Knesset Speaker MK Mickey Levy stood before the German parliament on Thursday to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day and urged those gathered to protect democracy and educate future generations against hatred.
It was the first time that a speaker of the Knesset addressed the full German parliament.
During his address, Levy recited part of the Kaddish, a traditional Jewish mourner’s prayer, that he read out from a prayer book used by a teenager at his bar mitzvah on October 22, 1938, shortly before the Kristallnacht pogrom instigated by the Nazis against Germany’s Jews.
“A moment, before the life they were meant to live — shattered in the face of the reality in Germany,” Levy said, unable to contain his emotion as he spoke.
In his Hebrew speech, Levy noted the significance of the building where the ceremony was held, attended by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, national dignitaries, lawmakers, and Holocaust survivor Inge Auerbacher.
“Here, in this historic building, the house of the German parliament, one can grasp — if only slightly — the ability of human beings to take advantage of democracy to defeat it,” Levy said. “It is a place where humanity stretched the boundaries of evil — a place where the loss of values turned a democratic framework into racist and discriminatory tyranny.”
“That is why it is precisely here, within the walls of this house, which stand as silent stone and steel witnesses, that we are re-learning how fragile democracy is, and are once again reminded of our duty to guard it with all vigilance.”
“Preserving the memory of the Holocaust is a daunting task,” Levy said. “But alongside memory, we are also required to build a vision out of it, to hope and plan a future together — based on shared values and dreams.”
There is a duty, he said, “to nourish our young men and women with the good in man. To warn them against the hatred of the other, just because he is other. To sound the grave eternal warning of the Holocaust of the Jews of Europe: Never again!”
Noting that 80 years have passed since the Wannsee Conference in 1942 when Nazi leaders planned out the Final Solution, the mass murder of European Jewry, Levy said that those decades were not enough to “heal the wounds.”
ביום השואה הבינלאומי – יו״ר הכנסת מיקי לוי נואם בדמעות בבונדסטאג בעברית ואומר קדיש pic.twitter.com/Mlj356JZPy
— דפנה ליאל (@DaphnaLiel) January 27, 2022
“There are many who still carry the scars that did not heal — and those who will never find a balm for them.”
Levy said that Israel and Germany experienced “an exceptional journey on the way to reconciliation and establishing relations and brave friendship between us.”
Noting the broad cooperation that now exists between the two countries, Levy said that Germany had made Israel’s security one of the pillars of its foreign policy. “Germany stands firm against manifestations of antisemitism, even when they are dressed as anti-Zionism,” he said.
Levy also thanked former chancellor Angela Merkel for her “constant work on behalf of relations between the two countries.”
Turning to current chancellor Scholz, Levy said that “Israel trusts you and knows that you will continue this longstanding tradition and that together we will continue for the sake of the relations between the countries and the peoples.”
He concluded by tearfully reading Kaddish from the prayer book, which, he said, “stood still, like the stone and steel walls in this building, facing the horrors of the Holocaust.”
“Our country bears a special responsibility — the genocide against the European Jews is a German crime,” Bundestag Speaker Baerbel Bas told the special parliamentary session. “But at the same time, it is a past that is everyone’s business — not just Germans, not just Jews.”
Survivor Auerbacher, 87, told the German parliament, “I have lived in New York for 75 years, but I still remember well the terrible time of horror and hatred. Unfortunately, this cancer has reawakened and hatred of Jews is commonplace again in many countries in the world, including Germany.”
“This sickness must be healed as quickly as possible,” Auerbacher said. “Antisemitism is here — it isn’t just on the extreme fringe, not just among the eternally incorrigible and a few antisemitic trolls on the net. It is a problem of our society — all of society.”
Levy’s visit was to include meetings with Scholz, Steinmeier and Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock. On Tuesday he visited the historic House of Wannsee, the Berlin villa where the Nazis planned the Final Solution.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.