28 January 2020 - 3 Shevat 5780 - ג' שבט ה' אלפים תש"פ
German Jews rail against far-right AfD party at Kristallnacht commemoration event E-mail

When the head of Germany’s main Jewish organisation said only one Bundestag party was not invited to Friday’s commemoration of the Kristallnacht pogroms, few had any doubt: He meant the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany, or AfD. And it was the only remark at the event that drew spontaneous applause.

Speaking at the soaring Rykestrasse Synagogue in Berlin, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel looking up at him from the front pew, Josef Schuster, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany called on Germans to fight xenophobia, anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim sentiments, and in particular to oppose the unnamed “spiritual arsonists” who belittle the Holocaust and “mock its victims and survivors”.

At a ceremony broadcast live nationwide, Schuster called the recent demonstrations against hate in Germany “encouraging”. He cited hundreds of thousands of courageous people, dedicated to democracy, who “won’t let Germany just drift off to the right.”

Merkel, addressing the gathering of political and religious leaders and members of the Jewish community, said it was important to remember that the pogrom on 9-10 November 1938 was “not an overnight phenomenon”.

“We can only draw the lessons for today if we can see this event as part of a process. We can see where it leads,” she said, “when criminal behaviour is tolerated, even encouraged.”

While there were no eyewitnesses to the pogrom speaking at the event, their written words were read aloud from the bimah by actors.

Comparisons to today were not spared. Schuster noted that recent years have seen a rash of attacks on refugee housing, on the refugees themselves, on mosques as well as on synagogues and Jewish citizens, mostly perpetrated by neo-Nazis.

Schuster called the development “shameful for our country.”

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