Germany Vows to Battle Anti-Semitism (AP) By KARIN LAUB JERUSALEM, ISRAEL 02/02/05 9:55 AM)
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JERUSALEM - Germany´s president told Israeli lawmakers Wednesday he
bows his head "in shame and humility" before the victims of the Nazi
Holocaust, and he promised that Germany would wage a determined
battle against anti-Semitism.
The president, Horst Koehler, also denounced Palestinian suicide
bombings as indefensible acts of terror and said Germany would
always stand by Israel and its people. Germany is encouraged by
recent Mideast peace moves and would try to help Israel and the
Palestinians resume their negotiations, he said.
Koehler, marking 40 years of diplomatic relations between the two
countries, began his speech in heavily accented Hebrew - a gesture
that prompted his hosts to smile - before switching to German.
Before the address, several Cabinet ministers and legislators said
they could not bear the thought of hearing German spoken in
parliament and would stay away.
Koehler is the second German president to address Israel´s
parliament, following a speech by then-President Johannes Rau in
2000. Koehler arrived in Israel on Tuesday, visiting the Yad Vashem
Holocaust Memorial and meeting with Israeli President Moshe Katsav.
"I bow my head in shame and humility before the victims (of the
Holocaust), and before those who came to their help, at risk to
their own lives," Koehler said.
Addressing growing Israeli concerns about anti-Semitism in Europe,
including Germany, Koehler said: "Every open society has its
enemies. Hostility toward foreigners and anti-Semitism have not
disappeared from Germany."
He said Germans need to "seek the political debate with right-wing
extremists and anti-Semites, and we must do it in a determined
However, Koehler´s remarks appeared to fall short of Israel´s
demands, raised again Wednesday in parliament, that Germany outlaw
certain far-right groups.
Those addressing parliament included former Israeli Justice Minister
Joseph Lapid, who recalled his liberation from the Jewish ghetto in
Budapest, Hungary, in 1945. Lapid said he was rescued by Soviet
soldiers two weeks after he marked his Bar Mitzvah, the Jewish rite
of passage to adulthood at age 13, in a crowded basement.
"I was freezing with cold and with fear. I asked a Russian soldier
for a piece of bread. If someone had told me then that 60 years
later I would stand in the parliament of the state of the Jews to
welcome the visit of the German president, I would not have believed
him," said Lapid, whose father and grandfather were killed by the
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said Israel´s great success in the areas
of science, technology, medicine and the arts "is proof of what we
could have been with the help of the talents that were destroyed" in
"The assistance that the German government gave us ... is one of the
things that allowed us to achieve these successes, and we know how
to appreciate this," Sharon said.
European leaders´ acceptance of moral responsibility for the sins of
the past "doesn´t free them from the responsibility to prevent a
recurrence of crimes against the Jewish people," Sharon said,
calling for "an unending war against all manifestations of anti-
Semitism and racism that have grown in the past few years."
(Copyright 2005 Associated Press. 02/02/05)
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