At the inauguration of the New Synagogue in Dessau, Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz first quietly described his impressions of meeting people during his visit of solidarity to Israel on Tuesday. The Federal Chancellor became all the more explicit when he turned to the shameful events in Germany: “It deeply appals me to see how antisemitic hatred and inhuman agitation are taking root, in the very country where the crime against humanity of the Shoah began.”
For Federal Chancellor Scholz, the events in Israel from 7 October formed a turning point for everyone. The brutal and atrocious terrorist attack, he said, was directed against humanity itself and was intended to sow hatred. “We must do everything we can to prevent this seed from flourishing. In this situation, there can be only one place for Germany: firmly at the side of Israel,” said Scholz.
Jewish life belongs in Germany
Jewish life has a long and diverse history in Dessau. The most famous son of its community is the philosopher Moses Mendelssohn, who was born in Dessau in 1729. Federal Chancellor Scholz cited this great pioneer of the Enlightenment, in the sense of an admonishment with regard to equal rights and respect in our society: “If not as brothers and fellow citizens, at least consider us as fellow humans and fellow inhabitants of this country.” It was highly regrettable, said Scholz, if Jewish people today were still and repeatedly forced to doubt whether this country was also their country. But the inauguration of the house of worship sends out a strong signal: “This synagogue in the midst of Dessau says: Jewish life is and remains a part of Germany. It belongs here,” the Federal Chancellor affirmed.
Another world-famous representative of the Jewish tradition in Dessau is the composer Kurt Weill, who was born here in 1900. As the son of the cantor, Weill grew up in the town’s parish house. After the takeover of power by the National Socialists, Weill had to leave Germany and go into exile, first in France and then in the USA. At the time, Weill warned that “lethargy is completely inappropriate at this moment”. Federal Chancellor Scholz took up this warning and made it even more urgent: “Lethargy is inappropriate. Looking away is inappropriate. Silence is inappropriate, if Jewish people are not safe on our streets. Now it must become clear what ‘Never again’ means! Now we must show what our ‘Never again’ means. That’s why our state will protect and defend Jewish life everywhere and at all times.”
The Old Synagogue in Dessau was pillaged and burnt down during the November Pogroms of 1938. It was only after the end of the GDR that a new Jewish community was formed here. In 2015, plans were started for the construction of a New Synagogue, which was now solemnly inaugurated on 22 October.
Zero tolerance for toxicity
Nevertheless, Federal Chancellor Scholz said that it was more than shameful, even “catastrophic”, for synagogues and Jewish establishments to be the target of attacks in Germany. In addition to executive and judiciary severity against this inhuman hatred, there should be zero tolerance for antisemitism in Germany, he said. It is a “poison that corrodes our society and endangers our democracy,” said Scholz in Dessau. The Federal Chancellor appealed to the whole of society to resist this toxicity: “The fight against antisemitism is always, at the same time, the fight for a better, more humane and more enlightened society. And this makes it the responsibility of everyone.”
The inauguration of the New Synagogue in Dessau on 22 October was an interplay between secular words – in addition to the Federal Chancellor, the state premier of Saxony-Anhalt, Reiner Haseloff, and the Israeli ambassador to the Federal Republic, Ron Prosor, also delivered greetings – and sacred rituals: State Rabbi Daniel Fabian said a prayer and the yad was solemnly presented. The yad is a finger pointer, usually made of silver, to indicate the line of text being read from the Torah.