Looking at history and recent events, German leaders defend democracy and pluralism


BERLIN – Between a rebirth of xenophobia that redesigned the German political landscape, the leaders of the nation warned on Friday that the Germans must defend democracy to ensure that hate crimes such as the Kristallnacht, the fire at the head of the Nazis of the Synagogues and the looting of Jewish shops 80 years ago "never again" place ".

On a day that commemorated both the centenary of the declaration of the first German democratic republic and, only 20 years later, Kristallnacht, or the Night of Broken Glass, President Frank-Walter Steinmeier invited the Germans to embrace an "enlightened patriotism" that celebrates their democratic achievements while protecting them from the forces of hatred that led to the descent of the country in the "violation of civilization", the Holocaust.

The president addressed the Parliament in the first of a series of memorials commemorating a series of historical events that converge on November 9th, considered by the Germans as their "fateful day". At a ceremony honoring the Kristallnacht victims, Chancellor Angela Merkel warned against a revival of anti-Semitism. Later on Friday, officials deposited garlands in front of a remainder of the Berlin Wall, which was opened under pressure from the peaceful protesters of East Germany on this date in 1989, a year before the country met.

Recent events were in the minds of German leaders. The rise of nationalism and populism forced the country to look inside, struggling to find answers violent protests against foreigners who have become a commonplace in the former East Germany and a gross political debate with the entry to the Parliament of the OTHER, the anti-immigration alternative for Germany , or AfD.

"We can be proud of our tradition of freedom and democracy, without losing sight of the abyss that was the Holocaust," said Steinmeier, using the Hebrew word for the Holocaust.

"This is the essence of enlightened patriotism," the president said. "It's never noisy and brash, but it's a patriotism of delicate sounds and mixed feelings".

AfD was not invited by leaders of the German Jewish community to a ceremony in the Rykestrasse synagogue in Berlin, which was burned down in 1938, just to make the fire go out relatively quickly to prevent neighboring houses from going into flames. Thousands of Germans took part or witnessed the fact that at least 91 people were killed and 7,500 businesses were looted.

"Almost no one protested," said Josef Schuster, head of the Central Council of German Jews. This, he said, sent a signal to the Nazis to continue their violence against the Jews, culminating in the extermination camps.

"We are commemorating today with the promise that we will work hard against attacks on our open and plural society," said Ms. Merkel. "We are commemorating the awareness that looking at the crossed lines and committing crimes eventually means going with them".

Official statistics show that the number of anti-semitic crimes committed last year rose to 1,504 from 1,468 committed in 2016. But these numbers include only crimes, such as personal injury or destruction of property, which are reported to the police.

Daily insults suffered by Jewish people or institutions, either in person or online, that are not included in these statistics and often not reported to the police, have increased in Germany in recent years, according to groups monitoring hate speech and hate crimes . People who wear skull-socks or jewelry or tattoos from the Star of David have been harassed or assaulted on the streets, especially in Berlin, the groups say.

The arrival of about 1 million refugees from predominantly Muslim countries in 2015 has been accused of increasing, even if the attacks often come from far-right people rather than immigrants. Schools have struggled to find ways to teach the dark history of the country to young Germans, many of whom are recently immigrants or are children of immigrants.

Ms. Merkel said that anyone living in Germany must respect the values ​​of equality of the country, consecrated in the constitution, regardless of religion. "Just like all Muslims should never be suspected generically, because some practice violence in the name of their religion, at the same time it is clear that all those who live in our country must respect the values ​​of our Constitution," he said.

Opening the ceremony in the renovated synagogue, Gideon Joffe, the head of the Jewish community in Berlin, noted that he was often asked whether Jewish life is still possible and welcome in Germany.

"My answer is yes," he said. "Emphatically yes."


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