Extinction Rebellion co-founder Roger Hallam has apologised for “cultural insensitivity” and the “crass words” he used about the Holocaust.
Mr Hallam referred to the state-sanctioned, industrial murder of millions of Jewish people by Nazi Germany during the Second World War as “just another f***ery in human history” in an interview with German newspaper Die Zeit.
But his remarks prompted a stinging backlash, including from the climate change protest group itself, which “unreservedly” denounced the comments which had “deeply wounded” people.
Germany’s foreign minister Heiko Maas, also condemned Mr Hallam’s remarks about the “uniquely inhumane” event.
In a Facebook statement, Mr Hallam said: “I realise that in the interview I got sidetracked into an unnecessary debate about where the Holocaust sits in terms of horrific genocides.
“I see now my cultural insensitivity. I understand that such a debate is obscene and offensive, in particular for all those who remain haunted by memories of what occurred and for all those who lost people they loved.
“I am sorry for the crass words that I used. I do not feel the need to apologise for drawing attention to the genocide that is happening now.
“We must learn from the past, from tragedies like the Holocaust and other genocides, to prevent the horror of the near future.”
In the Die Zeit interview, Mr Hallam said: “The fact of the matter is, millions of people have been killed in vicious circumstances on a regular basis throughout history.”
He added that, when viewed in the context of atrocities, the Holocaust was “almost a normal event … just another f***ery in human history”.
An Extinction Rebellion (XR) spokesman said: “Jewish people and many others are deeply wounded by the comments today (Wednesday).
“Internal conversations have begun with the XR Conflict team about how to manage the conflict process that will address this issue.
“We stand by restorative outcomes as preferable, although in some cases exclusion is necessary.”
A statement from XR Jews added: “Anyone invoking the Holocaust to make a point should remember that citing a minority’s experience of genocide will always make its survivors feel vulnerable.
“No-one should talk about a people’s traumatic history in a throwaway manner, even if the point is to raise awareness about a deadly serious issue.
“In doing so, they may embolden those who already threaten that community.”
Mr Hallam, who was arrested in September for allegedly attempting to disrupt Heathrow Airport using a drone, will appear in court on November 29 on charges of conspiracy to cause public nuisance.
A full trial is scheduled for February next year.