"We learned from the worldwide economic crisis of the 1920s (1930s) that an
economic crisis can result in an incredible threat for all of society. The consequences of that depression was Adolf Hitler and, indirectly, World War II and Auschwitz," Schäuble was quoted as saying in Der Spiegel's Monday edition.
The current crisis is a "historic break that will be recounted later in history books. This was also the case on September 11, 2001," he said, referring to the terrorist attacks on the United States.
"We thought we were not as stupid as speculators in the 17th century who traded in Dutch tulip bulbs and annihilated everything," he said. But, he added, "we have been just as stupid."
The current global financial crisis is the worst since the Wall Street crash of 1929 that ushered in the Great Depression.
The market turmoil has also buffeted banks in Europe. In Germany, the government has backed a 35-billion-euro rescue package to save the country's second largest commercial property lender, Hypo Real Estate. That rescue plan is now in doubt after commercial banks pulled out of the bailout.
The leaders of Germany, France, Italy and Britain agreed at a summit in Paris Saturday to protect fragile banks from the global financial crisis.