‘Despot of the Bosphorus’: German officials react to Erdogan’s ‘Nazi’ jibe

German Justice Minister Heiko Maas.

German officials have reacted angrily to Turkish President Erdogan’s recent comments, which compared the cancellation of rallies by two Turkish ministers to “Nazi practises”.

Speaking on Sunday to a large crowd in Istanbul Erdogan had said, “Germany, you have no relation whatsoever to democracy and you should know that your current actions are no different to those of the Nazi period.”

Berlin on Monday rejected Erdogan’s comparison as “absurd.” Steffen Seibert, the government spokesman urged both sides to stay “calm and level-headed” and not lose sight of the close ties that bind the two NATO allies, Reuters reported.

“We firmly reject any comparisons between the policies of the democratic Federal Republic of Germany and the Nazi times,” Seibert said adding, “such comparisons are always absurd and out of place because they lead to only to one thing: a trivialization of crimes against humanity.”

The spokesperson also urged the European Union to check if funds aimed at preparing Turkey to enter the bloc were working as intended.

Meanwhile German Justice Minister Heiko Maas responded to the vitriol saying Erdogan’s comments were “absurd, disgraceful and outlandish” and designed to provoke a reaction from Berlin, Reuters reported.

The justice minister dismissed calls for breaking off diplomatic ties, and cautioned that such moves would push Ankara “straight into the arms of (Russian President Vladmir) Putin, which no one wants”.

Julia Kloeckner, deputy leader of Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party said the Turkish president was “reacting like a wilful child that cannot have his way” and added that the Nazi comparison “is a new high point of intemperance.”

The most biting comment meanwhile came from general secretary of the Bavarian CSU party, Andreas Scheuer, who called Erdogan “the despot of the Bosphorus” and said that the remarks marked a new low point in ties between the two allies.

Opposition parties in Turkey have criticised the cancellation of rallies by Turkish ministers and said it could favour the ruling Justice and Development (AKP) party government and Erdogan, who will use it to “play the victim,” and drum up nationalist sentiment in the run-up to April’s constitutional referendum.

After the cancellations Turkey’s opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputy Ziya Pir had said the cancellations were due to security concerns because organisers did not inform authorities that ministers would be speaking at the rallies.

Turkish Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci spoke at rallies in Leverkusen and Cologne on Sunday easing tensions.

A poll conducted for the Bild am Sonntag newspaper has showed that 81 percent of Germans believe the current government has been too accommodating with Ankara. Germany relies on Turkey to stop an influx of immigrants arriving in Europe.