Europe

German bank calls for controversial member to be fired

Thilo Sarrazin at a news conference in Berlin to launch his book Deutschland Schafft Sich Ab (Germany Abolishes Itself) - 30 August 2010
Image caption Mr Sarrazin says his book is "balanced"

The German central bank has called on the country's president to dismiss one of its board members over comments he made about immigration and Jews.

The call came after the board met for a second day to discuss the issue.

Earlier, President Christian Wulff said he was concerned Germany's image could be damaged by Thilo Sarrazin's remarks.

Mr Sarrazin has criticised German Muslims, suggested the existence of a Jewish gene, and warned of ethnic Germans being outnumbered by migrants.

The call for his dismissal was an unprecedented move by the Bundesbank - a proudly independent institution - and was taken under unprecedented pressure, says the BBC's European affairs correspondent Oana Lungescu in Berlin.

In his book, Germany Abolishes Itself, Mr Sarrazin states Muslim immigrants refuse to integrate.

In a newspaper interview about the book, he said that "all Jews share a particular gene".

Mr Sarrazin says the book is "very balanced".

On Monday, the Bundesbank, which does not have the right to dismiss Mr Sarrazin itself, distanced itself from his comments, saying his remarks were "discriminatory".

On Sunday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Mr Sarrazin's remarks were "completely unacceptable" and urged the Bundesbank to act.

Public opinion divided

The banker faces exclusion from the centre-left Social Democratic Party, but the rank-and-file have sent messages of support, our correspondent adds.

Polls suggest that Germans are divided over whether he should keep his job.

Necla Kelek, a social scientist of Turkish descent who came to Germany at the age of 11, was at Mr Sarrazin's book launch in Berlin on Monday, and welcomes the debate his comments have stirred up.

"We have a real need to talk about these issues in Germany. They can get rid of Sarrazin, but not the debate," she told the BBC World Service's Europe Today programme.

Mr Sarrazin is expected to appeal against the decision.

He rejects any comparison with Nazi views on racial purity.

"I am myself a European mongrel," he said in a newspaper interview, with a family that descends from the Huguenots, Calvinists who fled religious persecution in France in the 17th Century, and a surname that derives from Saracen, the name given to Arab pirates in the Middle Ages.

Germany has more than four million Muslims, most of them of Turkish origin.

Based on advance orders, the book has shot to the top of Germany's sales chart.

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