Roger Hallam, 53, compared the murder of six million Jewish people at the hands of the Nazis to other historical massacres and claimed that memory of the Shoah was holding Germany back.
“The extremity of a trauma … can create a paralysis in actually learning the lessons from it,” he told Die Zeit in an English-language interview.
“The fact of the matter is, millions of people have been killed in vicious circumstances on a regular basis throughout history.”
He cited the Belgian colonialists who “went to the Congo in the late 19th century and decimated it”.
Extinction Rebellion groups in Germany were quick to condemn the remarks.
“We distance ourselves from Roger Hallam's trivialising and relativising comments about the Holocaust,” tweeted Extinction Rebellion Germany.
“Roger has contravened the principles of XR and is no longer welcome at XR Germany,” the group said, using an abbreviation for Extinction Rebellion.
“Extinction Rebellion Deutschland distanziert sich entschieden von Roger Hallams verharmlosenden
und relativierenden Äußerungen zum Holocaust.
Seine Aussage ist in Diktion wie Inhalt für XR
Deutschland nicht tragbar”
— Annemarie Botzki (⧖) (@AnnemarieBotzki) November 20, 2019
The Berlin branch of the organisation tweeted: “The systematic extermination of millions cannot be normalised. Never. Zero tolerance for anti-Semitism.”
@XRBerlin explicitly distances itself from #RogerHallam & his statements relativizing the Holocaust. The systemic annihilation of millions can & must not be downplayed or normalized. Never. We have zero tolerance for anti-Semitism. #ExtinctionRebellion
— Extinction Rebellion Berlin ? (@XRBerlin) November 20, 2019
Several branches of the organization, such as those in Frankfurt and Dresden, issued similar statements.
Holocaust denial is illegal in Germany though several politicians have caused controversy with remarks about the Nazi era in recent years.
In 2018, co-leader of the far-right AfD party Alexander Gauland referred to the Nazi era as a “speck of bird shit” in the history of Germany.
His party colleague Björn Höcke also sparked outrage a year earlier, when he referred to the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin as a “memorial of shame”.