November 9th, 2008

Commemoration of 70th anniversary of Kristallnacht

Berlin – On Sunday, 9th November an official ceremony organised by the Federal Government and the Central Council of Jews 8n Germany to mark the 70th anniversary of the Kristallnacht pogrom took place at Berlin's Rykestrasse synagogue, the largest synagogue in Germany, which can accommodate 1200 people. Speaking to the Federal Chancellor, Angela Merkel, and numerous prominent guests, the President of the Central Council, Charlotte Knobloch, remembered with "sympathy, wrath, and speechlessness" the events of the night of 9th November 1938. She said that this night should never be reduced to a footnote of history, but that it should be an admonition to the present and future generations. In her moving speech, the President of the Central Council recalled her own memories of that night that paved the way for the Holocaust. "Ever since, I have shed tears every day," said Knobloch. "All those belonging to the generation of victims have been shedding tears all their lives because they have not been able to forget."

With today's society in mind, Knobloch stressed that Kristallnacht had not come out of the blue, that before and after the pogrom, many people had preferred to look the other way and not to say anything. She said it was necessary to draw lessons from history and to be more sensitive "to the quiet and not so quiet signals" of undemocratic, racist and anti-Semitic attitudes. Knobloch called once again for a ban on the far-right National Democratic Party (NPD) and for more determination in dealing with the "brown pied pipers". She said that only "vital, lived democracy" could effectively withstand them. Charlotte Knobloch concluded her emotional speech with an appeal to the youth: "Don't let anybody tell you whom to love or whom to hate."

In her speech at the anniversary ceremony, the Federal Chancellor, Angela Merkel, called the Kristallnacht pogrom a "crime that threw open the floodgates of violence". She said that she could not and did not want to judge but found it important to remember the consequences. Merkel stressed that it had been, among other things, the silence of many people, from individuals to large sections of the church, that had led to the "breakdown of civilisation which was the Shoah". Like Charlotte Knobloch, the Chancellor called on society to learn from the past and to combat xenophobia, racism, and anti-Semitism. She said the wrong belief that we are not affected when something happens to our neighbours leads to catastrophe. With regard to Israel, Merkel declared: "It is one of the most fundamental principles of the state of Germany to ensure the security of Israel." She said that it was the duty of every federal and state government, every city and municipality to support Jewish life and culture in Germany and that Jewish life "must have a good home in Germany" today. (09.11.2008)