Winfried Stöcker had refused to hold a benefit concert for refugees in his listed art deco department store, telling the Sächsische Zeitung that “travel-happy Africans” were “crossing the Meditarrenean uninvited to reach us.”
Now he had admitted his xenophobic comments were “out of date".
Stöcker, an entrepreneur from the northern port city of Lübeck, is the owner of the empty art-noveau department store used as the fictional Grand Budapest Hotel, which premiered at the 2014 Berlinale film festival.
A former Karstadt department store, in Görlitz on the border with Poland and the Czech Republic, the building is famous throughout Germany as one of the best preserved examples of "Jugendstil", or art-noveau, architecture.
Grand Budapest Hotel has been nominated for four Golden Globe Awards, including best director and best movie, and is expected to also pick up a host of Oscar nominations.
In his original interview, Stöcker also said that, although he worked with Turks, among other nationalities, he would “prefer to send them back to their homeland.”
He added that foreigners “had no right to establish themselves in Germany.” The interview came after his refusal to allow the benefit concert for refugees, which caused complaints.
Now, speaking with the Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger, Stoecker said his views were “out of date” and “the vocabulary was not appropriate”.
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He added that he had a Chinese wife, and worked with colleagues of all nationalities.
Stöcker, who runs the pharmaceutical giant Euroimmun, is also a honorary professor at Luebeck University, which had distanced itself from his comments, stressing the university’s commitment to “open-mindedness, tolerance and multi-culturalism.”
The Kaufhaus Görlitz was built in 1912 by architect Carl Schmanns, and bought by Stöcker in 2013. He plans to spend €20 million on refurbishing the landmark and reopening the building in 2015.