German Chancellor Angela Merkel condemned all forms of anti-Semitism at a ceremony marking the 70th anniversary of Kristallnacht.
Speaking Sunday at the historic Rykestrasse Synagogue in the former East Berlin, Merkel said tolerance is not a neutral term but one linked with values. One cannot remain neutral and tolerant, she said, when Iran and Hezbollah call for the destruction of Israel, a form of anti-Semitism.
Kristallnacht was “the catastrophe before the catastrophe,” said Merkel, adding, “We cannot undo what has been done” to the Jews of Europe. “But Germany must continue to support the fight against all forms of hate, whether at home or abroad.” She decried recent anti-Semitic attacks on individuals and Jewish property in Germany, and said that treatment of minorities is a measure of a democracy’s health.
The ceremony was one of hundreds of ceremonies held throughout Germany in remembrance of the victims of the pogrom of Nov. 9, 1938, a night on which thousands of synagogues in Germany, Austria and parts of the former Czechoslovakia were vandalized, many burned to the ground. Nearly 30,000 Jews were arrested and taken to concentration camps, and about 100 Jews were murdered in the officially sanctioned wave of violence. Today the pogrom is viewed as a precursor to the Holocaust.
The Rykestrasse Synagogue, dedicated in 1904, is one of the few synagogues to survive Kristallnacht unscathed. The Nazi authorities prevented fires from being set there because of its proximity to non-Jewish neighbors.
Also Sunday, German-born Pope Benedict XVI told crowds at the Vatican after his regular Sunday address that “Still today I feel pain over what happened in those tragic events, whose memory must serve to ensure such horrors are never repeated and that we strive, on every level, against all forms of anti-Semitism and discrimination.”
He asked the crowd to join him in expressing “profound solidarity with the Jewish world.”