Schulz was speaking at a Catholic Day event in Stuttgart on Friday when he was obstructed by protesters. One of the activists reportedly tried to climb onto the platform before being obstructed by security personnel.
“I’ll be honest, those shows worn by the same people on different occasions still remind me of a time that, thank God, is long gone,” he said in an exchange in front of the camera.
His comments went viral on social media on Monday, with a number of users expressing outrage at his comments.
Schulz was talking about phasing out coal-fired power generation and the resulting outages when it was boycotted.
Many Germans regarded the leader’s words as a reference to the black-uniformed corps of Nazis from the SS.
“I’ve also attended events where five similarly dressed people would sit, each with a pose, to rehearse, and then do it over and over,” he said. “So I think this is not a discussion, this is not a participation in a discussion, but an attempt to manipulate events for your own ends. You shouldn’t do that.”
Schulz’s comments caused an uproar, with climate activist Louisa Neubauer commenting that the chancellor had compared “climate activists to Nazis”.
CNN has asked the federal government for comment.
A government spokesman had earlier denied that Schultz had made the comparison, calling the accusation “completely ridiculous.”
“The chancellor’s statements speak for themselves and I do not want to comment on them here,” said government spokeswoman Christian Hoffmann, “but I can say that such a comparison is of course completely absurd.”
“The chancellor has made climate protection a priority for this legislative period of his presidency and, of course, is always ready to deal with and discuss this issue,” she added.
One journalist at the conference pressed Hoffmann more about Schulz’s comments, noting that “the dark times in Germany usually refer to the Nazi era.
Hoffman replied, “I didn’t say what was intended or not, just said I’m not commenting on that and that the data supports itself.”
Schulz’s appointment as German chancellor came just months after Germany suffered its worst climate disaster in years, after devastating summer floods killed nearly 200 people there and dozens more across the border in Belgium.
The chancellor leads a three-party coalition with partners, the pro-business Greens and Liberal Democrats, and her pledge to improve climate action has been at the heart of her campaign.
The new government plans to phase out coal by 2030 – eight years before Merkel’s previous 2038 target, and in March the government brought forward the deadline for a full transition to renewables in the energy sector by at least five years. Until 2035.
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