Australian bank executive apologizes for calling Hitler ‘visionary’

SYDNEY, Australia (JTA) – A senior banker at one of Australia’s largest investment banks apologized for suggesting that Hitler was a great visionary.

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Michael Hawker, an independent nonexecutive director of the board of the Macquarie Group, told a meeting of bank executives in Sydney Aug. 16: “You have to paint a great picture of your vision of the future if you want people to follow,” the Australian Financial Review quoted him as saying. “Hitler painted a great picture … Well, maybe not from another point of view.”

But Hawker issued a statement Monday, saying: “These comments were insensitive and inappropriate, and I apologize unreservedly for them and any offense or hurt they have caused.”

The Hitler analogy by Hawker, a former rugby player for Australia, was heavily criticized by Jewish officials, including Peter Wertheim, the Sydney-based executive director of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, who described the comments as “beyond belief.”

But Wertheim acknowledged Hawker had called him to formally apologize to the Jewish community. “I have no doubt that his apology is completely sincere,” Wertheim said. “I also hope that he takes the time to visit the Sydney Jewish Museum and the Holocaust Center in Melbourne.”

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