German umbrella group skips public Shoah event

BERLIN (JTA) — Germany’s Jewish umbrella turned down an invitation to attend the country’s main annual Holocaust remembrance event.

Stephan Kramer, general secretary of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, told JTA that council members — including those who survived the Holocaust — were not acknowledged publicly at the Bundestag during past ceremonies and were never invited to address the parliament floor. He said this contributed to the decision not to send high-level representatives to Tuesday’s event.

"This is the highest form of disrespect," Kramer said in a call from Jerusalem, where he is attending the World Jewish Congress annual meeting. "The president of the council, Charlotte Knobloch, is a survivor herself … As long as [she is] just a guest like any others, this is disrespectful and we will not attend anymore."

Bundestag member Monika Griefahn, speaker of the Social Democratic Party for the Committee on Cultural and the Media Affairs, told reporters she was surprised by the decision.

"Over the years, we have always had very dignified memorial ceremonies with many participants," she told RBB radio.

Knobloch survived the war years in hiding, as did her immediate predecessor, the late Paul Spiegel. The previous chair, Ignaz Bubis, who died in 1999, survived Nazi
concentration camps and lost nearly his entire family.

"If Charlotte Knobloch has to sit on the public balcony and not on the floor of the parliament, at least welcome her," Kramer said. "That is the least they should do. That is a signal to make this event more than mere protocol. Anything else is not for real."

Since 1996, Jan. 27 has been the official day for Holocaust remembrance in Germany. It marks the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz by Soviet troops in 1945.
 

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