The invited guests of honour sat closely side by side, as the sounds of violins from the film “Schindler’s List” filled the Beth Zion Synagogue at the central memorial event on the occasion of the 85th anniversary of the November Pogroms. It was thanks only to the area being so densely built up that the synagogue on Brunnenstrasse in Berlin did not catch fire, and thus avoided complete devastation during the 1938 November Pogroms. It was severely damaged, nevertheless, and the interior furnishings were destroyed entirely.
The past as a reminder
In his speech, Federal Chancellor Scholz recalled the terrible lootings of Jewish facilities and shops that happened in 1938. Even before these events, Jewish citizens had been deprived of their rights by the National Socialist dictatorship. The devastations that occurred on 9 November 1938 marked another step on the way towards the organised murder of six million Jews. In view of the Shoah as a collapse of civilisation, it was something to be ashamed of, the Federal Chancellor said, that Jews continued to experience marginalisation and hostility time and time again to this day.
Central memorial event Federal Chancellor Scholz and other federal ministers attended the memorial event that was hosted by Josef Schuster, the President of the Central Council of Jews. Further guests included Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and President of the Bundestag Bärbel Bas, as well as the President of the Bundesrat Manuela Schwesig and the President of the Federal Constitutional Court Stephan Harbarth. The event was also attended by Ron Prosor, the Israeli ambassador in Germany, and the Holocaust survivor Margot Friedländer.
Taking action in the present
The Federal Chancellor referred to Article 1 of the Basic Law, which provides that human dignity is inviolable. “It is our job,” Scholz said, “to defend human dignity, and to actively oppose a division into ‘us’ and ‘them’ – to oppose marginalisation in other words”.
He also spoke about the anti-Semitic incidents that happened in Berlin and other major German cities following the Hamas terrorist attacks against Israel: “Nothing, nothing at all – not one’s descent, or political view, or cultural background, and no supposedly post-colonial perspective on history – can be used to justify a celebration of the murder, the cruel slaughter, of innocent people,” the Federal Chancellor said.
At the core, this was about keeping the promise that had repeatedly been made throughout the decades following 1945, he explained. “The promise on which our democratic Germany is based: ‘Never again!’,” the Federal Chancellor recalled, adding that “we have to keep this promise right now, and not only through words but especially through our actions”.
A task for society as a whole
Federal Chancellor Scholz appealed to everybody in Germany to take a stance against anti-Semitism. “Never again: this means above all physically protecting Jewish facilities and communities,” he said. “Ensuring this protection is a government task, as well as a civic duty.” People also had to watch out when it came to statements made on social media, “where targeted disinformation reaches young people in particular, where world views are shaped but can also be distorted,” Scholz explained. He also referred to the instruments of the Digital Services Act that allow for major online platforms to be obligated to greater vigilance.
Understanding the Jewish soul
Josef Schuster, the President of the Central Council of Jews urged: “Those who want to understand why the terrorist attack on Israel causes great trauma, fear and insecurity, also for the Jewish community in Germany, must be aware of what is going on in Jewish souls, even 85 years after the November Pogroms, when the Star of David is once again painted on the houses of Jews, and when there are attacks on Jewish businesses once again; when arson attacks happen on synagogues, as happened here at Beth Zion Synagogue just a few weeks ago.” Persecution of Jews in the place they call home had left deep marks on the collective awareness of Jews, he said.
Keeping remembrance alive
In remembering the pogroms of 9 November, it is important to make sure that the victims of National Socialism with their individual stories are not forgotten. This is why the Federal Chancellor took this day as an opportunity to clean one of the so-called stumbling stones. With a cloth and brass polish, Scholz restored the memorial stone for Hans Goslar to its old shine. Hans Goslar had been the Head of the Press Office of the Prussian Ministry of State between 1919 and 1932, and was murdered in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1945 because of his Jewish identity.
Stolpersteine: More than 100,000 “stumbling stones” (Stolpersteine) have been laid across Germany and Europe to commemorate individuals who were deported and killed by the National Socialists. Cleaning these stones to improve their visibility is just one example of a very concrete gesture to oppose anti-Semitism that is available to everyone.