Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Sunday apologized to Jews worldwide after his remarks drawing comparisons between his bloody war against drugs and Hitler and the Holocaust sparked shock and outrage.
The tough-talking Duterte said his apology was intended only for the Jewish community.
He lashed out again at Western critics and human rights advocates who have raised concerns over his brutal crackdown, which is estimated to have left more than 3,000 suspected drug dealers and users dead in just three months.
Duterte said in a speech in the central city of Bacolod that he never had any intention “to derogate the memory of the 6 million Jews murdered by the Germans.”
Historians say 6 million Jews were killed by the Nazis under Hitler before and during World War II.
“I apologize profoundly and deeply to the Jewish community,” Duterte said.
On Friday, Duterte raised the rhetoric over his drug crackdown to a new level by comparing it to Hitler and the Holocaust and saying he would be “happy to slaughter” an estimated 3 million addicts in the Philippines.
In that speech, the brash president said without elaborating that he has been “portrayed or pictured to be a cousin of Hitler” by his critics.
Moments later, he said: “Hitler massacred 3 million Jews ... there’s 3 million drug addicts. There are. I’d be happy to slaughter them.”
While Hitler’s victims were innocent people, Duterte said his targets are “all criminals” and that getting rid of them would “finish the [drug] problem of my country and save the next generation from perdition.”
The German government slammed Duterte’s comments as unacceptable and summoned the Philippine ambassador to the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs over the matter.
“It is impossible to make any comparison to the unique atrocities of the Shoah and Holocaust,” German Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Martin Schaefer said in Berlin.
World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder said Duterte’s remarks were “revolting” and demanded that he retract them and apologize.
“Drug abuse is a serious issue, but what President Duterte said is not only profoundly inhumane, but it demonstrates an appalling disrespect for human life that is truly heartbreaking for the democratically elected leader of a great country,” Lauder said in a statement issued from Jerusalem, where he was attending the funeral of former Israeli president Shimon Peres.
The US Department of State, which is looking to sustain its long-standing alliance with the Philippines, called the comments “troubling.”
Human Rights Watch deputy director for Asia Phil Robertson said it was baffling why anyone would want to compare themselves to “one of the largest mass murderers in human history.”
Robertson said that in today’s context, Hitler would be accused of crimes against humanity.
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