“Adolf Hitler built motorways and that turned around the German economy. But things got worse for some people,” said Karl-Göran Välivaara during a meeting of the Norrbotten County Council in Gällivare, according to the Norrbottens Kuriren newspaper.
The remarks came in the context of a debate about the council’s master plan for 2010-2012 and were meant to serve as an example of a successful economic stimulus measure.
Välivaara’s complimentary words about the former leader of Nazi Germany prompted a sharp rebuttal from Social Democratic council member Kent Ögren.
“You’re talking about a man who dedicated himself to ethnic cleansing,” said Ögren.
Välivaara then tried to defend his comments, arguing he was not trying to honour Hitler.
But Ögren was unimpressed.
“You’re commending Hitler for building roads instead of talking about the madness he perpetrated,” the Social Democrat replied, according to the newspaper.
Välivaara then accused Ögren of being a poor student of history.
“You don’t know your history. Hitler built the roads in 1935, but the war started in 1939,” said the Christian Democratic politician.
Defending his comments on Thursday in Aftonbladet, Välivaara explained he was simply citing historical examples of successful government spending initiatives.
“The building of the motorways was a good thing. We still drive on them today. What he did later could hardly have been worse. But he got what he deserved in the end,” he told the newspaper.
Välivaara also clarified what he meant by “things got worse for some people”.
“The Jews had it worse. They were oppressed throughout the 1930s and the oppression culminated in the Night of the Broken Glass in 1938,” he said.