73 years after the concentration camp in Auschwitz was liberated, the German Bundestag has paid tribute to the victims of the Nazi dictatorship. Millions of people, mostly of the Jewish faith, died in concentration camps and death camps.
Alongside Chancellor Angela Merkel and Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier representatives of all constitutional organs of the Federal Republic of Germany attended the remembrance ceremony.
We must resolutely fight anti-Semitism
The cellist Anita Lasker-Wallfisch gave the memorial speech. The 92-year-old was deported with her sister to the concentration camp in Auschwitz in 1943. Because she played the cello, she was commandeered to play in what was known as the girls’ orchestra. The orchestra had to play, for instance, when the camp inmates marched to work as forced labourers. In November 1944, the two sisters were transferred to the concentration camp Bergen-Belsen in Lower Saxony.
In her speech Anita Lasker-Wallfisch remembered the atrocities perpetrated against Jews. Today, she warned, we must ensure that nothing like this happens ever again.
In her podcast on Saturday (27 January), Chancellor Angela Merkel called on everybody in Germany to fight anti-Semitism and xenophobia. It is, she declared "a disgrace, that no Jewish facilities can exist without police protection".
Duty to accept responsibility
In his address Bundestag President Wolfgang Schäuble underscored Germany’s responsibility today. This arises, he said, from the guilt of the Germans during the National Socialist regime. It is not acceptable, he declared, if Jews are again confronted with anti-Semitic hostility in their everyday life.
The son of the main speaker, the cellist Raphael Lasker-Wallfisch, provided a musical interlude. He played works of Ernest Bloch, son of a Jewish family in Geneva.
Young people engage with the Nazi era
Young people from twelve countries also attended the remembrance ceremony. Within the framework of the Bundestag youth encounter scheme, they are engaging with the history of the National Socialist era. The theme of this year’s programme is "Resistance for reasons of conscience".
Over the last few days the 70 or so young people have visited the memorial site at the concentration camp in Dachau and the permanent exhibition about the resistance group "Die weiße Rose" (The White Rose) at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität (LMU) in Munich. Following the remembrance ceremony in the German Bundestag, they took part in a panel discussion with Bundestag President Wolfgang Schäuble, Anita Lasker-Wallfisch and her sister Renate Lasker-Harpprecht.
27 January is the Day of Remembrance for the Victims of National Socialism. It was established in 1996 in a proclamation issued by Federal President Roman Herzog. On 27 January 1945 Soviet troops liberated the concentration camp in Auschwitz, where some 1.1 million people had been murdered. A total of about six million Jews died in the Holocaust. Every year since 1996 a remembrance ceremony has been held in the German Bundestag to pay tribute to the victims of National Socialism.