(JTA) — The co-head of the nationalist Alternative for Germany party said that he regrets calling the Nazi era a “speck of bird poop’ in German history.
Alexander Gauland, a 76-year-old attorney and journalist, made the statement on Saturday to a meeting of the party’s youth wing. He said in remarks that were widely reported and widely condemned that Germans must take responsibility for 12 years of Nazi rule but that “Hitler and the Nazis are just a speck of bird poop in more than 1,000 years of successful German history.”
A group of party moderates on Sunday condemned Gauland’s remarks and called for a public apology.
Gauland on Monday issued a statement in which he said that he had used the words “bird poop” to express his “deepest contempt for Nazism.”
“It was never my intention to trivialize or deride the victims of this criminal system,” he also said, according to The Associate Press.
Chancellor Angela Merkel through her spokesman on Monday called it “shameful that we have to deal with such comments by a lawmaker in parliament.” The spokesman also said that the government strongly rejects any downplaying of the Nazi era.
In national elections last year, the Alternative for Germany Party, or AfD, which was launched in 2013, finished in third place, securing 94 seats in the national parliament, the Bundestag, which has 709 seats in all.
Bjorn Hocke, the AfD party leader in the eastern German state of Thuringia, caused a stir last year when he said that paying too much attention to the Holocaust was making German history “appalling and laughable.” He called the Holocaust memorial in Berlin a “monument of shame” and has recommended a radical departure from “these stupid politics of coming to grips with the past.”