By Horst Kohler
President of the Federal Republic of Germany,
To the Knesset

Jerusalem February 2nd, 2005 on



German President Kohler

Ladies and gentlemen, I stand before you as the newly elected President of the Federal Republic of Germany and I want to reaffirm here today that responsibility for the Shoah is part of Germanyís identity. Ensuring that Israel can live within internationally recognized borders, free of fear and terror, is an incontrovertible maxim of German policy. My country has proven this time and again through its actions. Germany will always stand by Israel and its people.

Yesterday I visited Yad Vashem, the place where the memory of the holocaust is kept alive and those murdered are given a name. I heard the voice, which reads out names of the slain children. It renders the dead their dignity and individuality which the National Socialists wanted to take away from them. Yad Vashem turns anonymous numbers into unique individuals again. Yad Vashem is a place of mourning and remembrance. However, Yad Vashem is also a place of humanity and hope.

I bow my head in shame and humility before the victims and before those who risked their lives to help them. One of them was Raoul Wallenberg, whom you commemorated yesterday.

From Auschwitz I returned to Berlin, to the city from where the genocide was planned and carried out, to the city, which today is once again the capital of united Germany.

Germany has faced up to the crimes of its past. In particular, Anne Frankís diary, the Eichmann trial in Jerusalem and the Auschwitz trials in Frankfurt forced us to come to grips with the legacy of the Nazi tyranny. Even the generations born after the war know that the years of the Nazi dictatorship are an indelible part of German history. Although they are not to blame, they know that they bear responsibility for keeping the memory of these events alive for shaping the future.

Every open society also has enemies. Xenophobia and anti-Semitism have not disappeared from Germany. Comparisons that play down the Shoah are a scandal, which we must confront. We should seek to engage right-wing extremists and anti-Semites in a political battle, and we must fight it with vigor.

In this Germany, Jewish communities have been re-established. You, president Katsav, attended the ceremony to mark the opening of the synagogue in Wuppertal in December 2002, together with Johannes Rau and the citizens of that city. For us, the Jewish communities in Germany are a sign of trust in our country which makes us glad. Today, the golden dome of the synagogue in Berlinís Oranienburger Strasse is just as much a part of the cityscape as the dome on the Reichstag building, the seat of the German Bundestag.

The Reichstag dome stands today for the transparency of vibrant democracy. Anyone looking down on Berlin from up there, sees the Brandenburg Gate, the symbol of Germanyís unity. And they will also see the memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in the heart of the German capital.

In the past four years terror and violence have banished peopleís hopes of peace to a distant future. Many Israelis ask themselves whether they will ever live in security. That is an alarming development. And in my opinion even more unbearable when we remember that some of these people are survivors of the Shoah. I do not think that we in Germany really understand what it means to live with the fear that those we love could at any time fall victim to a terrorist attack. What it means to take the bus to work every day, knowing it might be blown up. What it means never to feel entirely safe in any restaurant. Every violent death ends an irreplaceable life. Every victim leaves a family with a place that si forever empty at its table. The terror must end. Suicide bombings are crimes for which there can be no excuse or justification.

Mr. President, ladies and gentleman,

I come to you from Sderot. Sderot once stood for terror and fear. Today it can become a symbol of hope.

Transcription done by Yael Yaffe-Last
Studio Production by Avi Yaffe Jerusalem Recording Studios LTD.

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