A German cartoonist has apologised for causing offence by depicting Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg as a hooked-nose octopus.

The original cartoon in Sueddeutsche Zeitung

The cartoon published Friday in an early edition of the Munich newspaper, Sueddeutsche Zeitung, prompted complaints of anti-Semitism from Jewish groups.

Later editions showed an empty hole where Zuckerberg's face had been. 

Cartoonist Burkhard Mohr says he had intended to make a point about Facebook devouring rival WhatsApp and didn't realise the caricature resembled the kind of incitement to anti-Semitism printed by the Nazis.

Mohr told the Associated Press news agency: "I'm very sorry about this misunderstanding and any readers' feelings I may have hurt.

"Anti-Semitism and racism are ideologies that are totally alien to me."

Efraim Zuroff, the head Nazi hunter at the Simon Wiesenthal Centre in Jerusalem, said he wasn't convinced by the apology. 

"He drew a caricature that is so reminiscent of Der Stuermer caricatures that it's inconceivable to me he didn't realise this,'' said Zuroff, referring to the weekly propaganda paper that the Nazis used to whip up hatred against Jews. 

Facebook didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.

Sueddeutsche Zeitung has been criticised in the past for appearing to defame Jews. Last July it was forced to apologise after printing a picture caption that likened the state of Israel to a ravenous monster.

The paper said at the time that it regretted any "misunderstandings".

Source: AP