Japanese Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Taro Aso backtracked on Wednesday after he used Hitler as an example for legacy in politics.
"I don't question a politician's motives; it is delivering results that matter," Aso said at a seminar for members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.
"Hitler, who killed millions of people, was no good, even if his intentions had been good."
His remarks prompted a quick reaction from the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the US-based anti-Semitism watchdog, who decried the comment as "downright dangerous."
"When will the elite of Japan wake up and acknowledge that they have a 'Nazi Problem'?" the center's Rabbi Abraham Cooper asked.
Kazunori Yamanoi from the opposition Democratic Party, also slammed the statement as "a serious gaffe," according to Kyodo News service.
The comment "was extremely shameful as one made by a Cabinet minister. I cannot help but question his competence," Yamanoi added.
Aso's view on Hitler 'negative'
Aso admitted the remark was inappropriate and insisted he had no intention of defending Hitler.
"If you take my comment in its entirety, it is clear that my perception about Hitler is extremely negative and that Hitler was wrong in his motivation," he said in a statement issued by the finance ministry.
"It was inappropriate that I cited Hitler as an example and I would like to retract that."
Japan and Weimar Germany
It is not the first time Aso has faced criticism over references to the Nazi regime. In 2013, in the midst of a debate on changing the Japanese constitution, he was also forced to apologize for referring to the Nazi takeover of Germany.
"Germany's Weimar Constitution had been changed (by the Nazis) before anyone knew. Why don't we learn from that technique?" he asked. In 2008, he compared the tactics of the Japanese opposition to those of Nazis.
Aso is not the only senior figure in Japan, the one-time Axis ally of Nazi Germany, to have caused controversy over historical references. In June, a board member of Japan's central bank described Hitler's economic policies as "appropriate" and "wonderful" moves that enabled the Nazi dictator to do "horrible" things.
dj/rt (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)