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Germany´s Koehler vows to fight anti-Semitism (HA´ARETZ NEWS) By Amiram Barkat and Gideon Alon 02/02/05)Source: http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/534916.html HA'ARETZ} NEWS SERVICE HA'ARETZ} NEWS SERVICE Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
German President Horst Koehler arrived yesterday for a four-day visit to Israel, marking the 40th anniversary of the establishment of ties between the two countries.

At a state reception hosted by President Moshe Katsav, Koehler promised that his country will use all lawful means at its disposal to combat anti-Semitism and extreme nationalism in Germany.

"The relations between our countries will always remain special. Germany and Israel have a joint responsibility for history and for the future," he said.

Katsav said Israel and Germany "have special relations, built on a distant past of Jewish flourishing and creativity and a near past of destruction and grief that Germany brought on the Jewish people."

After the reception at the president´s residence in Jerusalem, Koehler went to the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial, describing his visit as "filled with pain, sadness and shame." Koehler refrained from speaking to reporters during the visit. He was given an overview of joint activities that Yad Vashem and Germany are engaged in and expressed an interest in international educational programs for inculcating the lessons drawn from the Holocaust. At the end of the visit, Koehler signed the guest book and wrote, "We must never forget."

Police received a report in the afternoon that a group of teenage boys had torched a German flag at the entrance to Jerusalem. Police found the remains of the charred flag at the scene.

Today, Koehler will meet with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and deliver an address in German to the Knesset at a special plenary session.

Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin plans to call on Koehler to work to outlaw the neo-Nazi National Democratic party, saying that "parties of neo-Nazi Holocaust deniers have no place in the German democratic game."

Health Minister Dan Naveh, the son of Holocaust survivors, announced he is boycotting the visiting president because Koehler rejected requests that he not address the Knesset in German. Several other lawmakers announced they would boycott the speech today: MKs Hemi Doron (Shinui), Avraham Ravitz (Degel Hatorah), Aryeh Eldad (National Union) and Gila Finkelstein (National Religious Party).

The issue has sparked an emotional controversy, even though former German president Johannes Rau addressed the Knesset in German in 2000.

Koehler is also expected to visit Sderot and institutions of higher learning. (© Copyright 2005 Haaretz. 02/02/05)

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