This year’s remembrance of Germany’s eternal responsibility
By Marita Sparrer-Dolidze
Tuesday, February 4James Angelos’ interviewees in his May 2019 New York Times article were Jewish family members living in Germany. The interview he conducted was then published and was a true story, telling how ‘new forms of old hatreds are stocking new fear’ among some 200,000 Jews living in Germany. Why do Jews not choose Germany as their country of destination while the modern German political agenda is pushing for as much political correctness as possible, remains a topic of heated discussions. Can one be a Jew and feel safe in, what many claim to be, a very tolerant country? Angelo’s interviewee says: “The moment you say it, things will become very awkward.”
Nevertheless, many high-level political figures showed up on 27 January, International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust, to attend the Fifth World Holocaust Forum at Yad Vashem. Among others, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier spoke at a Jerusalem memorial event, marking the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp. Steinmeier, together with some 40 world leaders, including President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, pledged to combat anti-Semitism. “I stand here laden with the heavy, historical burden of guilt,” Steinmeier said. “My heart is filled with gratitude for the hands of the survivors stretched out to us. Germany’s responsibility does not expire. We want to live up to our responsibility. By this, dear friends, you should measure us.” In their coverage of the event, German Tagesspiegel noticed that the name of the anti-system party AfD did not come up once in Steinmeier's speech and assumed that the principle of neutrality must have forbidden it for the Federal President. Yet, he did openly speak about Germans not having learned from history once and for all and admitted that hatred is further spreading. The most recent example was last October when a gunman who denounced Jews killed two people outside a German synagogue on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish year while live-streaming his attack online. After the attack, German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer announced that according to the federal prosecutor, there were sufficient indicators to assume the attacker was a right-wing extremist. A meaningful gesture of Steinmeier is noteworthy: he chose to address the World Holocaust Forum in English to make sure he did not upset any of the Holocaust survivors in the audience, Steinmeier’s office said.
The Yad Vashem Forum was not the only big event on this year’s Remembrance Day: The United Nations(UN) Department of Global Communications organized several events on January 27 to observe the 2020 International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust. This year the events were held under the theme “75 years after Auschwitz - Holocaust Education and Remembrance for Global Justice,” that seeks to ensure respect for the dignity and human rights of all people everywhere. According to the UN’s Note to Correspondents, the main idea behind the events was to reflect the continued importance of collective action against antisemitism and other forms of bias.
Controversies arise as we fail to find Germany’s name in the main headline as the event was dedicated to remembering 75 years to the day since the liberation of Auschwitz Birkenau, the largest Nazi concentration and extermination camp, in operation from 1940 until 1945.
Then again, as a way of balancing the idea of remaining non-bias with regard to the matter, the UN ceremony speakers included Permanent Representative of Germany to the United Nations Christoph Heusgen, Permanent Representative of Israel Danny Danon and Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation Vasily A. Nebenzia. Among other things, the UN General Assembly resolution 60/7 in 2005 established the Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach Program's multifaced program, together with the annual worldwide observance of the International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust, encompasses online and print educational resources, exhibitions, a film series, seminars, etc.
Bearing in mind the current number of the Jewish population in Germany and the rise of right extremism, politicians together with international organizations and media have a responsibility to always divulge wicked plans of organizations like AfD and educate the population on the recent history, even more so in Germany. Maybe then will people in Germany have a response, not so awkward, when they find out their next-door neighbor is not a vegan Berliner enjoying all-natural clothing but rather a Jew, dressed in a tallit, on their way to a morning service.