Germany”s foreign minister Heiko Maas slammed “anti-mask” demonstrators who compared themselves to the victims of Nazism, accusing them of trivialising the Holocaust and “mocking” the courage shown by the resistance fighters.
At a rally on Saturday in Hanover protesting restrictive measures imposed to combat the coronavirus epidemic, a young demonstrator told those gathered that she felt “like Sophie Scholl,” a German student executed in 1943 by the Nazis for her role in the resistance.
Footage of her speech was seen more than a million times on social networks, with many Internet users expressing indignation at her words.
“Anyone today who compares himself to Sophie Scholl or Anne Frank doesn’t care about the courage it took to stand up to the Nazis,” Maas said in a tweet.
He added: “This plays down the Holocaust and shows an unbearable oblivion of history. Nothing connects corona protests with resistance fighters. Nothing!”
The video shows a member of the security service interrupting the demonstrator perched on a platform and denouncing her remarks, which amounted to “minimising the Holocaust”.
“I don’t work for security to (hear) such nonsense,” he exclaimed before being escorted away.
The young woman, who introduced herself as 22-year-old Jana, burst into tears and dropped her microphone before leaving the stage.
Last week, an eleven-year-old girl addressed “anti-mask” demonstrators in Karlsruhe, comparing herself to the Jewish teenager Anne Frank because she had had to celebrate her birthday quietly.
Anne Frank, whose diary written while she was living in hiding in the Netherlands under Nazi occupation was read by millions of people, perished in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1945.
The comparison provoked outrage, including from Karlsruhe police who considered it to be “inappropriate and in bad taste”.
Germany has long taken steps to confront its Nazi past and acknowledge its responsibility for the Holocaust in which six million Jews were murdered. This legacy has been tested by the rise of far-right party Alternative for Germany (AfD) whose rhetoric has challenged the country’s culture of remembrance.
AfD politician Björn Höcke once described Berlin’s Holocaust memorial as “a monument of shame” and called for a “180-degree turnaround” in the way Germany handled its Nazi past.
The government’s measures to contain the epidemic sparked major demonstrations in Germany, bringing together radical left-wing activists, conspiracy fighters and right-wing extremists.
On Wednesday in Berlin, police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse several thousand demonstrators, most of whom were not wearing masks.
Several hundred people gathered again on Sunday in Berlin for another demonstration against COVID-19 restrictions.