"I only had one glass of wine during the flight," said European Parliament Vice President Jacek Protasiewicz, in response to accusations that he created a scene at the Frankfurt airport earlier Tuesday, during which he drunkenly called customs officials Nazis, asking them if they'd ever been to Auschwitz and shouted "Heil Hitler".
The EU official told Polish media that the German custom officials had instigated the incident, when they behaved rudely towards him and pushed him.
According to the website of German tabloid Bild and other media outlets in Germany, the Polish politician landed at the airport under the heavy influence of alcohol. Customs employees asked Protasiewicz to provide indentification, and in response he lashed out at them in front of dozens of stunned passengers.
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In an interview with a Polish radio station, the EU official said: "I wasn't drunk, I only had one glass of wine." Protasiewicz also noted during the interview that he was the one who bore the brunt of racist insults heaped on him by the German customs officials.
According to him, one of the officials shouted "Raus", which in German means "get out". He attributed the word to the phrase "Jews out!" and as a result was insulted.
During the radio interview, Protasiewicz stressed that he was not drunk and was not rocking from side to side, as he only had one glass of wine. He said that he filmed the incident and promised to send the clip to the radio station. The EU official further explained that he belongs to a generation that still remembers the post-World War II environment, and that the word "Raus" is equivalent to a red flag one waves in front of a bull.
Protasiewicz said that he told the custom official that the word "Raus" is linked in Poland to the phrase "Heil Hitler" and that was what set the officer off. "He started pushing me", he told the station, "and then I told him that before using force, he should go to Auschwitz because that's the best lesson in humility."
Polish PM: His behavior is unacceptable
Police officers from Frankfurt told Polish radio reporter Adam Gorzhevsky that Protasiewicz's arrest was related to the incident in which the German custom officials were insulted. They refused to address the issue of alcohol and said that the officials were those who called the police to the airport. Police refused to respond when asked about the exact words Protasiewicz used to insult the custom officials.
Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk reacted gravely to the incident. "We will decide on the future of Protasiewicz and his role in the European Parliament in the next few days," Tusk told a news conference.
"No matter who is guilty and how much guilt lies on the side of the German airport workers, his behavior is unacceptable... A man must be able to control his emotions and anger," said Tusk.
Protasiewicz, who is one of 14 vice presidents of the European Parliament, enjoys diplomatic immunity, and is therefore likely to avoid prosecution.
Earlier this month, European Parliament President Martin Schulz caused political outrage in Israel when, during a speech in the Knesset, he cited a Palestinian youth who had told him that Gazans receive a fraction of the water allocation given to Israelis.
He also mentioned the blockade on Gaza, prompting Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett and other members of his party to storm out of the plenum.
Reuters contributed to this report.