German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Sunday hailed Jews’ contribution to German culture and said their history in the country was “a story of emancipation and prosperity, but also of humiliation, exclusion and deprivation of rights “.
“Whether in philosophy, literature, painting, music, science, medicine or business, Jews have helped shape our history and make our culture shine,” Steinmeier said at a ceremony marking 1,700 years of Jewish life in Germany in a Cologne synagogue.
The German president said Judaism had made a decisive contribution to Germany’s transition into the modern era.
Centuries of exclusion and persecution
President Steinmeier recalled the centuries of marginalization and persecution of Jews and called for an “honest look” at Jewish history.
“This is the only way we can learn lessons for the present and for the future. It will remain our responsibility.”
The president admitted that Jewish life is under threat in the face of overt anti-Semitism. We must counter it, he insisted.
Josef Schuster, chairman of the Central Council of Jews, said Jews would not celebrate the year due to recent attacks on Jewish institutions and the rise in anti-Semitism.
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin underlined the deep friendship between Germany and Israel, saying that “although we will never forget the tragedies of the past, we share a common heritage”.
Not just about the Holocaust
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the opening of the year of the festival was recorded in advance and took place without an audience.
About 1,000 events on Judaism will take place in Germany in the coming months.
Andrei Kovacs, general manager of the Association for 1,700 Years of Jewish Life in Germany, told TBEN what the year-long festival hopes to accomplish.
“We want to show that we have a common history between Jews and non-Jews… a shared present – with 150,000 Jews living in Germany, and we also want a common future. To have this common future… it is very important to spend quality time with each other and to develop empathy. And it is only with this empathy that we can tackle anti-Semitism and conspiracy theories, ”Kovacs said.
Melinda Crane, TBEN’s chief political correspondent, said Jewish life in Germany is more than the Holocaust. “Jews have contributed to German culture, to German identity and to the very fabric of German history for several hundred years. The interaction between Judaism and being German should never be reduced to ‘Holocaust,’ she said.
“For those people who lean towards anti-Semitism, there is a feeling that Judaism is something alien, and the goal for this coming year is to make it clear that Judaism is by no means alien to it. ‘Germany, but an innate part of its identity,’ she added.
shs / csb (KNA, TBEN, dpa, EPD, TBEN)