One of the co-founders of the environmental movement Extinction Rebellion has sparked fury after describing the Shoah as “just another f***ery in human history”.
Roger Hallam was accused of minimising the Nazis’ systematic murder of six millions Jews in extracts from an interview with Die Zeit published on Wednesday.
The 53-year-old British activist, a former organic farmer, told the German newspaper that genocide has been “an almost normal event” throughout human history.
“The fact of the matter is, millions of people have been killed in vicious circumstances on a regular basis throughout history,” he said, citing the example of Belgian colonialists who “went to the Congo in the late 19th century and decimated it.”
“To be honest, you could say: this is an almost normal event,” he said. The Holocaust, he added, is ” just another f**ckery in human history.”
The remarks were widely condemned, with Germany’s foreign minister, Heiko Maas joining a chorus of criticism. “Of the #Holocaust is more than millions dead and cruel torture methods,” he tweeted on Wednesday.
“To assassinate and destroy Jews industrially is uniquely inhumane. We always have to be aware of that, to make sure: never again! #ExtinctionRebellion,” he wrote.
Extinction Rebellion’s German chapter tweeted on Wednesday to “firmly distance” itself from Hallam, saying he was no “longer welcome at XR Germany”, describing his remarks as “belittling and relativising.”
Extinction Rebellion’s Jewish branch said on Wednesday that “no one should talk about a people’s traumatic history in such a crass and throwaway manner, even if the point is to raise awareness about a deadly serious issue. In doing so, they may embolden those who already threaten our community.”
The movement’s UK chapter said on Wednesday that it “unreservedly” denounces the remark, suggesting Hallam could be expelled. “Jewish people and many others are deeply wounded by the comments today,” read a statement.
“We stand in solidarity with XR Germany, with Jewish communities, and with all those affected by the Holocaust, both in the past and in our times,” the group said.
The Holocaust Educational Trust’s chief executive Karen Pollock branded the remarks on Thursday as “ignorant, disgusting and completely offensive”, saying Hallam had displayed “a shocking lack of knowledge and understanding of the greatest crime in history, where 6 million Jewish men, women and children were murdered.”
But Hallam told The Telegraph his remarks had been taken out of context. “I fully acknowledge the unimaginable suffering caused by the Nazi holocaust, that led to all of Europe saying ‘Never again’,” he told the newspaper.
“Let’s be clear: the real outrage is not to speak about the Holocaust, the real outrage is the complicity in the global holocaust that is already underway. We are allowing our governments to willingly, and in full knowledge of science, engage in the genocide of our young people,” he said.