Governing Mayor Wowereit,
Ladies and gentlemen,
The fact that today there are again more than 100,000 Jews living in Germany is nothing short of a miracle. It’s a precious gift which fills me with profound gratitude.
That people in Germany today are being verbally abused, threatened and attacked when it somehow becomes apparent that they are Jewish or when they express their support for the State of Israel, is outrageous.
That is something I cannot accept. No-one present here today is prepared to accept that – and there are many; many who share my sentiments.
It pains me when I hear that young Jewish parents are asking whether they can raise their children in Germany, or that older people are asking whether it was right to stay here.
With this rally we want to send out the clear message that Jewish life belongs in our country. It’s part of our identity and culture.
We’re sending out the clear message that there’s no place in our country for discrimination and exclusion. Anyone who discriminates against or excludes others will find themselves up against me and everyone here, indeed the vast majority of people in Germany.
We’re sending out the clear message that Germany is aware of its abiding responsibility following the Shoah, that ultimate betrayal of all civilised values, to take resolute action against anti-Semitism or – even better – to prevent it.
It’s been brought home to us once more during the last few months how vigilant we need to be.
We can see through the perfidious intentions of anti-Semitism: Jewish people are to be made outsiders in our country. And our response is clear: Jewish friends, neighbours and colleagues – Germany is your home.
On behalf of the entire German Government, I condemn every form of anti-Semitism in either Germany or Europe in the strongest possible terms. I utterly reject all anti-Semitic comments and attacks – not least those witnessed recently at pro-Palestinian demonstrations, which were supposedly criticism of the policies of the State of Israel but which were actually purely and simply expressions of hate directed against Jewish people.
It’s especially intolerable when anti-Semitic slogans are drummed into children, who then chant them at demonstrations of this kind.
Anyone who uses completely legitimate criticism of political actions – either those of our own country or of the State of Israel – at demonstrations merely as a pretext to give expression to their hate of other people, their hate of Jews, is misusing our precious fundamental rights to freedom of opinion and of assembly.
Anyone who verbally abuses or hits someone wearing a kippa or a Star of David, or even inflicts such serious injuries on someone that they have to be treated in hospital, is hitting and injuring us all.
Anyone who desecrates gravestones in Jewish cemeteries, debases our culture.
Anyone who makes synagogues a target of hate and violence shakes the very foundations of our free society.
We have heard comments which amount to a declaration of war on the harmonious relations between the different communities and faiths within our society.
We have witnessed crimes which constitute an attack on our freedom and human dignity.
We must not, and indeed cannot, look away. And we will not look away. That’s why we’re here today.
And not only that – it’s the duty of our state and of every citizen to fight anti-Semitism.
That’s why our security authorities take every attack on Jews or Jewish institutions very seriously. Let me say that they must be taken very seriously – each and every case. Anti-Semitic crimes are vigorously prosecuted with the full force of the law.
Incidentally, that also applies to attacks on mosques. We don’t tolerate them either, they too are vigorously prosecuted.
First and foremost, however, we have to ensure that such attacks aren’t carried out in the first place.
That is a task for every one of us. It is in line with our joint sense of responsibility for the common good. It requires courage and everyone’s own initiative, solidarity, tolerance and open-mindedness – those values which make a society humane and fit to face the challenges of the future; values which have to be impressed on us all time and again.
My Government is supporting a wide range of activities to this end: projects which foster tolerance and strengthen social competences and an understanding of democracy; especially in the work with young people and parents. For if we want to uproot all forms of extremist and ideological discrimination and violence, we have to start with the family.
We encourage young people and adults to engage in civil society and work in the community. We’re investing in education and promoting memorials. This includes ensuring that remembrance and knowledge of the darkest chapter in German history, the unparalleled negation of civilisation that was the Shoah, are handed down from generation to generation.
We owe that to the victims, their descendants and all of us, if the welfare of our country is important to us.
We want Jewish people to feel safe in Germany. They should feel that this country is home to all of us, a home in which they, just like everyone living here, have a bright future.
By participating in this rally, all of us are sending an important signal – we’re signalling that we aren’t prepared to tolerate anti-Semitism, extremism or inhumanity.
We’re signalling our respect: our respect for each other’s faith and culture – whether it be Jewish, Muslim or Christian. We are signalling our desire for peace and harmony in our society.
That’s our message. I hope it will spread to the heart of our society and to the rest of the world.
Thank you very much.