Climate activist’s remarks downplaying Holocaust spark anger

U.S. & World

FILE – In this file photo dated Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2019, an Extinction Rebellion logo is seen on the gloved hand of a climate change protester in London. A co-founder of British environmental activist Extinction Rebellion group, Roger Hallam has sparked anger in Germany after appearing to downplay the Holocaust in an interview with German newspaper Die Zeit released Wednesday Nov. 20, 2019. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham, FILE)

BERLIN (AP) — A prominent British climate change activist sparked anger Wednesday after appearing to downplay the Holocaust in an interview with a German newspaper.

Roger Hallam, who co-founded the activist group Extinction Rebellion, told the German newspaper Die Zeit that the Nazis’ murder of 6 million Jews was merely one of many genocides.

In extracts from the interview released by Die Zeit on Wednesday, Hallam was quoted describing the Holocaust as “just another (expletive) in human history.”

The comments drew a swift rebuke from German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, who called the industrial-scale murder of Jews “uniquely inhuman.”

“We must always be aware of this to ensure: never again!” Maas wrote on Twitter.

The co-leader of Germany’s environmentalist Green Party, Robert Habeck, told the newspaper Bild that “there must be no place for anti-Semitism or downplaying of the Holocaust.”

Habeck urged Extinction Rebellion — known for its disruptive protests such as road blockades — to distance itself from Hallam.

The group’s German branch tweeted Thursday that “Roger has breached the principles of XR, which don’t tolerate anti-Semitism, and isn’t welcome any longer at XR Germany.”

The British branch later issued a statement also condemning Hallam’s comments “unreservedly.”

“Jewish people and many others are deeply wounded by the comments today,” it said, adding that internal conversations had begun about how to address the issue. “We stand by restorative outcomes as preferable, although in some cases exclusion is necessary,” the group said.

Hallam’s publisher in Germany, Ullstein, said it was stopping delivery of the German version of his book following the remarks.

Reacting to the widespread anger his comments caused, Hallam told British media that he fully acknowledged “the unimaginable suffering caused by the Nazi Holocaust” but accused rich countries of allowing genocide to happen again “on a far greater scale, and in plain sight” by failing to stop global warming.

“We are allowing our governments to willingly, and in full knowledge of science, engage in the genocide of our young people,” the British newspaper Daily Telegraph quoted Hallam as saying.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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