Merkel and Jewish head warn of rising anti-Semitism at pogrom event

Berlin - By Esteban Engel and Thomas Lanig, - Chancellor Angela Merkel warned of growing anti-Semitism in Germany and reiterated the need for determined action against racism, xenophobia and social exclusion at a ceremony to mark the 80th anniversary of the anti-Jewish Nazi pogrom.

"There is a flourishing Jewish life in Germany again," Merkel said at a ceremony in Berlin's largest synagogue on Friday. "But at the same time we are experiencing a worrying anti-Semitism that threatens Jewish life in our country and in other places in the world believed to be safe."
"Unfortunately, we have almost become accustomed to the fact that every Jewish institution ... has to be guarded or specially protected by the police," Merkel said at the Ryke Street synagogue.
"But we are scared of attacks on people who wear a kippah and are stunned by the right-wing motivated attack on a Jewish restaurant in Chemnitz this August," she said referring to recent incidents in Germany.
This form of anti-Semitic crime arouses "bad memories of the beginning of the persecution of the Jews in the 1930s," the chancellor said.
Hundreds of synagogues and Jewish-owned businesses were looted and set on fire, tens of thousands of Jews publicly humiliated and deported, and at least 100, but possibly as many as 1,300, murdered in the pogrom that started on November 9, 1938.
The launch of the Nazi regime's concerted campaign of violence against Germany's Jewish population became referred to as Kristallnacht, or the Night of Broken Glass, as the streets were covered with the debris from the shattered windows of Jewish properties.
At Friday's ceremony, the president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Josef Schuster, decried anti-Semitic and xenophobic attacks as a "disgrace" for the country.
He said it was a scandal that every other week a synagogue or mosque was daubed with graffiti, or worse, attacked.
People who attacked refugees, Muslims or Jews are goaded from the background and incited to act. "A party sitting in the Bundestag [lower house of parliament] on the extreme right has perfected this incitement," Schuster said, in reference to the Alternative for Germany (AfD).
He called them "the intellectual arsonists."
The AfD was the only party that the Central Council of Jews did not invite to Friday's ceremony. Their presence would have been unbearable for the Jewish community, Schuster said.
President Frank-Walter Steinmeier had earlier called for a "democratic patriotism" in Germany as he commemorated the 1938 pogrom and the centenary of the founding of the republic.
Germany's monarchy came to an end and the Weimar Republic was founded on November 9, 1918, as World War I came to an end.
"We can be proud of the traditions of freedom and democracy, without losing sight of the abyss of the Shoah," Steinmeier told the Bundestag, using the Hebrew term for the Holocaust.
The president was also in attendance at the ceremony at Berlin's Ryke Street synagogue.
With seats for more than 2,000 worshippers, the synagogue is the largest in Germany and one of the largest in Europe after Budapest's central synagogue.
The building was set on fire during the pogrom, but the police commander of the district quickly gave the order to extinguish the fire as it threatened to spread to surrounding buildings.
Services were still held in the synagogue until 1940, but the building was then seized by the German army for storage.
Also on Friday, Berlin's administrative court lifted a ban on a right-wing extremist demonstration set to take place in the capital, disagreeing with the city's Interior Senator Andreas Geisel who said that the march "would blatantly negate the meaning and moral and ethical significance of this memorial day."
In the end, only 100 participants showed up for the far-right protest, while thousands turned out for a counterdemonstration around Berlin's Central Station that commemorated the Holocaust and denounced hate speech.



Friday, November 9th 2018
By Esteban Engel and Thomas Lanig,

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