Kristallnacht anniversary: Angela Merkel addresses remembrance service at Berlin synagogue

Chancellor and president describe eruption of antisemitism as 'rupture' in German civilisation

Samuel Osborne
Friday 09 November 2018 14:15 GMT
Angela Merkel addresses a ceremony at the Rykestrasse synagogue in Berlin
Angela Merkel addresses a ceremony at the Rykestrasse synagogue in Berlin (TOBIAS SCHWARZ/AFP/Getty Images)

Angela Merkel addressed a remembrance ceremony at a synagogue in Berlin to mark the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht.

Speaking alongside Jewish leaders on Friday, Ms Merkel and Germany’s president, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, described the eruption of antisemitism as a “rupture” in German civilisation.

During her speech at the Rykestrasse synagogue - Germany’s largest - Ms Merkel said the country had “sadly almost become accustomed to the fact that every synagogue, Jewish school, kindergarten, restaurant and cemetery needs to be either guarded by police or given special protection”, the BBC reported.

Far-right protesters take to streets in Chemnitz, Germany after man killed

Kristallnacht, or the “night of the broken glass” saw an eruption of antisemitism and is often considered the beginning of the Holocaust.

Nazis terrorised Jews throughout Germany and Austria, killing at least 91 people, burning down hundreds of synagogues and vandalising and looting 7,500 Jewish businesses.

Up to 30,000 Jewish men were arrested, many of whom were taken to concentration camps.

The remembrance ceremony came after a study found antisemitism remains prevalent in Germany, with one in 10 Germans saying they felt Jews still have “too much of an influence even today” and saying they “do not really fit in with us”.

The far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party has increased its political power in Germany, attracting voters who are anti-immigration.

Germany has seen an increasing number of far-right demonstrations over the last few years (Getty)

The study also recorded a lack of trust in democracy, with 8 per cent saying a dictatorship might be a better form of government than democracy under certain circumstances, while 11 per cent expressed a desire for a leader who “governs the country with a firm hand for the good of all”.

On Wednesday, around 30 students from the Jewish Traditional School marked the anniversary of Kristallnacht by lighting candles and reciting prayers at their school. Rabbi Yehuda Teichtal urged them to jointly overcome Germany’s past by building a secure future for Jews in the country.

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Earlier this week, Berlin’s top security official banned a far-right protest which was planned for Friday, the anniversary of Kristallnacht.

Explaining his decision, the state interior minister, Andreas Geisel, said such a demonstration would “in a blatant way negate the moral and ethical significance of this memorial day”, the German news agency dpa reported.

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