German banker slammed for 'racist' Jewish remarks
Top politicians attacked a senior official from Germany's central bank on Sunday after comments about Jews, the latest in a string of controversial remarks that have provoked a storm in the country.
Thilo Sarrazin, a member of the six-man board at the powerful Bundesbank, told the Welt am Sonntag weekly: "All Jews share a particular gene, Basques share particular genes, that differentiate them from others."
Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, who is also Germany's vice-chancellor, condemned the remarks, telling the Bild am Sonntag weekly: "Comments that promote racism or anti-Semitism do not belong in the political debate."
The country's popular defence minister, Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, told the same paper: "Every provocation has its limits ... Sarrazin has clearly overstepped these limits."
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.
In October, he also hit the headlines after saying that Turks were "conquering Germany in exactly the same way the Kosovars conquered Kosovo: with a higher birth rate."
"A large number of Arabs and Turks in this city (Berlin) ... have no productive function other than selling fruit and vegetables," he added.
Despite calls from all sides for him to step down, Sarrazin has steadfastly clung to his post at the Bundesbank, despite being stripped of some responsibilities in the wake of the row.
Axel Weber, the Bundesbank president, widely tipped to replace Jean-Claude Trichet as the boss of the European Central Bank next year, has criticised Sarrazin but is powerless to remove him, as he is a political appointee.
Community leaders also reacted with outrage at Sarrazin's latest remarks. The head of Germany's large Turkish community, Kenan Kolat, said he was guilty of "intellectual racism" and called for a probe into inciting racial hatred.
"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," said Stephan Kramer, head of the Central Council for Jews in Germany.
"I am not a racist," Sarrazin himself insisted in his interview with the Welt am Sonntag.
© 2010 AFP