Article by Federal Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle on the 70th anniversary of the Wannsee Conference. Published in the Jüdische Allgemeine on 19 January 2012
Tomorrow is the 70th anniversary of the Wannsee Conference. The protocol of the meeting is considered one of the key documents of the Holocaust. It records in black and white what a betrayal of all civilized values the Shoah was.
The sole surviving copy of the Wannsee protocol was found in the files of the Foreign Office after the War. This was no mere coincidence. Germany’s diplomats were part of the machinery carrying out Hitler’s murderous plans.
The records of the notorious Wannsee Conference reveal what cold-blooded cynicism motivated those present as well as the sheer immensity of the crimes against German and European Jewry of which Germany was guilty. In recognition of this guilt, Germany’s post-war generations, too, have a very special responsibility, a responsibility that must always remain an affair of the heart.
After the Holocaust, murder on a scale unparalleled in human history, it seemed almost impossible to imagine that seventy years after the Wannsee Conference Jewish life would once again be part and parcel of German society. And yet we are witnessing today a true renaissance of Jewish life in Germany. Up and down the country there are now some 110 Jewish communities with a good 100,000 active members. Rabbis are once again being ordained and synagogues built. Jewish children attend Jewish pre-schools and schools – in many cases along with children of other faiths.
This flourishing Jewish life in Germany is still anything but a matter of course. Shortly before his death, Ignatz Bubis, a man I greatly revered, commented pessimistically that his efforts to overcome the pigeonholing that kept Germans and Jews apart had “not really achieved anything”. I profoundly hope that in the long run Ignatz Bubis will be proved wrong. That is what he, more than anyone, would have wished. His words have a clear message for us. We have a responsibility also in future to strengthen Jewish life in Germany across the board and to take a strong stand against anti-Semitism in whatever shape or form. German Judaism and Judaism in Germany are part and parcel not only of our past, but also of our future.
We will continue, too, therefore to live up to our responsibility towards people in Israel. This is for us a foreign policy fundamental.That is why we feel it is so important to carry on building the closely meshed network of understanding and friendship that has evolved over the decades between people in both countries. The host of civil society initiatives, the commitment demonstrated by thousands of German volunteers in Israel as well as now also by Israeli volunteers in Germany and the many close and heartfelt friendships between Germans and Israelis – in the light of tomorrow’s anniversary all this is a priceless asset which it is our duty to preserve.