Dear Ahmed Obaid al Mansoori,
Dear Ambassador Eitan Na’eh,
Dear Ross Kriel,
Dear Solly Wolf,
Dear Rabbi Abadie,
It is an honor for me to join you today on this significant occasion.
I stand before you as the representative of the country of the perpetrators.
The Holocaust – or Shoah in Hebrew – was the state-sponsored, systematic persecution and murder of Jews by Nazi Germany and its collaborators between 1933 and1945. It was a continent-wide genocide that destroyed not only individuals and families but also communities and cultures that had developed over centuries.
This is an eternal mark of shame on my country.
I also stand before you as the representative of a new Germany. The Federal Republic of Germany was born out of a moral catastrophe and the smoldering ruins of WWII. The first words of our constitution read: “Human dignity shall be inviolable. To respect and protect it shall be the duty of all state authority.”
We were founded to be the opposite of the Nazi state.
Above all else, that means that we bear a solemn responsibility for an unwavering Never Forget, Never Again.
Unfortunately, today anti-semitism, racism, xenophobia and other forms of discrimination are on the rise again – shamefully also in Germany. Also holocaust denial and holocaust distortion.
We must vigorously oppose such tendancies.
The best way is to provide education about the Holocaust. Teach people what happened and how it happened.
To quote a former Swedish Prime minister: “It happened once. It should not have happened, but it did. It must not happen again, but it could. That is why education about the Holocaust is fundamental.”
And that is why I am so pleased that the Crossroads of Civilizations Museum is opening this exhibition today. This is a start, but more should be done and I will do whatever I can to support it.
When I served in Israel, some-one said: “The Nazis behaved like beasts.” That is true. But they were humans. It is not enough to explain them as evil inhuman monsters. The Holocaust reminds us of the human capacity for inhumanity.
We must also learn about those who were not murderers, but collaborators and bystanders – and importantly also the rescuers that existed in all the nations.
Above all, we must remember the victims. 6 million human beings systematically persecuted and murdered. God bless their memories. Some of their families are here tonight.
Sometimes I hear comments like “the Jews are all the same” or “Hitler did some good as well”. This is deeply offensive and dangerous.
In those situations I recommend to follow the Auschwitz Memorial on twitter. Every day they portray one victim, one precious soul that was murdered. Go there and look into the faces of men, women, boys and girls. Aged 2 or 10, or 20 or 60. From all walks of life, from all over Europe. Stripped of their rights, their dignity, arrested, deported in cattle trains and murdered, their belongings stolen and their hair collected for recycling.
And then, don’t you dare tell me that Hitler did some good as well or that all Jews are the same.
I congratulate you on the opening of this exhibition. We must stand together with a resounding Never Forget, Never Again.
I congratulate the UAE for its policy of tolerance. The way of intolerance is not the right way. It will lead to great suffering, even to catastrophe. Take it from a German.
I would like to conclude by quoting the Auschwitz survivor Primo Levi from his work “If this is a Man”:
You who live safe
In your warm houses,
You who find warm food
And friendly faces when you return home.
Consider if this is a man
Who works in mud,
Who knows no peace,
Who fights for a crust of bread,
Who dies by a yes or no.
Consider if this is a woman
Without hair, without name,
Without the strength to remember,
Empty are her eyes, cold her womb,
Like a frog in winter.
Never forget that this has happened.
Remember these words.
Engrave them in your hearts,
When at home or in the street,
When lying down, when getting up.
Repeat them to your children.