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Economist Apologizes

DW staff (sp/nda)October 27, 2008

A leading German economist who came under fire for comparing attacks on business executives to anti-Semitism apologized for his remarks Monday.

Hans-Werner Sinn, head of the Ifo institute
Hans-Werner Sinn has apologized for his remarks which stirred the controversyImage: AP

Economist Hans-Werner Sinn sent a letter to the Central Council of Jews in Germany, saying he retracted his controversial statement.

"In every crisis, people look for scapegoats," Sinn said in an interview with the Berlin newspaper Tagesspiegel. "In the Great Crash of 1929, in Germany it was the Jews. Today it's executives."

Sinn, who heads the Munich-based IFO economic research institute, was roundly criticized by political parties and the Jewish community.

"In no way did I intend to compare the fate of Jews after 1933 with the current situation of executives," Sinn said in reference to the persecution of Jews by the Nazis.

"My sole intention was to draw attention to the fact that failures in the system were the real causes of economic crises and needed to be uncovered and rectified."

Government spokesman Ulrich Wilhelm had called Sinn's comparison wrong and invalid, while Stephan J Kramer, general secretary of the Central Council of Jews, urged him to apologize.

"The comparison is appalling, absurd and absolutely out of place. It's an insult to the victims," Kramer told the newspaper Neue Ruhr Zeitung.

"I've never heard that executives were beaten up, murdered and locked up in concentration camps," Kramer said.

IFO chief welcomes government rescue plan

Hans-Werner Sinn, head of the Ifo institute
Sinn has welcomed the government's banking bail-outImage: picture-alliance/ dpa

Sinn, who heads the Munich-based IFO economic research institute, welcomed the government's 500-billion-euro ($629.3 billion) bank rescue plan and said that, if politicians had done nothing, as was the case in 1929, the results could have been a meltdown of the financial system and mass unemployment. Sinn said it could have strengthened extremism in the West and eroded trust in the economic system.

"German history is with us and it is quite clear. The Nazis grew out of the crisis between 1929 and 1931. The Pied Pipers would be ready again today."