A spokesman for the public prosecutor’s office in the southern city of Regensburg said it had opened an investigation against Richard Williamson, 68, for remarks he made in an interview broadcast this week.
“I believe there were no gas chambers… I think that 200,000 to 300,000 Jews perished in Nazi concentration camps but none of them by gas chambers,” said Williamson during an interview with the SVT channel. “There was not one Jew killed by the gas chambers. It was all lies, lies, lies!”
Historians have established that six million Jews were murdered by Nazi Germany during World War II including vast numbers by systematic extermination in gas chambers.
This week, Pope Benedict XVI reportedly decided to cancel the excommunication of four bishops who were consecrated in 1998 by the conservative French bishop Marcel Lefebvre, including Williamson.
The pope has already signed the decree lifting the excommunication, which will be made public later in the week, according to the Italian report Thursday which the Vatican neither confirmed nor denied.
Lefebvre, who died in 1991, was excommunicated in 1988 by pope Jean Paul II for having consecrated the bishops in defiance of the Vatican’s authority. Since assuming office in April 2005, Benedict has made great efforts to heal the schism with the more traditionalist Catholic movement.
Lars-Goran Svensson, the Swedish programme’s producer, said the interview had been pre-recorded in Germany last November and its airing at this time was “pure coincidence.”