German economist apologizes for Jewish comparison

Head of Munich-based institute had compared sentiment towards economists in the wake of global crisis to prosecution of Jews in 1930s Germany.

October 27, 2008 16:12
1 minute read.
German economist apologizes for Jewish comparison

Hans-Werner Sinn 224 88. (photo credit: AP [file])


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A leading German economist apologized Monday for drawing a much-criticized parallel between corporate managers today and the Nazi-era persecution of Jews that followed the 1929 financial crisis. Hans-Werner Sinn, the head of the Munich-based Ifo institute, was quoted as telling the daily Tagesspiegel in an interview about the global economic meltdown that "in every crisis, people look for culprits, for someone to blame." "No one wanted to believe in an anonymous systemic error in the world economic crisis of 1929 either," he added, according to the report. "Back then it hit the Jews in Germany; today, it's the managers." Recent weeks have seen widespread condemnation of perceived failings by financial experts prior to today's financial crisis. In contrast, the 1929 crisis was followed by the rise to power in 1933 of the Nazis, who set in motion a systematic persecution of Jews that culminated with the death of 6 million Jews in the Holocaust. Sinn drew strong criticism from the government and the opposition, from Germany's Central Council of Jews and from the Simon Wiesenthal Center. He issued an apology a few hours after the interview hit newsstands. "I regret very much that the Jewish community feels hurt by my comments," Sinn wrote in a letter to the Jewish council's president, Charlotte Knobloch. "I did not want in any way to compare the fate of the Jews after 1933 with the situation of managers today - such a comparison would be absurd." "I apologize to the Jewish community and take back the comparison," he said. Sinn said he had been trying to make the point that "the search for putative scapegoats is always misleading" in trying to explain the causes of economic crises. The controversy comes ahead of the Novemebr 9 anniversary of the 1938 anti-Jewish pogrom - the Kristallnacht, or the Night of Broken Glass - when synagogues, Jewish homes and businesses across Germany were attacked. "Sinn's comparison is invidious and, at best, insensitive in its timing," the Simon Wiesenthal Center's director for international relations, Shimon Samuels, wrote in a letter to Sinn. "We should note the contemporary hatemongers who, once more, libel 'Jewish finance' for the contemporary financial crisis," Samuels wrote.

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