Thursday, March 17, 2005

Joschka Fischer on the Holocaust (1)

I rarely reproduce whole texts from other sources here.  But I'm making an exception this time for the 03/16/05 speech of German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Israel.  A new museum just opened there, and a number of dignataries from around the world were invited.

This is from the Web page of the German Auswärtiges Amt (Foreign Office); there's no indication that the speech itself is copywrited, and in any case politicians generally don't mind having their words quoted in full, especially when they've published the full text on a Web page to encourage people to read it.  It falls under "fair use," in other words.

I just found it to be a good example of the way in which the Holocaust is treated in official presentations by German leaders.  And for Fischer, it's a safe assumption that it's not fluff rhetoric.  For German leaders of all the democratic parties, the Second World War, the Holocaust and the destruction of the Hitler regime represent the founding events of today's German democracy.  I have the impression that they take the democratic and human-rights lessons of the that time far more seriously than American leaders generally do, especially those in the Republican Party.

So, here's the speech.  Since I'm reproducing the whole thing, I won't put it in italics like I normally do with quotations.  Everything from here on in the post is from the English version of Fischer's speech at the Web site:

Speech by Joschka Fischer, Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs, at the Inauguration of the New Museum at Yad Vashem, Jerusalem, 16 March 2005

President Katsav,
Ladies and gentlemen,

I have been to Yad Vashem many times, also before becoming Foreign Minister. Whenever my trips to Israel allow, I visit this place.

It is a place of remembrance of the victims of a barbaric crime – the Shoah. A place of remembrance of the names of the murdered. A place of memorial to true heroes, to those who saved Jewish lives and thus also to those who preserved humanity. And it is a place of deep shame for any German, because the name of my country, Germany, is and will forever be inseparably linked to the Shoah, the ultimate crime againsthumanity.

I am very grateful for your invitation. And it is a great honour for me to speak to you today, at this memorial and before these names. I am very glad that I have been able to come today.

Ladies and gentlemen,
Just as the Auschwitz extermination camp has become a symbol of the Shoah, of the murder of six million Jews at German command and at German hands, the name Yad Vashem has come to stand for the remembrance of this crime against humanity.

The Shoah stands for evil – pure and simple. People were murdered because they were born Jews. Infants, mothers, children, parents and grandparents – none were spared. An entire people. And a wonderful culture. And we must not forget that it was anti-Semitism that sparked off and remained the driving force behind this genocide.

All those murdered, the men, women and children, and their individual stories are the focal point of the New Museum at Yad Vashem. I am deeply moved by the testimonies and arte­facts that bear witness to the fates of the victims. The darkest depths of my country's history are illuminated in a horribly tangible way, and the immeasurable suffering inflicted on German and European Jewry by the Nazis is brought home to us and burned into our memo­ries once and for all.

Ladies and gentlemen,
The Hungarian Nobel Laureate for Literature, Imre Kertesz, once said: "The real problem with Auschwitz is that it happened, and this cannot be altered - not with the best, or worst, will in the world." The Shoah, the ultimate crime against humanity, will forever remain an indelible part of German history. We cannot and must not ever evade our historic and moral responsibility for Auschwitz.

Our relationship with Israel is therefore an issue that touches the very heart of the identity of the new, democratic Germany. That is why we are fully committed to the State of Israel's right to exist and to the security of the State and its citizens.

Ladies and gentlemen,
The new ways that Yad Vashem constantly finds to pass on the knowledge of the Shoah to the post-war generations serve as a model to memorials and museums around the world. I am thus grateful that Yad Vashem has agreed to make the database of the names collected in the Hall of Names available to the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in the centre of Berlin, which will be inaugurated on 10 May.

The fact that the Shoah was possible must serve as a constant warning and impose a lasting obligation on us all across the globe. We must banish all forms of anti-Semitism, as well as xenophobia, intolerance and racism, and fight them with determination. This is but a sign of respect to the legacy and memory of those killed by the National Socialist regime of terror, whose fate is commemorated here at Yad Vashem.

published: Wednesday 16.03.05

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