Rivlin, Berlin and the Holocaust

May 12, 2015 Agencies
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President Reuven Rivlin has spoken in Berlin of the Holocaust at at the infamous Platform 17 from which the city’s Jews were transported to Auschwitz.

President Rivlin addressed a memorial ceremony to the Jews of Berlin and  laid a wreath at the foot of the memorial before kindling the memorial flame.

He said, “Fifty-five thousand Jews, were sent from Platform 17 to their deaths from October 1941, till the Spring of 1945. This platform was the platform of death. Residents of nearby Grunewald said that they “did not notice the horror”. The German people did not wake up one morning, to the swastikas of the Third Reich. Anti-Semitism, racism, xenophobia, and frustration grew like a cancer under the surface for many years. This poisoned soil was the foundation, on which the Nazi monster acted unchallenged. Seventy years have passed since the last transport left Platform 17; yet once again, fascist and neo-Nazi movements are growing stronger and stronger on European soil. Apathy, indifference, or denial is not the answer.”

The President stressed the humanitarian obligation of the nations of the free world to combat the phenomena of antisemitism and racism.  He said, “’In a world flooded with barbaric terror and hatred. In a world, where tensions between cultures and ideologies, grow stronger. The battle against racism, antisemitism and fundamentalism, requires us to be alert, and decisive. We must remember, democracy alone does not make us immune to nationalism and fascism. No nation is immune to antisemitism. No nation is immune to extremism or fundamentalism. Here, on Platform 17, we must commit, to look hatred in the eye. Only by cooperation between different communities, and between different countries can we fight any violation, of human dignity. This is our obligation. This is our duty.”

The President concluded, “My honor Mr. President, yes, between friends we can agree to disagree, provided that all know that the other side is sincere in the desire to bring real peace.  Peace that will bring an end to the ongoing tragedy between the Jewish and Palestinian people in the land of Israel, where Jews and Arabs are not doomed to live together, but are destined to live together.  We are concerned by, and are fighting fundamentalism wherever it is found.  And I thank you once again, not only for the friendship between our governments, but between our peoples.”

Rivlin meets students  Photo: Amos Ben-Gershom

President Rivlin and Gauck meet students         Photo: Amos Ben-Gershom

Also participating in the ceremony was Israel’s Ambassador to Germany, Yakov Hadas-Handelsman, as well as Rabbis, leaders, and members of the Berlin Jewish community.

Earlier in the day, President Rivlin has received a guard of honor and an official state welcome at Berlin’s Bellevue Palace, the residence of German President Joachim Gauck.

President Rivlin signed the guestbook where he quoted Psalms 122:6, “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem; May they that love three prosper.”

The two presidents reviewed a military guard of honor, and were greeted by Israeli and German schoolchildren waving flags of both nations.  From there, the two held a working meeting during which they discussed the importance of the bilateral relations between Israel and Germany, and expressed their desires to deepen the warm and positive connections between the countries.  At the conclusion of the meeting, the presidents addressed the media, and launched a celebratory jubilee postal stamp marking 50 years of diplomatic relations between Israel and Germany.

President Rivlin began his remarks by thanking his host, President Joachim Gauck, for his invitation and warm welcome.  He said, “What our two nations have achieved over the last fifty years, and what we continue to achieve in working together, in the fields of social issues, economy, and security, is truly incredible.  This would be true even if we didn’t have such a complicated and difficult past, but when you consider how far we have come, it is truly amazing.”

The President stressed the uniqueness of the bilateral relationship, and said, “Our relationship is built on shared values of democracy, freedom of speech, and equal rights.”  He went on to stress that the warm and close friendship between the Israeli and German governments is not compensation for the Holocaust.  He said, “The friendship between us is built on shared values, and an understanding that the lessons of the past must drive us toward a better future.  Today, we look at the world around us, and we see again, with great concern, the rise of antisemitism, and racism on the streets across the world. It is our duty together, as Israelis, as Germans, as democracies, as part of humanity, to stand up to these terrible evils.  Today we stand here and give testimony, not only to the dark lessons of the past, but of the bright promise of the future, as long as we stand strong for the values of freedom and democracy.  It is my hope and prayer that the friendship and relationship will grow stronger, and that the cooperation between our two countries will continue to help build a better world for all.”

President of Germany, Joachim Gauck, said, “Your visit is for us a celebration of fifty years of bilateral relations.  I convey my thanks for the trust the leaders of Israel placed in the leaders of Germany fifty years ago, since when the connection between us has grown stronger and deeper.  We are connected, not only by the horrendous crimes of the past, but by the values in which we both believe.  The ties between our countries, do not solely find expression in the close friendship between our governments, but in the many citizens involved in cooperation and partnership projects.  I also express my appreciation for these projects.”

He continued, “In our meeting we discussed issues of political policy, including issues on which we don’t agree.  We discussed the right way to talk with Iran, and President Rivlin clarified the deep fear in Israel with regard to the threat posed by Iran.  I made clear that Germany and the United States, both with a deep closeness to Israel, can negotiate with Iran without overshadowing that friendship. As friends we also have a responsibility to find a way to make a breakthrough in negotiations with the Palestinians.  In the close friendship we share, it is also important to debate the issues over which we don’t agree.  Such discussion contributes equally to deepening our friendship and advancing the conversation on topics on which we do agree.”


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