Jewish groups on Wednesday rejected as inadequate an apology by Formula One chief Bernie Ecclestone for remarks in which he praised German Nazi leader Adolf Hitler.
During an interview with The Times newspaper last week the billionaire spoke of the Nazi dictator’s ability to “get things done.” But after a storm of criticism, Ecclestone issued a statement on Tuesday in which he said: “I unreservedly apologize for the remarks I made regarding Hitler in a recent interview. I am extremely distressed and embarrassed that these remarks have been used as suggesting that I support Hitler or Saddam Hussein. I would never support such people. “I should never have been so foolish as to have been drawn into discussing these people but the fault was entirely mine, which I deeply regret.” On Wednesday Jon Benjamin, Chief Executive of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, rejected the apology. “Mr. Ecclestone’s comments were crass, ignorant and insensitive,” he said in a statement issued to CNN. “There is no excuse for praising one of history’s most evil men for being good at being bad.” Tell us what you think of Ecclestone’s comments In his statement on Tuesday, the 78-year-old appeared to reignite the controversy by remarking: “During the 1930s Germany was facing an economic crisis, but Hitler was able to rebuild the economy, building the autobahns and German industry. “That was all I meant when I referred to him getting things done. “I’m an admirer of good leadership, of politicians who stand by their convictions and tell the voters the truth. I’m not an admirer of dictators who rule by terror.” He told The Jewish Chronicle on Tuesday he regretted offending people who took his remarks “the wrong way.” Ecclestone had earlier been described by the newspaper’s editor, Stephen Pollard, as “either an idiot or morally repulsive.” Germany’s Central Council of Jews had urged motor racing teams to boycott Formula One over Ecclestone’s comments but cautiously welcomed the apology. However one of the group’s leaders pointed out that the F1 chief’s remarks about the man who presided over the deaths of six million Jews had caused great pain. “If Ecclestone says he was an idiot, I will certainly not contradict him,” Dieter Graumann, vice president of the council, told Handesblatt newspaper. “Apologizing is better than not apologizing. But the glorification of a mass murderer is not a trivial offense.” German media also reported that Guenther Oettinger, premier of the southern state of Baden-Wuerttemberg, had canceled a meeting with the Briton at this weekend’s German Grand Prix at Nurburgring because of his comments about Hitler. The F1 chief had told the German newspaper Bild: “Many people in my closest circle of friends are Jewish. Anyone who knows me knows that I would never attack a minority.”