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“Antisemitism is a threat to our society as a whole!”

Minister of State for Europe Michael Roth with Zvi Aviram  and Anne Frank Ambassadors at the Federal Foreign Office

Minister of State for Europe Michael Roth with Zvi Aviram  and Anne Frank Ambassadors at the Federal Foreign Office, © AA

01.08.2018 - Speech

Michael Roth emphasises Germany’s special responsibility during a discussion with Holocaust survivor and resistance activist Zvi Aviram.

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"With the courage of despair" – the title of your book, Mr. Aviram, only gives a brief idea of the emotional burden you must have carried in resisting the Nazi terror regime in Berlin’s underground between 1943 and 1945.

The courage you demonstrated at a very young age continues to be a source of inspiration for young people today. Therefore we are honored to welcome you here to the Foreign Office to share your story and to inspire young international Anne Frank Ambassadors.

As a 16 year-old boy, you joined the “circle of pioneers”, a group which helped other Jews in hiding to survive and some to even flee Nazi Germany. Even after the Second World War had ended, you actively engaged in helping survivors of the holocaust.

I have read that on your journey you also made station in my home town, Bad Hersfeld, when you managed to get a group of very sick survivors transferred from the Soviet to the American zone. Unfortunately, Bad Hersfeld was not equipped for proper care, so you continued to fight for better conditions until the group reached a hospital in the camp for displaced persons in St. Ottilien.

Today you are here to tell your story, so I will not go into further detail. I would like to underline that we are grateful that you still maintain close ties with Germany and that you openly share parts of the darkest chapters of your life, even though it must be very painful. The paths to reconciliation are long and winding. It means a lot to us that you as a contemporary witness extend your hand to us.

It is a privilege to have you with us at the Federal Foreign Office. Although this is not the original location, we stand in the tradition of the institution. The Reich Foreign Office was informed about the scale of the Nazi policies from an early stage and was involved in the systematic extermination of the Jews of Europe. At the Federal Foreign Office, we must time and again confront this past.

Because of its historical responsibility for the Holocaust, Germany fights and will always fight anti-Semitism, anti-Gypsyism, homophobia, racism and any other form of discrimination against minorities. In 2018, no one should live in fear because of his or her faith, ethnicity or sexual identity. For the Federal Government this is definitely not a question of routine, but rather a top political priority.

But we are aware that politicians and governments alone will not be able to fight anti-Semitism. It affects us all – not only governments. Each and every one of us can help combat anti-Semitism and unmask prejudices against Jewish people. For these efforts, we rely strongly on partners from civil society like the Anne Frank Centre and its network of young Ambassadors.

Dear Anne Frank Ambassadors,

Thank you so much for joining this program in Berlin to discuss the events of the fateful year 1938 and to reflect on their relevance for today.

It is sad but true: In the younger generation knowledge about the Holocaust is decreasing. Politicians from the far right sitting in our parliaments publicly wonder whether we deal too much with the Nazi period and whether we need memorials to commemorate the holocaust. It is a shame and we must do our utmost to fight this horrific trend.

Recently we have witnessed a new wave of anti-Semitism all over Europe, including Germany. Scenes we thought Europe would never see again have become reality. Let me be very clear: Antisemitism is a threat not only to Jewish communities, but to our society as a whole. There is no justification for it, neither in Germany nor in any other place in the world.

Now – more than ever – it is important to have young people like you willing to take on responsibility and to teach lessons from history to their peers.

Here in the Foreign Office I meet Ambassadors almost every day. I can assure you that what you are doing to stand up for the rights of minorities, to fight hatred and discrimination in your communities is just as important as the work they are doing.

Today you have the rare opportunity to hear Zvi Aviram’s story and ask him questions. In a few years from now, young people will not be able to personally meet a survivor.

I therefore encourage you to not only be an Anne Frank Ambassador, but to also become an Ambassador for Zvi Aviram and inspire your peers with his story of resistance and courage. Thank you for your strong commitment! We are all proud of you!

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