BERLIN, Germany — Chancellor Angela Merkel said Monday it was a “disgrace” that Jews in Germany faced insults, threats or violence, as she marked 70 years since the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp.
Merkel joined survivors of the former camp, created by Nazi Germany in southern Poland, for a somber and moving event in the German capital ahead of Tuesday’s anniversary.
Auschwitz is a “warning” of what people can do to each other, Merkel said, adding that the camp — the site of the largest single number of murders committed during World War II — had been an “atrocious departure” in the course of history.
She said more than 100,000 Jews have today made Germany their home, but that it was “unfortunately not without cause” that some feared insult or assault.
“It’s a disgrace that people in Germany are abused, threatened or attacked when they indicate somehow they are Jewish or when they side with the State of Israel,” she said, to applause.
Merkel said the fact that synagogues and Jewish institutions had to be guarded by police was like a “stain on our country.”
Anti-Semitism and other forms of inhumanity must be stood up to, Merkel said.
She stressed the “everlasting responsibility” for Germans to remember the horrors unleashed by the Nazis and that the memory of the Holocaust shaped Germany’s self-image.
“With us, everyone must be able to live free and safe, irrespective of religion or origin,” she added.
And she referred to the deadly attacks in Paris earlier in the month against the Charlie Hebdo satirical weekly and a kosher supermarket and stressed the unity of people of different faiths.
Between 1940-1945, some 1.1 million people, including 1 million Jews, perished in the twin death camps of Auschwitz-Birkenau created by Nazi Germany in Oswiecim, southern Poland.
Two survivors addressed the Berlin event together with three young people from Poland, Israel and Germany.
Josef Schuster, head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, said in a written statement that all of German society had an “abiding commitment” to remember the Holocaust.
He also said the threat against Jews worldwide had increased and that assaults by radical Muslims were an additional danger for the Jewish community.
“Nobody may shut their eyes to that,” he said.