(JTA) — Fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld criticized Germany for welcoming Muslim refugees, saying the country should not take in the Jews’ “worst enemies” given its responsibility for the Holocaust.
Lagerfeld, 80, the chief designer at the Chanel fashion house, made the comments Saturday on a French television talk show. He immediately caused an outcry.
“One cannot – even if there are decades between them – kill millions of Jews so you can bring millions of their worst enemies in their place,” he said. “I know someone in Germany who took a young Syrian and after four days said ‘the greatest thing Germany invented was the Holocaust.'”
Lagerfeld, who is known to court controversy, also castigated German Chancellor Angela Merkel for allowing more than a million asylum seekers to enter the country since the 2015 migrant crisis.
Merkel, Lagerfeld said, “already had millions [of immigrants] who are integrated, who work, which is very good because the demography is a little bit in decline there. But she didn’t need to take in another million to give her a charming image.”
France’s media regulator said Monday that it had received several hundred complaints about Largerfeld’s comments on “Salut les Terriens!” meaning “Hello Earthlings!” Many others voiced disapproval on social media.
In August 2015, Merkel announced that migrants could claim asylum in Germany even if it was not the first safe country they reached. About a million asylum seekers arrived over the next year.
Following a number of high-profile crimes by refugees, public criticism of Germany’s open border policy grew. In 2016, Merkel tightened the country’s asylum laws and undertook diplomacy to stem the flow of refugees into Germany and Europe in general.
The numbers of arriving asylum seekers has dropped precipitously.
In September, Merkel was easily re-elected. But a far-right party also finished third in the voting and entered the German parliament for the first time with a platform focused on Islam and migration, as well as rhetoric tinged with Nazi tropes.