'A perpetual reminder of the responsibility we Germans bear'

Laying a wreath at Yad Vashem, Merkel says museum is a ‘reminder’ and ‘warning’

Visiting German chancellor urges constant determination against antisemitism, as Bennett says Jews must learn from the Holocaust to never be ‘defenseless’

German chancellor Angela Merkel lays a wreath at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial museum in Jerusalem on October 10, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
German chancellor Angela Merkel lays a wreath at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial museum in Jerusalem on October 10, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday laid a wreath at the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum in Jerusalem, where she urged a constant stand against antisemitism.

“Every visit to Yad Vashem touches me at the core,” Merkel said, according to a translation provided by the museum.

“The crimes against the Jewish people that are documented here are a perpetual reminder of the responsibility we Germans bear — and a warning,” she added, saying it was Germany’s responsibility to stand up against antisemitism.

“That Jewish life has again found a home in Germany after the crimes against humanity that were the Shoah, is an immense expression of trust, for which we are grateful,” said Merkel. “This trust compels us to stand up with determination against antisemitism, hatred, every day anew.”

“This is an obligation for every federal government,” she said, referring to the ruling cabinet of her home country.

The German chancellor’s visit to the museum — her sixth since taking office — was part of her farewell trip to the Jewish state near the end of her 16-year term in office.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel visits the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial museum in Jerusalem, flanked by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (left) and Israel’s former chief rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, a Holocaust survivor (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Merkel was accompanied by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on a tour of the museum, where they saw the “Flashes of Memory: Photography during the Holocaust” exhibition and also met with Holocaust survivors.

“The Shoah has many lessons,” Bennett declared, using the Hebrew term for the Holocaust. “Even decades later, the Jewish people have yet to comprehend the depth of the disaster that befell it. In my view, the most important lesson is the simplest and most self-evident: The place of the Jewish people is on its soil, here in the Land of Israel.”

“The Holocaust is not the reason for the existence of the State of Israel,” Bennett said. “The connection between the Jewish people and its land didn’t start in Auschwitz. But Auschwitz — and our brothers and sisters who were lost there — strengthens the determination to never be a defenseless people, far from its home.”

Earlier Sunday, Merkel and Bennett held a joint press conference during which the chancellor said that Israel’s security is a “top priority for every German government.”

Merkel voiced confidence to Bennett that whoever followed her as chancellor would feel equally committed to Israel’s security.

“After the crimes against humanity of the Shoah, it has been possible to reset and to reestablish relations,” she said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel (left) speaks as she attends a cabinet meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in Jerusalem, Sunday, Oct. 10, 2021. (Menahem Kahana/Pool Photo via AP)

Bennett credited Merkel with fostering an unprecedented bond between the countries and described her as “Europe’s moral compass” due to her support for Israel.

Merkel and Bennett also spoke of stalled European-sponsored negotiations to bring Iran back to its commitments under a landmark 2015 pact with world powers. The so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action was reducing Iran’s nuclear program to prevent it from obtaining nuclear weapons, but after the US pulled out of the pact in 2018, Iran also dropped some of its adherence, upping uranium enrichment.

Merkel said that the negotiations were in a “very decisive few weeks,” while Bennett warned that letting Iran reach the threshold of nuclear weapons capability will “become a moral stain on the free world, and what’s more, it will threaten world peace.”

Israel and Germany only established diplomatic ties in 1965, more than 15 years after the creation of Israel. But over the decades, those ties have warmed.

Germany is Israel’s largest trading partner in Europe and the German government has provided solid support to Israel during wars and diplomatic crises.

Merkel was scheduled to visit in August, but the trip was postponed after the crisis in Afghanistan in which the Taliban seized power. She then delayed the visit until after last month’s German election. She now remains in office in a caretaker capacity until a new government is formed, a process that could take weeks or months.

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