Schroeder vows to fightlingering anti-Semitism
25 January 2005, BERLIN - Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, in a speech for the 60th anniversary of Auschwitz's liberation, admitted anti-Semitism remained a lingering problem in Germany and vowed to use the full force of the state to combat neo-Nazis. "I stand before you as a representative of democratic Germany. I evince my shame in view of those who were murdered - and before those of you who survived the hell of the concentration camps," said Schroeder in a speech to Holocaust survivors. Schroeder expresse
25 January 2005
BERLIN - Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, in a speech for the 60th anniversary of Auschwitz's liberation, admitted anti-Semitism remained a lingering problem in Germany and vowed to use the full force of the state to combat neo-Nazis.
"I stand before you as a representative of democratic Germany. I evince my shame in view of those who were murdered - and before those of you who survived the hell of the concentration camps," said Schroeder in a speech to Holocaust survivors.
Schroeder expressed pride that Germany's Jewish community is now the third biggest in Europe. Almost 200,000 Jews have immigrated to Germany from the former Soviet Union since 1990.
"The Jewish community is and remains an irreplaceable part of our culture," said Schroeder.
A survivor of Auschwitz, Kurt Julius Goldstein who is 90, said the Nazi death camp was something "human fantasy could not imagine."
"Auschwitz with its more than 1.5 million dead is the biggest cemetery in the world," said Goldstein wiping tears from eyes.
But the Chancellor devoted a key part of his speech to threats posed by far-right parties in Germany after last week's incident when rightists used Saxony state's parliament as a platform to compare the firebombing of Dresden in World War II with the Holocaust.
"It cannot be denied that there is still anti-Semitism," said Schroeder, adding: "We will use all powers of the state to protect against the anti-Semitism of those who are unteachable."
Polls over the past decade show 15 to 20 percent of all Germans are anti-Semitic and over 70 percent of Germans say they are angry when Jews remind them of Nazi crimes, said a leading anti-Semitism researcher, Werner Bergmann of Berlin's Technical University, in an essay in the Tagespiegel newspaper.
Far-right parties running on an anti-Semitic and anti-foreigner platform were elected in two states in former communist East Germany last September. The National Party of Germany (NPD) won 9.2 percent in Saxony and the German People's Union (DVU) got 6.1 percent in Brandenburg.
Both parties announced this month they will join forces in Germany's general election due next year.
The Chancellor called on all democrats to stand up to neo-Nazis and oppose those who sought to play down the Third Reich's crimes. The must be "no tolerance" for such enemies of democracy, Schroeder said.
"Never again must anti-Semitism succeed in besieging and harming Jewish citizens ... and bring disgrace to our nation," he said.
Schroeder underlined that nothing Germany could do could make up for the magnitude of suffering and horror experienced in Auschwitz.
And he admitted that among some Germans "the temptation to forget and repress is great." Schroeder added: "But we will not succumb to this."
The opening this May of Berlin's Holocaust "Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe" will not give back the victims their lives or their dignity, said Schroeder.
"But it can perhaps serve as a symbol of their suffering both to survivors and their families. For all of us it serves as a symbol against forgetting," he said.
Designed by New York architect Peter Eisenman, the memorial is comprised of 2,751 undulating concrete pillars on a plain the size of two football fields near the historic Brandenburg Gate - almost above the bunker where Adolf Hitler committed suicide 60 years ago.
The German leader concluded: "We know one thing - there can be no freedom, no human dignity and no justice if we forget what happened when freedom, dignity, justice and human dignity were trodden by the power of the state."
Auschwitz was liberated by the Soviet Red Army on 27 January 1945. A ceremony at the former death camp in Poland will be attended by survivors and world leaders this Thursday. Germany's representative will be Federal President Horst Koehler.
Subject: German news