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German chancellor visits synagogue on trip to Argentina

Merkel recalls victims of ‘terrible attacks’ on Israel Embassy and Jewish center in 1990s, speaks of fight against anti-Semitism

German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks during a visit to the Templo Libertad synagogue in Buenos Aires, on June 8, 2017. (Juan Mabromata/AFP)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks during a visit to the Templo Libertad synagogue in Buenos Aires, on June 8, 2017. (Juan Mabromata/AFP)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel acknowledged Latin America’s largest Jewish community during her visit to Argentina on Thursday.

Visiting the Templo Libertad synagogue in Buenos Aires to inaugurate a newly restored German organ, she said the instrument symbolized a bridge between the two countries.

It is Argentina’s oldest and largest synagogue, home to the Congregacion Israelita Argentina and a Jewish history museum

Merkel praised Argentina for having received thousands of Jews fleeing the Nazis in World War II.

“In light of Germany’s past, this is a reminder for us that we have to fight against anti-Semitism wherever it appears,” she said, speaking through an interpreter.

Many German immigrants moved to Argentina from the late 19th century onward, and the country has a reputation as having been a place of refuge for fugitive Nazi leaders.

Merkel also recalled the “terrible attacks” on the Israeli Embassy and a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires in the 1990s.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks during a visit to the Templo Libertad synagogue in Buenos Aires, on June 8, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / JUAN MABROMATA)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks during a visit to the Templo Libertad synagogue in Buenos Aires, on June 8, 2017. (AFP/Juan Mabromata)

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the embassy attack, on March 17, 1992, during which a suicide bomber killed 29 and wounded hundreds in front of the embassy, in the deadliest attack ever on an Israeli diplomatic mission. A group with ties to Iran, and its proxy the Lebanese terror organization Hezbollah, took responsibility for the bombing.

Among the 29 victims of the 1992 embassy attack were 25 Argentinians and four Israelis.

Another example of Iranian sponsorship of terrorism followed in 1994, when the AMIA (Argentine Israelite Mutual Association) center was destroyed. The bombing, carried out by a Lebanese suicide bomber who drove a car bomb at the multi-story building, destroying it, killed 85 people and wounded hundreds. The bomber was subsequently identified as Ibrahim Hussein Berro, a Hezbollah operative.

The aftermath of the 1994 AMIA bombing in Buenos Aires (photo credit: Newspaper La Nación (photo credit: Argentina/Wikipedia Commons)
The aftermath of the 1994 AMIA bombing in Buenos Aires (photo credit: Newspaper La Nación (photo credit: Argentina/Wikipedia Commons)

Argentinian prosecutor Alberto Nisman, who investigated the July 18, 1994 bombing, traced the authorization for the AMIA attack to a meeting of Iran’s National Security Council held on August 14, 1993, and compiled sufficiently compelling evidence of Iran’s role in the crime to have several leading Iranian figures, including for defense minister Ahmad Vahidi and recent failed presidential candidate Mohsen Rezai, placed on an Interpol “red notice” list.

Nisman was found shot to death on January 18, 2015, hours before he was to present his allegations of a secret deal to cover up Iranian officials’ alleged role in the bombing. His allegations named then-president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and the government as co-conspirators in a cover-up.

Whether Nisman’s shooting in his apartment was murder or self-inflicted has yet to be determined.

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