In German parliament, Auschwitz survivor decries rise of far right and antisemitism

Holocaust survivor Eva Szepesi speaks to the plenary of the German Bundestag in Berlin, Germany, January 31, 2024. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)
Holocaust survivor Eva Szepesi speaks to the plenary of the German Bundestag in Berlin, Germany, January 31, 2024. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

A Jewish survivor of the Auschwitz death camp tells Germany’s parliament that she is appalled by the rising strength of the far right in the country and increasing antisemitism in the wake of the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel that triggered the war in the Gaza Strip.

Eva Szepesi, 91, who was born in Hungary and liberated from Auschwitz at age 12 in January 1945, speaks at the parliament’s annual memorial event for victims of the Holocaust. She shares her memories of Nazi persecution and addresses concerns about the current situation in Germany.

“I would like not just for murdered Jews to be remembered on memorial days but also for living ones to be remembered in daily life. They need protection now,” Szepesi tells lawmakers.

Germany saw a significant increase in anti-Jewish incidents following the attack on Israel. Szepesi says some of her readings at schools were called off for security reasons shortly after Oct. 7 and her most recent such events took place under police protection.

“The Shoah did not begin with Auschwitz. It began with words, it began with society staying silent and looking away,” she says. “It pains me when schoolchildren are again afraid of going to school just because they are Jews; it pains me when my great-grandchildren still have to be protected by police officers with machine guns just because they are Jews.”

Szepesi also decries the strengthening of the far right in Germany, where recent national polls show the far-right Alternative for Germany party in second place with support of around 20%. A recent news report said some party members attended a recent meeting where right-wing extremists discussed deporting millions of immigrants and people with immigrant roots, including some with German citizenship.

“It appalls me that right-wing extremist parties are again being voted for,” Szepesi says. “They must not become so strong that our democracy is endangered.”

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