(JTA) — Director Lars von Trier was questioned by Danish police for saying at the Cannes Film Festival that he had sympathy for Hitler.
Inciting racial hatred and justification of war crimes is illegal under French law.
Von Trier said Wednesday in a statement released by his publicists that he was questioned. He added, "Due to these serious accusations, I have realized that I do not possess the skills to express myself unequivocally and I have therefore decided from this day forth to refrain from all public statements and interviews."
The Danish director had said during a news conference at Cannes in May that “I really wanted to be a Jew, and then I found out that I was really a Nazi because, you know, my family was German, which also gave me some pleasure.
“What can I say? I understand Hitler, but I think he did some wrong things, yes, absolutely. But I can see him sitting in his bunker in the end. He’s not what you would call a good guy, but I understand much about him and I sympathize with him a little bit. But come on, I’m not for the Second World War, and I’m not against Jews. I am very much for Jews. No, not too much, because Israel is a pain in the ass."
Von Trier was declared a persona non grata and removed from the festival.
"Holocaust survivors were offended by Von Trier’s vile and insensitive remarks but do not believe he harbors pro-Nazi sympathies that merit criminal prosecution," Elan Steinberg, vice president of the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants, said in a statement Wednesday.
"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.
"Nevertheless," Steinberg said, "his behavior is more childish than criminal. He should grow up."