Monday, 30 Jan 2023 - 8 of Shevat, 5783

In Berlin, Israeli President Rivlin addresses in Hebrew the Bundestag at a special sitting in memory of the victims of the Holocaust

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Rivlin stressed that Europe today ‘’is again pursued by the ghosts of the past.’’ ‘’Conceptions of superiority, nationalist purity, xenophobia, ugly and blatant antisemitism drift across Europe. From the right to the hard left, antisemitism permeates the heart of European leadership.”

For the first time in 10 years, an Israeli leader joined German lawmakers in the Bundestag, the federal parliament in Berlin, in marking the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp, amid rising anti-Semitism in Germany.

Rivlin and his German counterpart, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, both addressed the  Bundestag on Wednesday.

Rivlin, who spoke in Hebrew, is only the second Israeli leader to address German lawmakers on International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Former Israeli President Shimon Peres spoke to lawmakers at the ceremony in 2010.

He declared: “I stand here and say that German and Israel are partners. Together we stand up for our values: against anti-Semitism and xenophobia and against the destruction that occurred 75 years ago.’’

“Human rights, liberty and human solidarity also went up in smoke from the crematoria at Auschwitz. And that is the most central and jarring message of the Shoah – that Shoah – destruction – can happen,” he said.

He added: “This is not a war that can be won once and forever. This is a war that we must sign up for generation after generation. To uproot the weeds, wherever they grow, day after day. We must not relent. Germany must not fail. Germany, the place where the Final Solution was envisaged took upon itself the responsibility to defend nationalist-liberal values when they are being eroded by waves of populism. If Germany fails trying to prevent the disaster, others everywhere are likely to fail.”

He stressed that Europe today ‘’is again pursued by the ghosts of the past.’’ ‘’Conceptions of superiority, nationalist purity, xenophobia, ugly and blatant antisemitism drift across Europe. From the right to the hard left, antisemitism permeates the heart of European leadership.”

The Israeli president also dedicated part of his speech to Iran, speaking of  ‘’a deep disagreement between true friends regarding the attempt to reach agreement with the Iranian leadership.’’ He called the country a threat to world peace that must be isolated.

“We do not have the privilege of ignoring either the Iranian leadership’s policy or its rhetoric. We all know well how rhetoric that preaches hatred, hatred of Israel, to destroy it – how dangerous it is. We all know its power,” Rivlin said.

Ahead of Rivlin’s address, the German president called the Holocaust a part of German identity.

“The Holocaust is part of German history and of German identity,” Steinmeier said, and went on to say that Germany must remain vigilant in protecting the memory of the past.

“The evil spirits of the past are reappearing today under a new guise. More still, they are presenting their ethno-nationalist, authoritarian thinking as a vision, as a better answer to the questions of our time,” he said.

“Those of us in this room who believe in democracy take it for self-evident that our country must grapple with historical guilt.”

“We won’t forget what happened. And we won’t forget what can still happen.”

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier (L) and Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin during their visit at the Jewish Moses Mendelssohn school in Berlin.

Before addressing the Bundestag, President Rivlin visited together with his German counterpart the Moses Mendelssohn Jewish high school in the German capital.

The school, named after the 18th century German-Jewish philosopher Moses Mendelssohn, currently has 441 pupils, 60% of whom are Jewish. Around 15% have nationalities other than German, some with roots in eastern Europe.

Between 1942 and 1945, Adolf Hitler’s Nazi regime had used some of the buildings at the site of the school as a camp to deport Berlin Jews into the Nazi death camp system.

Rivlin told pupils: “We now have the fourth, fifth and sixth generation after the Holocaust and the Second World War.”

Ways must be found, Rivlin said, to inform young people and their children about what happened as the last survivors pass away.

The German president urged the children to visit Yad Vashem and former Nazi death camps.

 

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