Israel’s President Rivlin Addresses Germany’s Bundestag
On Wednesday, the Bundestag commemorates the Holocaust 75 years after Auschwitz. In his speech, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin recalls Germany’s “lighthouse effect,” while emphasizing the role of Chancellor Merkel.
Rivlin called on the European Union to defend its core values. Europe was haunted by the ghosts of the past today, Rivlin said in Parliament’s memorial service for the victims of the Holocaust. Nationalism, xenophobia, and anti-Semitism were hovering across Europe, he said.
Nonetheless, the continent was not in the 1930s and was therefore not on the brink of a new Shoah, Rivlin said while reminding everyone that Germany had a “special responsibility” and had transformed from the Nazi “horror” into a “beacon” for the protection of liberal values in the world.
Rivlin also addressed Chancellor Merkel directly: The “dear” Chancellor was often called the “leader of the free world,” and rightly so. “The responsibility that rests on Germany’s shoulders is enormous,” he warned. If Jews were not living freely here, they could not live anywhere else in the world, the president said.
Before Rivlin, Germany’s President Steinmeier and Bundestags Präsident Schäuble also addressed the parliament. Steinmeier warned of the return of authoritarian thinking in Germany and called for a decisive fight against anti-Semitism and racism. “Let us rise against the old nonsense in the new times,” that presented its ethnic, authoritarian thinking as a vision, as the better answer to the open questions of our time, Steinmeier said. It was Germany’s responsibility to history Germany “owed” victims and survivors.
Schäuble meanwhile urged the Germans to face up to the crimes of National Socialism repeatedly and to remember the victims. “There is no wholesome silence about Auschwitz,” Schäuble said in his speech. There have been repeated attempts, and there are still attempts to downplay or reinterpret the crimes. “It will not work!”
“It is part of the basic social consensus to accept this historical responsibility,” Schäuble continued, while commemorating the victims of the Nazi regime: Jews, Sinti, and Roma, Slavs, forced laborers, homosexuals, the disabled, prisoners of war and other outcasts.
On January 27, 1945, Soviet soldiers liberated the Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi concentration and extermination camp. Here alone, the Nazis murdered more than a million people. In 1996, Germany’s then-President Herzog proclaimed January 27 as a memorial day for the victims of National Socialism.
Every year the Bundestag commemorates the victims of National Socialism.