
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