Israel's Parliament (Knesset) Speaker Mickey Levy Thursday broke out in tears as he recited prayers of mourning before the German Bundestag in the most touching event marking the 2022 Shoah (Holocaust) Remembrance Day.
In what was the first ever appearance of a Knesset Speaker before that body, Levy urged Germany's lawmakers to stand for democracy and educate future generations against hatred.
During his address, Levy recited part of the Kaddish, a traditional Jewish mourner’s prayer, that he read out from a prayer book used by a teenager at his bar mitzvah on October 22, 1938, shortly before the Kristallnacht pogrom instigated by the Nazis against Germany’s Jews. “A moment, before the life they were meant to live — shattered in the face of the reality in Germany,” Levy said, unable to contain his emotion as he spoke.
“Here, in this historic building, the house of the German parliament, one can grasp — if only slightly — the ability of human beings to take advantage of democracy to defeat it,” Levy said.
“It is a place where humanity stretched the boundaries of evil — a place where the loss of values turned a democratic framework into racist and discriminatory tyranny,” he added in his message in Hebrew to German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, and Holocaust survivor Inge Auerbacher and other dignataries.
“Preserving the memory of the Holocaust is a daunting task,” Levy said. “But alongside memory, we are also required to build a vision out of it, to hope and plan a future together — based on shared values and dreams.”
Levy also underscored 80 years have passed since the Wannsee Conference in 1942 where Nazi leaders devised The Final Solution, an euphemism for mass murder, to find now that Israel and Germany have experienced “an exceptional journey on the way to reconciliation and establishing relations and brave friendship between us,” with Germany having made Israel’s security a pillar of its foreign policy. “Germany stands firm against manifestations of antisemitism, even when they are dressed as anti-Zionism,” Levy underlined.
He also thanked former chancellor Angela Merkel for her “constant work on behalf of relations between the two countries.” Turning to current chancellor Scholz, Levy said that “Israel trusts you and knows that you will continue this longstanding tradition and that together we will continue for the sake of the relations between the countries and the peoples.”
“Our country bears a special responsibility — the genocide against the European Jews is a German crime,” Bundestag Speaker Baerbel Bas told the special parliamentary session. “But at the same time, it is a past that is everyone’s business — not just Germans, not just Jews.”
Meanwhile, US President Joseph Biden said in a statement from Washington that we attempt to fill a piercing silence from our past—to give voice to the six million Jews who were systematically and ruthlessly murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators, and to remember the millions of Roma, Sinti, Slavs, disabled persons, LGBTQ+ individuals, and political dissidents who were killed during the Shoah.
Biden also highlighted that the gruesome practices of Nazi Germany gave rise to an entirely new vocabulary of evil: words like 'holocaust,' 'genocide,' and 'crimes against humanity.'”
The US President also warned that From the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia, to a synagogue in Colleyville, Texas, we are continually and painfully reminded that hate doesn’t go away; it only hides. And he concluded: “Never again.”
Meanwhile, European Parliament Speaker Roberta Metsola said: On Holocaust Remembrance day, we remember crimes committed against humanity in the past, but we also remember the importance of speaking up, in the present. United in diversity, we speak up against Holocaust deniers, against conspiracy myths, against disinformation and against violence of every kind that target and single out members of our communities.”
Also addressing the European Parliament was 100-year old Holocaust survivor Margot Friedländer, who spoke about how her mother and brother were killed in Auschwitz, and how she herself was caught and deported to the concentration camp of Theresienstadt, where she witnessed indescribable suffering but survived.
“Be human! People did what they did because they did not recognise people as people,” Friedländer said. “You cannot love all people, but everyone deserves to be respected. There is no Christian blood, no Jewish blood, no Muslim blood, there is only human blood.”
European Council President Charles Michel stressed that the Holocaust was a European tragedy, and that unimaginable crimes were perpetrated on European soil. “We all have a special responsibility and a special duty. And we are all the guardians of this memory,” he said, highlighting that Europe is the home of Jews and that defending European democracy means fighting antisemitism.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said: “The Union we want to build is a place where everyone can be who they want to be. A place where a Jewish woman like Simone Veil, a survivor of the Holocaust, can rise to become the President of this proud European Parliament, a place where everyone is entitled to the same rights, and is treated with the same dignity.”