President Reuven Rivlin on Tuesday visited a Jewish high school in Berlin that was used by the Nazis as a deportation center for Jews during the Holocaust.
Rivlin was in Berlin as part of a three-day trip to Germany after he and German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier both attended a Monday commemoration at Auschwitz, marking the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camp.
Rivlin and Steinmeier met with students at the Jüdisches Gymnasium Moses Mendelssohn high school. Founded in 1778, the school currently has 414 students, about 60 percent of whom are Jewish.
Sitting alongside Steinmeier and surrounded by a semicircle of students at the high school in the historic heart of Berlin, Rivlin said that “connections between people all over (the world) is the most important thing.”
“Unfortunately politicians in our day (are) using hatred in order to gain political power,” he added, without elaborating.
Rivlin will give a Hebrew-language speech in memory of the victims of Nazism to the Bundestag on Wednesday.
The Israeli president will also hold meetings with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer and German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas during the course of his visit.
He will also meet with human rights bodies and Jewish communities, a spokesperson said in a statement, and will be the guest of honor at a dinner hosted by Bundestag President Wolfgang Schauble.
In Jerusalem last week, Steinmeier said that Germany had not fully learned the lessons of the Holocaust, as Jew-hatred was still growing. In an emotional speech at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial, Steinmeier reiterated that his country assumes full responsibility for the Nazi genocide of the Jewish people.
The German president returned to that theme on Tuesday, telling the students in Berlin of his concern about the negative influence that social media has on its users.
“Information is not enough. We have to accompany information with experiences,” he said, urging students to travel, especially to Israel.
Some in the audience spoke of their personal encounters with anti-Semitism and racism, while others reflected on what it means to reconcile their German, Jewish and other identities.
Rivlin said that despite some differences, Israel and Germany today have “a real partnership” based on shared values of democracy and human rights.
During a meeting in Krakow with his Polish counterpart Andrzej Duda on Monday, Rivlin said that although Nazi Germany was the architect of the Holocaust, others in Europe who had helped in the genocide must also take their share of responsibility.
During the meeting, Rivlin fired the latest salvo in a spat between the two nations over the complicity of Poles in anti-Jewish violence during and after World War II, noting that although the Polish people fought against Nazi Germany, “many Poles stood by and even assisted in the murder of Jews.”
In Germany, Rivlin was joined by members of the Goldin and Shaul families, whom the president invited to be present for his speech at the Bundestag.
Hamas, the terror group that rules the Gaza, is believed to be holding the remains of Israeli soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin, whose bodies it captured when they were killed during the 2014 war known in Israel as Operation Protective Edge.
It has been reported in the past that Germany facilitated indirect negotiations between Hamas and Israel over a possible exchange of Israeli captives and the remains of soldiers held in Gaza for Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails.