A German Jewish leader criticized the pope Saturday for making what he called an unacceptable comparison between abortion and the Holocaust (search) in a new book.

Paul Spiegel, the head of Germany's Central Council of Jews (search), told the Netzeitung daily that Pope John Paul II's (search) statements reflect similar "unacceptable" comments made by a Roman Catholic cardinal in Cologne.

Spiegel was referring to a passage in "Memory and Identity: Conversations Between Millenniums," where the pope draws a broad comparison between abortion and the Holocaust, saying both came about when people decided to usurp "the law of God."

The book is based on the pope's conversations in 1993 with two close friends from his native Poland.

After noting that a legally elected parliament allowed Hitler's rise to power in Germany, which led to the Holocaust, the pope says: "We have to question the legal regulations that have been decided in the parliaments of present-day democracies. The most direct association which comes to mind is the abortion laws ...

"Parliaments which create and promulgate such laws must be aware that they are transgressing their powers and remain in open conflict with the law of God and the law of nature."

Spiegel told the daily that "such statements show that the Roman Catholic Church "has not understood or does not want to understand that there is a tremendous difference between factory-like genocide and what women do to their bodies."

Criticism for the book also came from a Greens parliamentarian, Volker Beck.

"For the pope to draw a comparison between abortion and the Holocaust shows a lack of moral and ethical direction," Beck said in Berlin.

The book is to be published Feb. 23 in Italy by Rizzoli, which also plans an English version.