(recorded: 2 November 2020)
When the synagogues burned throughout Germany on the night of 9 November 1938, many watched and even applauded.
Others shrugged their shoulders and looked the other way. Only very few people displayed the civil courage shown by Wilhelm Krützfeld, however.
Together with his colleagues from the police station at Hackescher Markt, he stood up to the arsonists of the SA and, contrary to the orders that had been issued, called the fire brigade. The fact that the New Synagogue Berlin didn’t burn down entirely is thanks first and foremost to him.
The November pogroms of 1938 showed the entire world how widespread the poison of antisemitism already was in German society. They were a harbinger for the mass murder of the Jews of Europe, the biggest crime against humanity of all time.
And so no one should shrug their shoulders when we experience antisemitic hate speech and violence almost every day today – on the internet, and also on our streets.
- Only a few weeks ago, a Jewish fellow citizen was beaten almost to death while making his way to the synagogue.
- And many of the conspiracy theories about the coronavirus crisis have reminded us that antisemitism isn’t just a phenomenon to be found on the extreme right even today, but is making itself felt at the heart of our society.
Remembrance shouldn’t content itself with merely looking at the past. Remembrance means drawing the right conclusions from yesterday for today and tomorrow.
The Center for Persecuted Arts in Solingen and other partners of this exhibition have selected seven most fitting places with this in mind.
- Places such as MiQua in Cologne, which stands for 1700 years of Jewish life in Germany, a milestone that we will celebrate together next year.
- Places that shed light on the darkest chapter of our history.
- And places such as the synagogue in Halle an der Saale that remind us of our responsibility to preserve and protect Jewish life also in the here and now.
I’m most delighted that the United Nations is supporting this educational and remembrance work.
We want to continue to strengthen cooperation in the fight against antisemitism and against Holocaust denial and distortion also within the framework of our chairmanship of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.
Because we know where hatred and hate speech can lead, and where it can lead if too many people shrug their shoulders and look away.
The example of Berlin policeman Wilhelm Krützfeld shows that it’s up to all of us to defend diversity and democracy.
This applies to police officers as public officials in uniform.
And it applies to each and every one of us.