Nazi row prompts Von Trier to 'refrain' from public statements

By Jennifer Lipman, October 5, 2011
Lars Von Trier

Lars Von Trier

The filmmaker Lars Von Trier has announced that he is retiring from public life.

The eccentric Danish director caused controversy in May when he told reporters at a press conference for his film Melancholia that he understood Adolf Hitler.

He also said he was a Nazi and that he would have been unhappy if he was a Jew because he did not like Jewish director Susanne Bier, although at another point he spoke of how the man he thought was his father was Jewish and said he'd had a Jewish upbringing.

He was subsequently declared "persona non grata" at the Cannes Film Festival.

In the months since, he has done little to dampen criticism. Today he said he was questioned by Danish police over possible prosecution in France for violating its law on justifying war crimes with the comments at Cannes.

"Due to these serious accusations I have realised that I do not possess the skills to express myself unequivocally," he said. "I have therefore decided from this day forth to refrain from all public statements and interviews."

Elan Steinberg, vice president of the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants, said Mr Von Trier's behaviour was "more childish than criminal".

He added: "He is guilty of bad taste in the quest for cheap self-promotion and for this he should be condemned and exposed. His lack of concern for the traumatized victims of Nazi brutality is disgraceful."

Last updated: 9:54am, October 6 2011