Israel’s President Rivlin speaks to German Bundestag

The Bundestag commemorates the Holocaust 75 years after Auschwitz. In his speech, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin describes Germany as a “beacon” for the protection of liberal values while urging Europe to fight against nationalism, xenophobia, and anti-Semitism.

It has been many years since an Israeli state guest spoke in the German parliament on this date. In his speech to the Bundestag, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin called on the European Union to defend its core values. Nationalism, xenophobia, and anti-Semitism were hovering across Europe. Europe today was haunted by the ghosts of the past, Rivlin said in Parliament’s commemoration for the victims of the Holocaust in Berlin on Wednesday.

Rivlin said the continent was not in the 1930s and was, therefore, not on the precipice of a new Shoah. Nevertheless, the warning signs should not be overlooked. Germany, in particular, had a special responsibility. During his speech, Rivlin recalled that he once demonstrated that Germany was re-establishing diplomatic relations with Israel. He himself protested against payments to make amends to Israel, as he believed Germany attempted to buy away its guilt. Now, however, it was evident to him that Israel and Germany were “true partners.”

The same nation that had become the horror of the world through National Socialism had now become a “beacon” for the protection of liberal values while Chancellor Merkel had become the “leader of the free world.”

If Jews were not living in Germany freely today, they could not live anywhere else in the world, the President said, while reaffirming that the responsibility that rests on Germany’s shoulders was “enormous.”

However, Rivlin’s admonition was not only directed towards politicians that favor nationalist agendas. He stated that his views differed from the German government’s one on a particular issue, while nonetheless admitting that differences in opinion amongst friends were common; however, he criticized the German government for looking in the wrong direction regarding Iran and the attempts to maintain a nuclear deal that, according to Rivlin, Iran had rejected ab initio.

Most importantly, in the context of remembering that Jews once were supposed to be annihilated in Nazi Germany, Rivlin recalled that this plan is also currently part of Iran’s state doctrine. For the Jews, Rivlin proceeded, the threat emanating from Iran was not a theoretical question, but an existential one. Teheran was a risk to world peace, and Iran must be isolated from the international community, Rivlin said in front of Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, who continues to claim how crucial the Iran deal was. Rivlin, on the other hand, is rightfully puzzled about the fact that Germany, with its past, is not taking a tough stance against a state that has vowed to destroy the state of Israel.

In his speech, Rivlin had praise for President Trump’s Middle East peace plan that was unveiled yesterday. The plan had the potential to reopen the conversation channel with the Palestinians, Rivlin said.

Meanwhile, Germany’s President Frank-Walter Steinmeier also commemorated in his speech today at the Bundestag and warned against the return of authoritarian thinking in Germany and called for a decisive fight against anti-Semitism and racism. “Let us rise against the old spirit in the new times,” Steinmeier said. “We thought the nonsense of the past had faded over time. But no: the evil spirits of the past are now in a new guise.”

Every year the Bundestag commemorates the victims of National Socialism. In the Auschwitz concentration and extermination camp in Poland, occupied by the Wehrmacht, the SS murdered at least 1.1 million people, mostly Jews. The few survivors were liberated by soldiers of the Red Army 75 years ago, on January 27, 1945. Around six million Jews fell victim to the Holocaust across Europe.