Germany marks Holocaust anniversary despite Jewish boycott

January 27th, 2009 - 9:28 pm ICT by IANS  

Berlin, Jan 27 (DPA) Germany Tuesday marked the Holocaust Memorial Day with President Horst Koehler promising that his country would keep alive the memory of Nazi crimes and its victims.”The grief for the victims, the shame over the terrible deeds and the will for reconciliation with the Jewish people and the former enemies of war - they lead us to the roots of our republic,” Koehler said in an address to the national parliament.

Germany’s Central Council of Jews is boycotting this year’s memorial event, out of anger at the fact that Holocaust survivors had not been greeted at previous years’ events.

The Secretary-General of the Central Council, Stephan Kramer, said he had asked the parliament years ago for Holocaust survivors to be welcomed formally at the commemorative event. His request had been turned down as it went against the protocol of the parliament.

“Wouldn’t it be a sensible, a good signal, to distance oneself from the protocol in this instance in order to greet the survivors present, while they are still here?” Kramer said.

President Koehler said of Germany’s resurgent Jewish population: “It is a gift that today in Germany Jewish life is flourishing again”.

He was critical however of the continued need to safeguard Jews in Germany, saying the fact “that places of Jewish life need police protection from old and new extremists, that is a disgrace”.

At this point Koehler’s speech was met with applause by the assembly, which included Chancellor Angela Merkel and a group of Berlin school children.

Speaking of the current Mideast conflict, Koehler spoke of a “vicious circle of violence”, which he said must be broken, and commended the role of the German government in mediating a peace settlement.

The president spoke of Germany’s special responsibility towards Israel, as well as the desire for “the Palestinian people to be able to find their own future in a viable state”.

On Jan 27, the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, Germany commemorates each year the victims of National Socialism.

In Poland, the 64th anniversary of the day Soviet soldiers arrived at Auschwitz falls under the motto, “To hear every word”.

The event includes meetings between students and camp survivors, a wreath-laying ceremony and a mass at an Auschwitz church.

Polish officials and the visiting Maltese president are to take part in the ceremony. The survivors will also walk in a “March of Remembrance” through the camp.

In 2005, the United Nations nominated Jan 27 as international Holocaust Memorial Day.

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