German Politician Tries to Smooth Over Anti-Semitic Comment

A conservative German lawmaker who compared the actions of Jewish Communists in the Russian Revolution (search) with those of the Nazis said Friday he didn't mean to hurt anyone's feelings, but stopped short of the apology sought by embarrassed party colleagues.

Martin Hohmann's comments in an Oct. 3 speech marking German Unity Day (search) drew a threat of legal action from Jewish leaders and sharp criticism from across the political spectrum after German television aired them Thursday.

Angela Merkel, leader of the main opposition Christian Democratic Union (search) to which Hohmann belongs, called him to condemn the remarks as "unacceptable and intolerable," party spokesman Arne Delfs said. The party's secretary-general, Laurenz Meyer, said Hohmann should apologize.

Hohmann, a member of parliament since 1998, responded Friday with a terse statement. "It was and is not my intention to hurt feelings," he said. "I am calling neither Jews nor Germans a people of perpetrators."

In the speech in his hometown of Neuhof, Hohmann argued that Germans still labor under the burden of Nazi crimes but other nations with bloody pasts cast themselves as "innocent lambs." He cited the French revolution and the prominent role of Jews in the 1917 Communist revolution in Russia.

"With a certain justification, one could ask in the light of the millions killed in the first phase of the revolution about the 'guilt' of the Jews," Hohmann said, according to a copy of the speech obtained by The Associated Press.

He said "it would follow the same logic with which the Germans are described as a guilty people." He concluded that the point was not to blame the Germans for Nazi crimes or Jews for those of the Bolsheviks, but rather "the godless with their godless ideologies."

The Central Council of Jews (search), which represents Germany's Jewish community, said it may file a criminal complaint against Hohmann for incitement under German laws outlawing far-right statements in public.

The council's head, Paul Spiegel, told ARD television that Hohmann had "reached into the bottom drawer of repulsive anti-Semitism." But Spiegel also said he was "very satisfied" after a conversation with Merkel that her party was also appalled.

A spokesman for Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, Thomas Steg, called the remarks an "unbearable faux pas."

ARD said Hohmann's speech was posted on the Internet, but on Friday it appeared to have been removed. In his speech, Hohmann also claimed that the "currently dominant political class and science in Germany" were obsessed with atoning for the Holocaust, in which 6 million Jews perished at the hands of the Nazis.