“We have to become witnesses”

08.04.2020 - Article

Guest comment by Foreign Minister Maas in today’s edition of the Bild-Zeitung newspaper (8 April) Cabinet decision on German funding for Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial:

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in 2018
Foreign Minister Heiko Maas visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in 2018© Xander Heinl/photothek.net

Gertrude Steinl was 21 when she rescued her Jewish colleague from the Nazi murderers. She died two weeks ago, one day before her 98th birthday, the last surviving German to be honoured as “Righteous Among the Nations”. For her courage. For her human kindness.

Courage and human kindness that we also need today. The Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel once said, “Whoever listens to a witness, becomes a witness”. In order to ensure that the memories do not die with the survivors, we all have to become witnesses.

For that we need new digital forms of remembering which bring the past to life: new media which allow us to experience the memories of the survivors in new ways. Electronic archives in which academics from around the world can research. Digital exhibitions which touch people today, in the 21st century.

Germany has to lend its support. That is our responsibility. That is why we decided today to provide funding for the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem for a further ten years. Anyone who has been there in the Hall of Names, under the photos of the countless murder victims, knows that every story, every name that we ensure is not forgotten turns us into witnesses. Witnesses of what was. Witnesses of what must never happen again. Witnesses who stand up when Jews are attacked again today on our streets. When blatant antisemitism is disguised as criticism of Israel. Demonstrating solidarity with the victims and showing courage in the face of the perpetrators - that is what remembering means today. Some 75 years after the last concentration camps were liberated.

Trust grows when we remember with such honesty. During the corona crisis, Israeli tourists have contacted German embassies and consulates around the world in search of assistance. Dozens of them have been able to return home on German aircraft - in time for the Passover celebration, which begins today. The future grows out of remembrance. Seldom has there been a more heart-warming example of how true this sentence is.


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