One of the co-founders of the environmental movement Extinction Rebellion has apologised 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 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.”
In a Facebook post on Thursday afternoon, Hallam said he was “very sorry for the words I used. And I wish to apologize for the hurt and offense they have caused.”
“My intention was the exact opposite of ‘downplaying the Holocaust’,” read the statement. “It’s because of the unspeakable horror of the Holocaust that in talking to the German press, I was referring to it as the way to communicate the unimaginable tragedy of what is happening now today with climate change and ecological collapse around the world.”
“I realise that in the interview I got sidetracked into an unnecessary debate about where the Holocaust sits in terms of horrific genocides,” he wrote. “I see now my cultural insensitivity. I understand that such a debate is obscene and offensive, in particular for all those who remain haunted by memories of what occurred and for all those who lost people they loved.”
He added: “I am sorry for the crass words that I used. I do not feel the need to apologise for drawing attention to the genocide that is happening now. We must learn from the past, from tragedies like the Holocaust and other genocides, to prevent the horror of the near future. Despite my poorly phrased statement, I still strongly demand action on the preventable genocide that so many are ignoring across the world.”
The apology comes after wide criticism, including from the Holocaust Educational Trust’s chief executive Karen Pollock, who branded the remarks as “ignorant, disgusting and completely offensive” on Thursday.
Pollock said 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.”
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 “unreservedly” denounced the remark on Wednesday, 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.”