On this day and in this place, the shadows of history are darker than anywhere else. Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel is visiting Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem in Jerusalem on Yom Hashoah, Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Memorial and name
“Even unto them will I give in mine house and within my walls a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters: I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off.” (Book of Isaiah, 56:5). The name Yad Vashem is derived from this verse, that is, from “Yad”, the Hebrew for “place”, and “shem”, the Hebrew for “name”. The name stands for the six million Jews who were murdered under National Socialism. Yom Hashoah, Israel’s Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Day, starts with a memorial ceremony in the morning.
Symbol of reconciliation
The invitation of a German Foreign Minister to Yad Vashem on this day is highly symbolic. It stands for the reconciliation between Israel and Germany. At the same time, the visit underlines that Germany continues to face up to its dark past in a spirit of profound humility to this day. Standing up for Israel’s security and well-being thus remains an inviolable cornerstone of German foreign policy.
Yom Hashoah is based on the Jewish calendar and usually falls on 27 Nisan. In 2017, this corresponds to 24 April in the Gregorian calendar. The visit to Yad Vashem is Foreign Minister Gabriel’s only official appointment in Israel on this day.
The Foreign Minister began his first official visit to Israel by laying a wreath for the six million murdered Jews. He acknowledged Germany’s responsibility for the Holocaust and the crimes of the Second World War, saying “for our generation it is both a warning and an obligation – to take a stand against anti‑Semitism and for human dignity, tolerance and intercultural understanding”. In the guest book, he wrote: “Here, more than anywhere else, we are starkly reminded of what evil people are capable of and of the incomparable suffering that has been caused. Our task now is to show what good we are also capable of as people when we remind ourselves every day that we are human beings”.
His visit continues on 25 April.