70th Anniversary Observance of the Kristallnacht pogrom
"My Opposition: the Diaries of Friedrich Kellner”
20 November 2008
Keynote Address by His Excellency Mr. Thomas Matussek,
Permanent Representative of the Federal Republic of Germany to the United Nations
Under-Secretary General Akasaka,
Ladies and Gentlemen:
Thank you, Under-Secretary, for your kind words. I feel honored and humbled to be invited here tonight in observance of the 70th anniversary of the “Kristallnacht”. Before watching the film "My opposition: the Diaries of Friedrich Kellner”, a moving documentary about the darkest chapter of German history, let me say this: 70 years ago - in the night from November 9 to November 10, 1938 – thousands of Jewish families throughout Germany and Austria were subjected to unspeakable terror. Their homes, property and personal belongings were destroyed. Hundreds of people were brutally murdered.
Several hundred synagogues went up in flames, thousands of shops were demolished. The terror of 1938 was visible to the world and it was visible to the Germans. But also visible was the non-reaction of the general population with few exceptions. This was in part indifference, it was lack of courage or
sometimes even quiet approval. It opened the path to unimaginable inhumanity in the following years. The night of the pogrom was the catastrophe before the catastrophe.
The immeasurable suffering inflicted on German and European Jews by the Nazis is burned into our memories once and for all. In the words of Angela Merkel, addressing the Knesset earlier this year, "the Shoah is a source of great shame for us Germans. We bow before the victims, we bow before the survivors and before all those who helped them to survive“. We Germans have to face up to our past. We carry a responsibility to keep the memory alive. This is why my Government wants to strengthen and
further develop the remembrance of the genocide of the European Jews which originated from Germany.
We continue to support "The Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach Programme“ whose work we consider of utmost importance. Earlier this year, we were honored that the "Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research“ opened its new permanent office in Berlin. For us, the trust of the 25 Member States of the International Task Force means an obligation.
Germany will carry on dealing with its past in a sincere way. In the many memorials which were once the backdrops of disgrace and horror and have now become places of remembrance and commemoration. And in institutions such as the Topography of Terror Foundation which help us to unearth the dark chapter of our past. Holocaust Education is a task which we take very seriously.
Above all, we can take great joy in a revival of Jewish life in Germany. This is perhaps the most heartening signal for our country. Synagogues and Jewish community centers in Frankfurt, Würzburg, Bochum, Munich and Berlin were restored and rebuilt.
The gold dome of the synagogue on Oranienburger Street in Berlin/Mitte is now just as much a symbol of Berlin as is the glass dome of the Reichstag building. At the Abraham Geiger College in Potsdam, the first rabbis since 1943 were ordained in 2006; in Heidelberg, religious teachers are being trained at the University for Jewish Studies. Jewish kindergartens, kosher stores, Orthodox Jews – they are all part of the landscape in the new Germany, and we are very happy about that.
However, we continue to observe disturbing indications of persistent anti-Semitism in a number of countries, including in Germany. This is something we cannot and will not tolerate. We are concerned by a highly resentful anti-Semitism by people who clothe their criticism of Israeli policy or of the phenomenon of globalization in anti-Jewish clichés with a telltale compulsiveness. It is good to know that we have a highly active civil society in Germany which together with a vigilant public opinion and with
government institutions are confronting these issues.
But we perceive the obligation which I pointed to not just as an obligation towards our own country and its history. Germany has assumed a special responsibility towards the State of Israel to protect its existence and defend its right to exist.
This is – and will remain – one of the cornerstones of German policy. This year, the governments of Israel and Germany held a joint Cabinet meeting for the first time. This is an indication of how strong our mutual trust is and how closely we cooperate.
But we want to go further. In the economic, the scientific and the cultural field. This year the German-Israeli Future Forum is starting its work. It will further intensify exchanges between our two countries. But above all it will engage in what I call „active remembrance“ – which means shaping our common future.
Thank you for your attention.