27 January is the day of remembrance for the victims of National Socialism. In Berlin, Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz laid a wreath at the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe together with Israeli parliament speaker Mickey Levy. Scholz called for a rejection of anti-Semitism and hatred. A commemoration was held in the Bundestag.
On 27 January, Germany commemorates the millions of people who were disenfranchised, persecuted, tortured or murdered by the National Socialists. This date was chosen as the day of remembrance because the German concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau was liberated by the Red Army on 27 January 1945. Around 1.1 million people were murdered in Auschwitz.
Knesset President Levy in Germany
Together with Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and other representatives of the constitutional bodies, Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz laid wreaths at the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe on Thursday morning. A special participant in the commemoration at the Holocaust Memorial was the speaker of the Israeli parliament, Mickey Levy.
The memorial with its field of stelae at the heart of Berlin’s government district commemorates the crimes committed by the NS regime that resulted in six million Jews losing their life in the cruellest possible way, including some 1.5 million children.
Commemoration in the Bundestag
Following the wreath-laying ceremony, Federal Chancellor Scholz took part in the Bundestag commemoration of the victims of National Socialism, as did the other representatives of the constitutional bodies. At the opening, Bundestag President Bärbel Bas recalled the Wannsee Conference of 20 January 1942, where high-ranking representatives of the NS regime met at Wannsee 80 years ago to coordinate the extermination of millions of people.
People were sentenced to death because of their “differing ideas, beliefs or sexuality or because their lives were considered unworthy by the National Socialists”, said Bas. “So today is also a day of shame for what previous generations of Germans did.” The Bundestag President stressed that it was important to keep the memory of historical events alive, not only in Germany but throughout the world. She called for a strong stand against hatred and malice, racism and anti-Semitism, and warned: “Anti-Semitism is here – it is in our midst!”
Holocaust survivor Inge Auerbacher gives a commemorative speech
The commemorative speeches were given by Holocaust survivor Dr. Inge Auerbacher and the President of the Israeli Knesset; Mickey Levy. Inge Auerbacher was born in Kippenheim, Baden, in 1934 and deported to Theresienstadt concentration camp in 1942 at the age of seven. In the Bundestag, she described how she experienced the National Socialists’ takeover of power as a Jewish girl and told of the unimaginable suffering in the concentration camps, where fear, hunger, cold and illness prevailed. After the liberation of the concentration camp, Inge Auerbacher emigrated to the USA with her parents in 1946 and became a chemist. For the modern era, the 87-year-old appealed for peace and reconciliation of all people worldwide.
“We need to bring our young people together”
Israeli parliamentary speaker Mickey Levy emphasised the close ties and friendship between Germany and Israel. He said that the two countries agreed on the importance of democracy and the commitment to protect it. Levy called for the creation of a vision out of the memory of the Holocaust and the need to join forces to plan a “future based on the values of democracy, freedom and tolerance”. He added: “We must bring together our young people, the generation of our grandchildren and great-grandchildren and all the generations that will come after them.” Visibly moved, Levy finished his speech by reading out the Jewish prayer for the dead.
“Combat anti-Semitism everywhere and in all forms”
In a video message on the occasion of the UNESCO International Remembrance Day, Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz commemorated the victims of the Holocaust. He mentioned the large number of people who were complicit in the crimes of the National Socialists and who participated in them directly or indirectly. Scholz said that in the present, too, anti-Semitism, discrimination, racism and extremism had to be combated “everywhere and in all forms”. He said that the murder of six million European Jews and “the senseless deaths of millions more” was “the worst possible crime against humanity” and a “genocide that was planned and carried out in cold blood”. He noted “the monstrosity of this evil and the apparently routine way in which it was set in motion”.
In 1996, the then Federal President Roman Herzog introduced 27 January as a day of remembrance for the victims of National Socialism. This is because it was on 27 January 1945 that Auschwitz concentration camp was liberated by Soviet troops. Since 1996, an annual commemoration has been held for the victims of National Socialism in the Bundestag. In 2005 the United Nations declared 27 January to be the International Day in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust.