Speech by Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier at the screening of “A Tale of Love and Darkness” at the Jewish Film Festival in Berlin

09.06.2016 - Speech

Fania OzSalzberger,
Nicola Galliner,
Ladies and gentlemen,

In Natalie Portman’s wonderful film, which we are about to see, there is a scene I found particularly moving.

The young Amos is being bullied at school. And he defends himself. Not, however, by fighting. Not with his fists. But by telling stories!

Storytelling becomes his means of survival.

And we all know, ladies and gentlemen, what immense powers of storytelling Amos Oz possesses.

Ms OzSalzberger,

It is our great pleasure that you are here with us today. Your father has given us many magnificent books and stories. I had the privilege of extolling his life’s work when he was awarded the Siegfried Lenz Prize in Hamburg the year before last. Please give him our best wishes!

When your father was a child, Ms OzSalzberger, he had a clear idea of what he wanted to be when he grew up. He didn’t want to be a doctor, or a fireman, or a policeman. What he wanted to become was “a book”!

He described this desire in his “Tales of Love and Darkness”. The reason he gave for it was this: “People can be killed like ants. (...) But not books: however systematically you try to destroy them, there is always a chance that a copy will survive and continue to enjoy a shelflife in some corner of an out-of-the-way library somewhere.”

Amos Oz shows how important it is to tell stories and to listen to stories. To broaden our horizons, to understand ourselves and the world better. And, as the young Amos said, to stop us from disappearing, to help us remain.

But for this to be possible, Ms Galliner, we need places in which stories can be told!

The Jewish Film Festival Berlin Brandenburg is precisely such a place!

Just a few weeks ago, the Festival’s future was in doubt. Years of work were in jeopardy. I am glad that the Federal Foreign Office was able to step in and help with funding at the last minute.

You, Ms Galliner, are bringing stories to the screen, stories that make Jewish life visible and thereby ensure that it will stay. Stories about the darkest chapter of our past. Contemplative stories, sad stories. But also cheerful and absurd stories.

In the opening film, for example, the Middle East conflict is solved by a football match.

An excellent idea, if you ask me! If you want, I could instantly name a dozen international conflicts that we could gladly hand over to the footballers and rugby players of this world! It would save me a lot of work!

To conclude, let me mention another person who has given us many stories: Regina Ziegler, the coowner, together with her daughter Tanja, of this cinema. She was – most deservedly – awarded the Lola for her life’s work less than a fortnight ago. Congratulations!

Ladies and gentlemen, I know you did not come here to listen to the Foreign Minister. You came to see Natalie Portman’s film – and to immerse yourselves in the wonderful story it tells.

And so I will finish with one of my favourite Jewish quotes:

Speech is good, silence is even better.

Thank you very much!

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