It is a great and special honour for me to speak to you here on this day.
I am very grateful that I, as German Ambassador, can be in your midst today to commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day and share your remembrances.
Your invitation to speak on such an occasion is a huge privilege and – at the same time – a very special responsibility.
Eva Clarke’s testimony has left a deep mark.
Her voice was soft, but her words were like thunder.
I wish to avail myself of this opportunity to express my deepest respect to all the survivors and the descendants of the victims.
Remembering and confronting the past has become central to our political culture and political discourse in Germany today, as is our unwavering commitment to the State of Israel.
In more than 70 years, these basic principles have become fundamental for the new Germany, the Federal Republic, and they stand beyond the fluctuations of day-to-day politics.
Holocaust Memorial Day takes us back to the liberation of the concentration camps in 1945, it takes us back to the unspeakable atrocities committed against European Jews by Germany and Germans.
It takes us back to the conspiracy of mass murderers in a villa on the shore of Lake Wannsee 75 years ago.
Since then, we Germans have never been quite at peace with ourselves, and the nagging question ‘how was all this possible?’ is not fading away as time goes on, on the contrary:
Memories of the past even grow louder with each new generation.
Again, a young generation in Germany wants to hear from the survivors:
How could you live on, after the horror of the Shoah, after looking into the abyss of humanity?
I personally was privileged to meet the late Ely Wiesel in N.Y. a number of times.
Let me quote some of his famous words:
“For the survivor death is not the problem.
Death was an everyday occurrence.
We learned to live with Death.
The problem is to adjust to life, to living.
You must teach us about living.”
Today we live in times of great uncertainty again.
There is a growing sense of discontinuity in global and domestic politics everywhere.
Basic beliefs held for decades are being called into question.
In particular we see populist forces on the rise in many parts of the world.
Even we in the West no longer seem to be immune against the virus of intolerance and religiously motivated hatred.
We hear of cases of anti-Semitism in places we had not expected them, we see taboos broken, and we are frightened.
I can only speak for my own country here, but let me assure you:
We will not allow the advocates of intolerance and anti-Semitism to prevail.
We just will not let that happen.
We will fight anti-Semitism wherever we find it, and we will not accept excuses.
When I hear that young Israelis again love travelling to Berlin, that a new generation of Jewish life is flourishing in Germany, when I hear of Jewish schools being opened and Rabbis being ordained in German cities, I see this as a sign of trust regained 70 years after.
Germany will keep its promises, we will prove worthy of this trust.
We will defend our post-war society which is built on the principle of respect and tolerance.
We will defend it not only because it is an obligation that stems from our history, but to protect our own future.
The Association of Jewish Refugees can and must be an important voice in this battle.
Your words, the words of the victims and the survivors and their descendants, carry great moral authority.
As we commemorate the atrocities of the Holocaust today, together we have to ensure that future generations will learn from the past.
I thank the AJR for its work, its dedication, and its generosity in allowing me to speak to you.