Antisemitism Must be Thwarted: Angela Merkel

German Chancellor Angela Merkel at an online pledging event organized by the European Commission. Photo: Presse- und Informationsamt der Bundesregierung / Europäische Union, 2020 (file photo)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel at an online pledging event organized by the European Commission. Photo: Presse- und Informationsamt der Bundesregierung / Europäische Union, 2020 (file photo)

“The world must stand with the utmost determination against antisemitism,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel told at the UN’s annual Holocaust remembrance ceremony on Wednesday (January 27).

During the first Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust, organized jointly by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, the UN, and the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Angela Merkel added that antisemitism must be thwarted, be it open or veiled, and against denial or diminishing of the Holocaust.

“We honour the victims of the Holocaust by remembering them and by learning from their plight. That is our everlasting responsibility – for today’s and future generations,” she stated, in her video message in an online event.

On 27 January 1945, exactly 76 years ago, the extermination camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau was liberated. “What happened there and in many other places where atrocities were committed during the National Socialist period, is and remains beyond belief,” Ms. Merkel said.

According to a UN report, she expressed deep shame over the catastrophic killing of millions of European Jews by Nazi Germany – known in Hebrew as the Shoah – and of the betrayal of all civilized values, perpetrated under the National Socialist regime.

Speaking at the NATO Headquarters in Brussels on January 27, the NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoană said that Allies remember the horrendous atrocities of the Holocaust. Mr. Geoană said that NATO works for a safer world where hatred and antisemitism have no place, and where people from different nationalities, backgrounds and religions can defend human dignity for all.

The German Chancellor emphasized that it is, and remains, Germany’s everlasting responsibility to remember the Holocaust and to commemorate the victims: the European Jews, Sinti and Roma, political prisoners and Polish intelligentsia, prisoners of war, resistance fighters, homosexuals, people with disabilities, and countless other men, women and children, who were humiliated, persecuted, tortured and murdered. “We must never forget these people and their fates,” she stressed.

Ms. Merkel concluded her address with special thanks to the survivors who muster the strength to tell the story of their lives. “Their first-hand accounts show us just how vulnerable human dignity is and how easily the values that underpin peaceful coexistence can be violated,” she said.

Noting that antisemitism found its most horrific expression in the Holocaust, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said that the universal revulsion at this crime was one event leading to the UN’s founding and drawing up of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

“But it did not end,” he said. “Indeed, today antisemitism is resurgent in many places around the world.” As the number of Holocaust survivors diminishes every year, white supremacists and neo-Nazis intensify their efforts to deny, distort and rewrite history including the Holocaust, the UN chief observed.

He added that in Europe, the United States and elsewhere, white supremacists are organizing and recruiting across borders, shamelessly flaunting the symbols of the Nazis and their murderous ambitions.

“We saw shocking examples in this nation’s capital in recent weeks,” Mr. Guterres said, referring to the breach of the U.S. Capitol building in Washington DC by violent extremists on 6 January, where some were caught on camera wearing Nazi symbols, including tributes to the Auschwitz concentration camp.

He pointed to the Covid-19 pandemic as giving them new opportunities to exploit social turmoil, turn people against each other and target minorities, based on religion, race, ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation, disability and immigration status.

The UN chief warned that after decades in the shadows, neo-Nazis and their ideas are gaining currency and even a kind of respectability. He noted that in some countries, their messages and ideology can be heard in debates between mainstream political parties and in others they have infiltrated police and state security services.

Stressing the need to urgently strengthen joint efforts against the dangers they pose, the Secretary-General said there is no vaccine for antisemitism and xenophobia. “The most effective weapon remains the facts and the truth,” the UN chief underscored.

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