German banker in 'Jewish gene' controversy

By Jennifer Lipman, August 30, 2010
Angela Merkel

Angela Merkel

German chancellor Angela Merkel has criticised one of the country’s most influential bankers for his inflammatory remarks about Jewish people.

Jewish leaders called for Thilo Sarrazin to lose his seat on the board of the Bundesbank (German Federal Bank) after he said: “All Jews share a particular gene […] that differentiate them from others."

The 65-year-old, who said the same about Basques, is a polarising figure in Germany because of his right wing views.

Last year he caused controversy when he said that “Arabs and Turks in Berlin ... have no productive function other than selling fruit and vegetables.”

Stephan Kramer, head of the Central Council for Jews in Germany, said: "Whoever tries to define Jews by their genetic make-up, even if it is meant positively, is consumed by a racial mania that Jews do not share.”

Ms Merkel said his statements were completely unacceptable.

"They are exclusionary in a way that shows contempt for entire groups within our society.”

Commenting on Mr Sarrazin’s future on the banking board, she added: “I am certain that it will be a topic within the Bundesbank.”

Germany’s foreign minister also spoke out against the remarks.

Guido Westerwelle said: "Comments that promote racism or antisemitism do not belong in the political debate."

Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman has also criticised Sarrazin, 65, who is promoting a new book due to appear on Monday and has been front-page news in the country with provocative remarks on race and integration.

Mr Sarrazin defended himself and told an interviewer: "I am not a racist.”

Last updated: 10:46am, August 30 2010