Knesset Speaker in Int’l Holocaust Day Address to Bundestag: The Bonds of Memory Link Our Peoples Together
Knesset Speaker MK Mickey Levy (Yesh Atid) addressed the German Bundestag on Thursday, on the occasion of International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Speaker Levy was the first Knesset Speaker ever to address the German legislature. Bundestag President Bärbel Bas and Holocaust survivor Dr. h. c. Inge Auerbacher also gave commemoration speeches during the ceremony.
Levy said: “I stand before you today moved and filled with humility on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, the Day of Remembrance for the Victims of National Socialism. I am proud to represent the State of Israel, in my capacity as Speaker of the Knesset, the vibrant heart of Israeli democracy.
“I would first like to thank you, President of the Bundestag Bärbel Bas, for inviting me to take part in this memorial ceremony, held on this day — the day of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp, a universal day of remembrance for the most terrible events in human history. Here in this historical building, the house of the German parliament, one can gain a slight sense of the ability of human beings to exploit democracy for the purpose of defeating it.
“This is a place where humanity stretched the boundaries of evil, a place where loss of values turned a democratic framework into racist and discriminatory tyranny. So it is here, within the walls of this House — which stand as silent witnesses of stone and steel — that we learn anew of the fragility of democracy, and are reminded once more of our obligation to safeguard it.
“Preserving the memory of the Holocaust is a weighty task; a task that is cast on the shoulders of each generation, to convey these horrific events of the past to the next generations. The memory of the Holocaust often deals with large numbers, with inconceivable statistics. Can a number such as six million even be grasped? The law of large numbers adds a certain layer of distance, which fails to do justice to the victims and survivors of the Holocaust, reducing even further their humanity.
“The six million Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust of European Jewry are also six million stories. Stories about lives that could have been, stories about those who are gone. That is why I am filled with appreciation for you, Dr. Inge Auerbacher. You have created a prominent and extraordinary human voice in describing and shaping the memory of the Holocaust. A voice that defines the power of a human story to mold hearts, to penetrate every point of view, to convey the message.
“Otherwise, it is inconceivable that a girl was only able to be a child for seven years, before being deported to a concentration camp. It is inconceivable that a girl’s childhood is taken from her. Her family. Her human character. Thank you, Inge. Thank you for turning the inconceivable into a tangible memory. Thank you for sharing with us and with the entire world your touching personal story, for the sake of the memory of the Holocaust in the generations to come.
“Ladies and gentlemen, the decisions that changed Inge’s life were made 80 years and seven days ago, not far from here, in the house of the Wannsee Conference. When I stood yesterday in front of this spacious mansion, I was stunned. I sensed an unbelievable gap between the pastoral nature of the flower beds and the shimmering lake in the background and the cruelty with which the machine for the destruction of European Jewry was created here.
“The blood-chilling Wannsee Conference was designed to coordinate between all branches in performing the primary mission of the Nazi regime: Wiping out every trace of the Jewish people. Premeditated extermination and slaughter, based on senseless hatred, and perpetrated systematically by a regime established in a democratic and legal manner.
“Eighty years and seven days are but a blink of an eye in historical terms, and perhaps this is not enough time for all the wounds to heal. Many still bear scars that have not healed, and scars for which no healing will ever be found.
“These bonds of memory link our peoples together, Israelis and Germans. And alongside the memory — revival. In these 80 years and seven days we have succeeded, the two nations, in rising from a national historical trauma and rebuilding ourselves, with courage and determination. Two nations, which between death and life, choose life every day.
“Two nations that have undergone an extraordinary journey on the way to reconciliation and forging the ties and strong friendship between us. Germany and Israel have built a bridge, seeing eye to eye on the power and importance of democracy, and the necessity to work together in order to safeguard it, time after time, day after day.
“We have developed ties between the peoples in the realms of art and culture; technology and innovation; trade and research and development; medicine, science and academia. We have created security and intelligence collaborations, and deep and important collaborations between our two parliaments.
“Germany has made the responsibility for Israel’s security one of the mainstays of German foreign policy. Germany stands firm against displays of antisemitism. Germany has demonstrated, time after time — both on the bilateral level and in the international arena — its moral and historical commitment to the existence and security of the State of Israel.
“We have built a relationship of trust, sincerity, solidarity and reciprocity, which enables us to confront together both the challenges that are shared by the two countries, and those that face all of humanity — challenges such as dealing with the coronavirus, with all its variables, and coping with the climate crisis, which threatens our future and the future of the entire world.
“For all this I would like to thank once again the former German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, who has recently completed a long tenure; she fortified Germany’s strength, and worked tirelessly for the sake of the relationship between our countries.
“Honored Chancellor of Germany, Olaf Scholz, the State of Israel has confidence in you and knows that you will continue this long-standing tradition, and that together we will continue to work on behalf of the relationship between our countries and peoples.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I believe that as much as we have done, it is our obligation to do more. We are called upon to preserve the memory, to ensure its commemoration for the eternity of humankind. But alongside the memory, we are also called upon to shape a vision from it. We are called upon to preserve hope, and to plan a future together — a future based on shared values and dreams.
“To connect and empower our young people — the generation of grandchildren and great-grandchildren; the third and fourth generations, and the generations to come. To guide them to join together forces and minds, to advance a future filled with inspiration; a future based on the values of democracy, freedom and tolerance, which are shared by Israel and Germany.
“To bring up our young people on the best of the human spirit; to warn them against the hatred of others simply because they are others; to issue the paramount eternal warning of the Holocaust: Never again!”
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