Sinn Sin Economist Sorry for Comparing Bankers to Persecuted Jews

One of Germany's leading economists, Ifo research institute president Hans-Werner Sinn, has apologized for comparing the current criticism of banking managers in the financial crisis to the persecution of Jews in 1930s Germany. His comments had provoked a barrage of criticism.

The head of one of Germany's leading economic research institutes apologized on Monday for likening the current criticism of corporate executives in the financial crisis to the persecution of the Jews in Nazi Germany.

In hot water: Ifo President Hans-Werner Sinn.

In hot water: Ifo President Hans-Werner Sinn.

Ifo President Hans-Werner Sinn had told Berlin daily Tagesspiegel in an interview published on Monday: "In every crisis, people look for someone to blame, for scapegoats. During the global economic crisis of 1929 as well, no one wanted to believe in an anonymous systemic failure. Then it hit Jews in Germany, today it is managers."

The comment drew fierce criticism from Germany's Jewish community.

The Central Council of Jews in Germany demanded an immediate apology from Sinn. "This comparison is outrageous, absurd and completely misplaced, an insult to the victims," Stephan Kramer, its general-secretary, told the newspaper Neue Ruhr Zeitung.

"It would be news to me if managers were being beaten, murdered or locked up in concentration camps," he added.

On Monday Sinn responded to the criticism by writing an open letter to the president of the Central Council of Jews, Charlotte Knobloch, apologizing for his remark.

"I in no way intended to compare the fate of the Jews after 1933 with the current situation of managers. Such a comparison would be absurd," Sinn wrote.

He added that his deep personal friendship "with many Jewish colleagues around the world and my shame and my horror at what was done to Jews by Germans have marked my life. I apologize to the Jewish community and take back my comparison."

Earlier, politicians had joined in the criticism. "Given such comments one has the impression Herr Sinn has lost his senses," Social Democrat member of parliament Sebastian Edathy told the Cologne-based Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger newspaper.

Bank executives who had made mistakes "weren't being criticized for their religious beliefs but for their actions," Edathy said.

Volker Beck, a member of parliament for the opposition Green Party, described Sinn's comment as "unparalleled tastelessness" and called on Sinn to take back what he said. "Herr Sinn's economic competence may be debatable among experts, but his lack of historical awareness is incontestable from now on."

Protestant bishop Margot Kässmann said Sinn's remarks were irresponsible. "The Jews were victims but with the banks there's a justified question about who was responsible. It is irresponsible to draw any comparison here."

She said she knew Sinn to be a clever man. "It is completely incomprehensible to me how someone can link the inhuman and destructive National Socialist ideology of anti-Judaism, which murdered millions of people, with the issue of who is responsible for the current banking crisis."

cro -- with wire reports


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