German Chancellor at Holocaust memorial: ‘Fighting antisemitism is a German obligation’

Fighting antisemitism “is an obligation for every federal (German) government,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said during her farewell tour to Israel. 

By Gil Tanenbaum/TPS

Israel’s Prime Minister, Naftali Bennett, and the German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum and Memorial in Jerusalem today, Sunday.

They were joined in their visit by the Chairman of Yad Vashem, Danny Dayan, and the Chairman of the Yad Vashem Council, Rabbi Israel Meir Lau.

Chancellor Merkel is currently in Israel as part of a farewell tour. Merkel chose to step down and did not seek reelection this year as chancellor of Germany after serving four consecutive terms, 16 years, in the position.

The Prime Minister and the Chancellor visited the “Flashes of Memory” exhibition, which presents photographs from the Holocaust period. Afterward, Prime Minister Bennett and Chancellor Merkel visited the Museum of Holocaust Art, which houses an exhibition by Belgian artist Carol Deutsch.

The leaders later toured the new campus for Holocaust heritage, which is currently under construction, and the objects from Hamburg that will be stored there.

At the end of the tour, the two met with Holocaust survivor Dr. Henry Poner.

Bennett and Merkel also participated in a state memorial service at the “Tent of Remembrance.”

Chancellor Merkel commented, “Every visit to Yad Vashem touches me at the core every time anew. The crimes against the Jewish people that are documented here are a perpetual reminder of the responsibility we Germans bear and a warning.”

Merkel also commented on how Jewish life has “again found a home in Germany after the crimes against humanity that were the Shoah is an immense expression of trust for which we are grateful. This trust compels us to stand up in determination against antisemitism hatred and violence every day anew. This is an obligation for every federal (German) government.”

Prime Minister Bennett explained in his remarks that the Hebrew word for “holocaust” is “Shoah”’ and that this word can mean emptiness or an empty place. The term comes from the book of Psalms.

“The goal of the Nazis was to leave behind an emptiness,” said Bennett,” “a complete erasure of our people. A third of it was lost. Six million people, women and children.”

Bennett then asked Merkel, that, on her way out from Yad Shashem, she should understand that the “magnitude of the disaster is the magnitude of the miracle: between the powerful, prosperous, optimistic Israel of today, and the Holocaust, the greatest genocide in history, and the most difficult, tragic, painful chapter in the history of our people – only a few decades separate.”

Adding that there are many lessons for the Holocaust and that even decades later, The Prime Minister said, “the Jewish people have not yet finished deeply understanding the catastrophe that befell them. To me, the most important of the lessons is the most obvious and simplest of all: the place of the Jewish people is on its land, here in the Land of Israel.”

“The Holocaust is not the reason for the existence of the State of Israel,” said Bennett. “The connection of the Jewish people to their land did not begin in Auschwitz. But Auschwitz, our brothers and sisters who were lost there, strengthens in us the determination to never again be a defenseless people, far from his homeland.”

The Prime Minister also talked about how, as a religious Jew and as an Israeli, whose “people’s past is etched in him, and is with him wherever he goes, as someone whose branches of his family were cut down in the Holocaust and commemorated here by their names, as the prime minister of Israel who holds this nation’s future in his hands, all roads lead to Jerusalem.”