German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on Sunday cracked down on anti-mask protesters comparing themselves to Nazi victims, accusing them of trivializing the Holocaust and “ridiculing” the courage of resistance fighters.
The harsh words came after a young woman took the stage at a protest against coronavirus restrictions in Hanover on Saturday, saying she felt “like Sophie Scholl”
A video of the speech has already been viewed more than 1 million times on social media, with many sharply condemning the speaker.
“Anyone today who compares himself to Sophie Scholl or Anne Frank mocks the courage it took to stand up to the Nazis,” second Maas.
“It downplays the Holocaust and shows an unbearable oblivion of history. Nothing connects the corona protests with the resistance fighters. Nothing!”
The clip shows a manager interrupting the woman on stage to hand over her orange vest with high visibility, saying her words constitute “minimizing the Holocaust”.
“I do not work with certainty for such nonsense,” he is heard saying before being escorted away.
The young woman, who identified herself as 22-year-old Jana, then bursts into tears before dropping the microphone and leaving the stage.
In another incident last week, an 11-year-old girl addressed an anti-mask demo in the western city of Karlsruhe, comparing herself to Jewish teenager Anne Frank because she had had to celebrate her birthday quietly to avoid neighbors hear that they had invited friends over.
Frank, whose diary written while hiding in Holland has been read by millions, died in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1945.
The comparison created outrage when the police in Karlsruhe called it “inappropriate and tasteless”.
Germany has long prided itself on confronting its Nazi past and acknowledging its “eternal responsibility” for the Holocaust, in which 6 million Jews were murdered.
However, the far-right AfD party has in recent years challenged Germany’s culture of remembrance, with high-ranking officials openly calling on the country to stop serving time for Nazi crimes.
Government measures put in place to stop the spread of coronavirus have sparked major protests in Germany, drawing in people from the far left, conspiracy theorists and right-wing extremists who claim curbs violate their civil rights.
Hundreds of people gathered in Berlin on Sunday for another protest, a smaller turnout than expected.
Germany’s restaurants, bars, leisure and cultural centers have been ordered to close in November to halt a rapid rise in infections, while schools and shops have been allowed to remain open.
With the number of cases still hovering at record highs, Chancellor Angela Merkel and the leaders of Germany’s 16 states are expected to extend the closure or announce even tougher measures at a meeting on Wednesday.
“We have not come as far as we would have liked,” Merkel told reporters on Sunday. “We certainly have more left to do” to bring the pandemic under control, she added.