British police said on Thursday they had arrested two men on suspicion of distributing a leaflet with material that appeared to compare the COVID-19 vaccination to the Holocaust.
The British media named one of the two as 73-year-old Piers Corbyn, a known anti-vaccination activist and brother of former Labour head Jeremy Corbyn.
The two men are accused of circulating the leaflet in south London in late January.
The leaflet featured a cartoon of the Auschwitz death camp where more than 1.1 million mostly Jewish prisoners were slaughtered, with the infamous sign above its gate changed from “Arbeit Macht Frei” (work sets you free) to “Vaccines are safe path to freedom.”
“Absolutely sickened by anti-vax conspiracy theory crackpot leaflets put through some doors today,” Neil Coyle, the Labour MP for Bermondsey & Old Southwark, said on Twitter on Sunday.
“Hideous imagery and asking [police] for action against these disgusting, dangerous cranks.”
The flyer caused widespread outrage in the British Jewish community, with members pointing out that it had been disseminated at around the same time as the world marked International Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27.
The Jewish Chronicle reported that Piers Corbyn denied he was anti-Semitic as he had been married to a “Jewess.”
“The idea we’re anti-Semitic in any way is completely absurd," the paper quoted him as saying. “I’ve worked with Jewish leading world scientists over the last 30 years."
Britain is currently rolling out a mass vaccination program and more than 10 million people have been given their first shots of the COVID vaccine.
However, there have been a number of protests in the capital from opponents of the vaccine with experts warning that a sizeable minority of people believe conspiracy theories about the vaccinations or the coronavirus itself.
The 73-year-old is suspected of malicious communications and public nuisance, and the other man, a 37-year-old, was arrested on suspicion of a public order offense. They have been released on police bail until a date in early March.