At German parliament, Holocaust survivor sounds alarm over far-right

Holocaust survivor Charlotte Knobloch calls for a stronger defense of the country’s “fragile” democracy and issues a searing rebuke to the far right: “We will fight for our Germany.”

In an emotional speech to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Knobloch tells the Bundestag lower house of parliament that extremists and conspiracy theorists had again taken aim at liberal European values.

“We must not forget for a single day how fragile the precious achievements of the last 76 years are” since the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp on January 27, 1945.

“Anti-Semitic thought and words draw votes again, are socially acceptable again — from schools to corona protests and of course the internet, that catalyst for hatred and incitement of all kinds.”

The Vice President of the European Jewish Congress and the World Jewish Congress Charlotte Knobloch (C) greets Petra Pau (L) of the left wing “Die Linke” (The Left) party and member of the Bundestag, as she leaves the plenary hall with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier (R), following a ceremony marking the 76th anniversary of the liberation of Nazi Germany’s Auschwitz death camp, on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, January 27, 2021 at the Bundestag (lower house of parliament) in Berlin. (Tobias SCHWARZ / AFP)

Knobloch, a former leader of Germany’s 200,000-strong Jewish community who survived the Holocaust in hiding as a child in Bavaria, warns that the “enemies of democracy are stronger than many think.”

“I call on you: take care of our country,” she says, calling right-wing extremism “the greatest danger for all” in Germany.

Addressing deputies of the hard-right Alternative for Germany, the largest opposition group in parliament with nearly 100 seats, Knobloch accused many of its followers of “picking up the tradition” of the Nazis.

“I tell you: you lost your fight 76 years ago,” Knobloch says. “You will continue to fight for your Germany and we will keep fighting for our Germany.”

Knobloch fights back tears as she recounted the terror of the Nazis’ rise and her grandmother, Albertine Neuland, sacrificing her life to save her own by taking her place on a deportation train to the Theresienstadt concentration camp.

Neuland was murdered there in 1944.

“I stand before you as a proud German, against all odds and although much still makes it unlikely. Sadness, pain, desperation and loneliness accompany me,” she says.

But she says Germany’s enduring commitment to the culture of remembrance made her hopeful.

“I am proud of the young people in our country. They are free of guilt for the past but they assume responsibility for today and tomorrow: interested, passionate and courageous.”

Germany has officially marked Holocaust Remembrance Day every January 27 since 1996 with a solemn ceremony at the Bundestag featuring a speech by a survivor and commemorations across the country.

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