EUROPEAN lawmakers and Jewish communal figures commemorated the 83rd anniversary of Kristallnacht during a ceremony at Auschwitz on Tuesday, calling for enduring memory and education to counter the forces of hatred.
Capping off a conference on antisemitism organised by the European Jewish Association, the delegation – including representatives of more than two dozen countries – held a short candlelighting ceremony, before laying wreaths at the “death wall” where thousands of inmates were killed by firing squad.
“On this day exactly 83 years ago, hundreds of Jews were murdered, fathers, mothers, children, by my countrymen, in my country,” said Stefanie Hubig, the education minister for the German state of Rhineland-Palatinate. “Synagogues and prayer houses were set on fire, Jewish cemeteries were devastated. Countless people were arrested and deported to Nazi concentration camps.”
Hubig added, “There is still antisemitism in Germany, and I am ashamed of it, deeply”
Igor Zorcic, president of the Slovenian National Assembly, referenced more recent atrocities in his remarks.
“Unfortunately, present times do not always prove that our promises of ‘never again’ are entirely sincere,” he said. “Remember Srebrenica – and don’t underestimate the seriousness of the current political friction over genocide.”
He was referring to the 1992 massacre at Srebrenica in Bosnia and Herzegovina, where 7000 Bosnian Muslim boys and men were slaughtered by Serbian forces.
Addressing the delegation in Krakow a night earlier, Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, chairman of Yad Vashem and a Holocaust survivor, said Kristallnacht underlined how much the world is willing to ignore human suffering.
“[Kristallnacht] was a test to humanity, to all the nations, to all the globe, how would they react,” said the former chief rabbi of Israel. “In my eyes it was a test,” he said, noting how little international outcry followed.
“Ask in your cities, in the archives, for the newspapers of November 10, 11 and 12, 1938: What is written in the newspapers about Kristallnacht? Almost nothing.”