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Address by Federal Foreign Minister Steinmeier at the opening ceremony of the Jewish Educational and Family Centre, Berlin, 2 September 2007

02.09.2007 - Speech

"A day of joy and a reason for gratitude" - Federal Foreign Minister Steinmeier at the opening ceremony of the Jewish Educational and Family Centre Chabad Lubavitch in Berlin.

Charlotte Knobloch (the President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany) said that "those who build houses intend to stay". You have certainly built a wonderful house here in the Münstersche Strasse, a house of prayer and of life.

I am therefore especially pleased to be here today and to join in your housewarming celebrations. Let me express my best wishes to you in particular, Rabbi Teichtal. It is above all thanks to your tireless energy that this impressive community centre has become reality.

With this house another centre for Jewish tradition and culture has been created here in Berlin, and the future educational activities within its walls will help lay the foundation for a Jewish future in Germany. Soon the laughter of children and teenagers will be heard here. I hope this institution will become the spiritual and social home for generations of Jewish families to come.

A day like today, so positive and future-looking, is cause for joy, particularly in and for Germany. For us it is more – it is a reason for gratitude. Jewish life is returning to our country – the country which, in an act of criminal delusion, killed every Jew it could lay hands on and sought to annihilate all traces of Jewish existence. The remembrance of the victims of this catastrophe is burned into our country's memory, and despite the seventy years which have passed since the first steps towards the Shoah took place that memory remains fresh.

We are grateful that, following that catastrophe, Jews once again want to come and live here and practice all facets of Jewish religion and culture.

We were happy to see the first three new rabbis ordained last year in Dresden. We witnessed the building of the new synagogue in Munich with wonder and pleasure, and we are just as pleased to see this new Chabad Lubavich community centre, which will once again make Jewish education and culture a normal part of German reality.

The huge public response to these events showed that this gift of a renewed Jewish presence in Germany is being welcomed with open arms.

Our hope, indeed our dream is that Jewish life in all its variety can be re-established in communities in Germany. Judaism has many faces, and it is a good thing if these various tendencies can be seen again also in Berlin – of course with respect for each other.

However, we should not allow ourselves to see these positive signs as a return to business as usual. This would be wishful thinking, worse still, a – perhaps unintended – attempt to negate the unique crime of the Shoah and the absolute breach it created in German and European culture.

We might do better to speak of an unexpected miracle. The sorely missed Paul Spiegel whose funeral we attended together eighteen months ago, called it a "renaissance" of Jewish life in Germany. But this "renaissance" is not a ready-assembled miracle from above but one created out of the work of countless people.

We therefore thank all of you for the trust in German democracy your work demonstrates. I am happy that sponsors' commitment made it possible to build this house almost exclusively on the basis of private donations. Your commitment demonstrates your confidence that Jewish life is possible and welcome in Germany.

Let me repeat, Jewish life in Germany is possible and welcome, even if there are still some misguided people who reject this idea. Anti-Semitism is not yet quite dead. Synagogues and community centres still need police guards. You will recall that early this year, while our backs were turned, the Jewish Kindergarten in Spandau was damaged and daubed with anti-Semitic symbols. Thank God no-one was injured in that attack!

Right-wing extremism is also a breeding ground for mindless anti-Semitic and racist stereotypes. Events such as those in Mügeln show that we must not let up in our efforts. Racism and anti-Semitism have no place in Germany in particular. You can count on the German and Berlin governments, as well as on the committed civil society, to act against such tendencies.

I wish this house the best of luck and God's blessing.

Thank you.

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