President Reuven Rivlin issued a public warning against the “virus of anti-Semitism” at a Monday event marking the 82nd anniversary of the Kristallnacht pogroms.
“We remember its victims and remind ourselves how extremist hate propaganda, when it reaches the heights of divisiveness, can shatter the very foundations of society — of humanity and human rights — into a thousand fragments. To sow destruction, catastrophe, to allow the descent into the darkest recesses, beyond any imagination,” Rivlin said during the event commemorating the Nazi-instigated pogroms in Germany and Austria in which 91 Jews were killed, 30,000 Jews were arrested, 1,400 synagogues were set on fire, and countless homes and businesses were vandalized.
Rivlin noted the World Holocaust Forum held in Jerusalem earlier this year, during which world leaders pledged to stand up against anti-Semitism and racism.
“In the months since [the forum], the whole world has been dealing with the deadly coronavirus. Even dealing with the new virus, which demands solidarity and collaboration, has not managed to obliterate the old plague, the plague of anti-Semitism,” he said. “The virus of anti-Semitism, racism and xenophobia is tougher than coronavirus. It changes shape, takes cover and threatens to break out through any crack. But there can and there must be a vaccine for it, too.”
Also speaking at the event were Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen and German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier.
“The November pogroms did not mark the beginning of the persecutions of German Jews. They were a nauseating outburst of violence following on from many years of discrimination, harassment and hostility. They foreshadowed the unspeakable crimes of the Shoah committed by my compatriots a few years later. And they offer a stark warning for our times,” Steinmeier said.
While he expressed satisfaction in seeing “Jewish life is again flourishing in Germany,” Steinmeier lamented rising anti-Semitism there.
“I am ashamed that Jews do not feel safe wearing a kippah on the streets. I am ashamed that Jewish places of worship need protection. I am ashamed that only a heavy wooden door prevented a deadly attack on the synagogue in Halle on Yom Kippur last year,” he said, referring to last year’s shooting attack.
Van der Bellen made a point of “confessing” that “Austria shares responsibility for the [Holocaust].
“Many Austrians, too many, were among the perpetrators. Acknowledging our responsibility means, above all, to decidedly and courageously prevent any form of racism, discrimination and anti-Semitism – wherever we encounter it,” he said.