October 1st, 2014

“Stand up! Never again anti-Semitism!”

Speech given by Dr. Dieter Graumann, President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, at the rally “Stand up! Never again anti-Semitism!”, September 14th, 2014

Dieter Graumann, President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany

Dear friends,

as I look around, I am very glad indeed to see that so many people have come together here today to send out a signal. It gives me a measure of strength and confidence, and it does us the world of good.

It was beyond my wildest imaginings that we here in Germany would ever have to gather to protest against anti-Semitism together. But now that it has become necessary, we stand united and resolute here to show that there can be no place for anti-Semitism! Under no circumstances whatsoever! We will fight for this with all our might and with all our passion! Everyone in the whole world should be aware of this!

This past summer has been no picnic for us Jews in this country, not by any stretch of the imagination. We have seen anti-Semitic outbursts we would never have believed possible. Abominable shock waves of hatred for Jews have reverberated throughout all of Europe. Synagogues have been attacked. Jewish people have been threatened.
On social networks, a tidal wave of hate and vitriolic agitation has washed over us. We have heard horrible anti-Semitic slogans uttered brazenly on German streets. Our nightmares, indeed my own nightmares, have been exceeded by far.

And we say and feel now that enough is enough! We simply have no intention of putting up with this any longer!

The Gaza conflict has been offered as an explanation for this outbreak of anti-Semitism. But what does one have to do with the other? When loud chants are heard in German streets that Jews should be “gassed”, "burned", "slaughtered" – that has nothing whatsoever to do with criticism of Israeli policy. No, it is pure, unadulterated anti-Semitism, and nothing else!
The whole thing ultimately has nothing to do with Israel, nothing at all. And I myself am convinced that anyone who becomes an anti-Semite because of Israel has always been one.

I am not in favour of dramatizing things, but it is not right to downplay them or dismiss them as harmless either. It is a fact that we have heard what have genuinely been the worst anti-Semitic slogans in decades on German streets. None of this can be relativized or trivialized, absolutely not.

And while it is difficult for me to say this, it is unfortunately true that the vast majority of the people who have shouted these vile slogans have been Muslims. It is most certainly wrong to generalize, and sweeping judgements are always to be rejected. Most Muslims in this country certainly think very differently. We seek their friendship and their companionship – this is not going to change. All of us together here deplore that mosques have been attacked in recent weeks and extend our heartfelt sympathy.

But it is also a fact that Muslim organizations need to do much more than they have in the past to finally and robustly tackle the catastrophic anti-Semitism that is evident within their ranks. When are they ever really going to get to grips with this, if not, at the very latest, now?

Muslims, of all people, must not allow Islamist fanatics to misuse their religion to foment anti-Semitic hatred! That the word “Jew” has been used as an insult for years now in German school yards and on German sports pitches – that is a disgrace, a scandal and a festering sore. And no decent person in this country can ever become resigned to such a state of affairs!

These eruptions of hatred for Jews have shocked many of our Jewish people in this country to the core. Many are concerned and despondent. Some are asking themselves whether Jewish life here under such conditions can have a future at all. I want to answer that from our perspective here and put down a marker: Yes! Judaism does have a future here in Germany! Judaism is a part of the future in Germany! We Jews will not lose courage! Our souls have been hurt and wounded, but we will not be intimidated. Anyone waiting for that to happen will wait forever!

But I would have hoped for a bit more feeling in society, a bit more empathy in these past few weeks. After all, many of us are still, like myself, from Holocaust families. We never had grandparents, because our parents’ parents were murdered in German gas chambers. How do people think we must feel when we hear the slogan “Gas the Jews!” on German streets now? And why is it that it is we ourselves who must come to speak of these tumultuous emotions? Why, I ask, does it not strike anybody else? Where is the empathy?

It is also a fact that very little notice was taken of these horrible words when they first rang out in German streets at these vile demonstrations. The topic did not become a major issue in Germany until we, the Central Council of Jews, decided to take it up. Why do we have to initiate this ourselves? If we did not stand up for ourselves, who would stand up for us unprompted?
But let us not be unjust: a very large number of people really have come here today – and that really does us the world of good! And we have received a lot of encouragement.
The mediawere fully committed immediately, and in a fashion that has genuinely been exemplary. So were the churches. Practically all politicians, from all parties, have taken a clear and unambiguous stance on the issue. We greatly appreciate these expressions of solidarity. How sad that they became necessary! But how good that they have been forthcoming! They have done us good at a difficult time. And for that we express our heartfelt thanks.

But it is also a fact that we Jews stand at Israel’s side. And we most definitely do not want to feel obliged to apologize for this heartfelt sentiment. Numerous blogs suggest, time and again, that we Jews might, as it were, “earn” ourselves freedom from anti-Semitism by distancing ourselves from Israel. But that is a price we most certainly have no intention of paying! Why should we Jews have to purchase freedom from anti-Semitism at all? What a dreadful, nightmarish idea! Never will we strike such a bargain!

We Jews are simply not neutral when it comes to Israel. And we should not act as if we were neutral. No, we are partisan. Our neutrality is at an end, at the very latest, where the security of Israel begins. And when we feel that Israel is being wronged or treated unjustly, this awakens our protective instinct immediately. In our hearts, then, we will always be with people in Israel. No power in the world will ever be able to change anything about that!

The Jewish community in this country has grown over the last two and a half decades, but it has also changed greatly. And yes, we have still more far-reaching plans and soaring ambitions. We want to open up a fresh, modern and, yes, positive perspective for the Jewish community here. Admittedly it is not easy to always focus only on the positive in these trying days, even though we have achieved so much together over the past years. But in our long history, we Jews have become only too accustomed to shocks and setbacks.
I myself am firmly convinced that we must not allow ourselves to be diverted from our path, not even at this time. We Jews must keep up our courage. We must not allow ourselves to become doubtful.
Resignation is not an option! We have no intention of granting our enemies this triumph, and we never will!
Nor are we Jews begging for assistance. Empathy is not something that can really be demanded. Fairness, however, is. As such, we request and demand more fairness towards the Jewish community here and throughout Europe. We will insist on this!

None of us knows what the future of the Middle East will be.
We all hope, of course, that a lasting peace will soon be found there. Peace which allows all the people of the region to live in safety, peace in which everybody can pursue and find happiness in his or her own way, in which the hearts of children are not poisoned with hatred. But it must also be a peace in which Hamas can simply play no role. Hamas remains a terrorist grouping that abuses its own people as human shields and is determined to obliterate Israel. According to its own charter, it seeks to murder all the Jews in the world. The global murder of Jews, announced in an official manifesto! How on earth, under these auspices, has Hamas been able to find even a single supporter in Germany?
That remains absolutely inexcusable!

All of us want peace. But we don't know when the peace we yearn for will arrive. What we do know very well is that we do not want to be compelled to gather here again in two or three years’ time. So what should happen? We must do more! This affects all of us. Schools, parties, the media, organizations, civil society – all are called on.

And we ourselves, the Jewish community? We will confront those who seem determined to hate us forever with our unbending resolve, our Jewish powers of self-assertion over millennia in the storm of history, and our never-tiring and unfailingly ever-rekindled positive Jewish spirit.
Despite all bleak forecasts, and often also despite the laws of probability, we remain consciously and self-confidently Jews.
Yes, we have been affected. We are shocked. In all of Europe. But our enemies will never succeed in breaking us. Never in our lives.

In future, perhaps we should attempt to be even more clear about and kindle more insight into the fact that those who attack us Jews ultimately attack everybody.
This general attack affects precisely the values that we in Europe hold dear: humanity, human dignity, liberalism, and tolerance. Our freedom is your freedom, too! Those who say nothing when Jews are attacked today will themselves be affected tomorrow. For that reason, we must do more! And have far more courage!

It is our intention that a protest against anti-Semitism should never again be necessary in Germany or in Europe!
All of Germany should be free, and should remain free, of anti-Semitism and racism. This we will fight for forever.
We will simply never be prepared to accept less.

For that reason, stand up! Never again anti-Semitism!