Berlin (dpa) – The presidents of Germany and Israel, Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Reuven Rivlin, on Tuesday called for the memory of the Holocaust to be kept alive so that a reoccurrence can be prevented.
Steinmeier told students at the Moses Mendelssohn high school in Berlin that he thought it was vital for people to visit the former Nazi death camps, Israel and the Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem, in addition to learning about the historical facts.
“Education is crucial so that all people make sure that we will never allow such horrors to happen again,” agreed Rivlin, who joined Steinmeier in visiting the Jewish high school.
The building of the school, which was founded in 1778, was used by the Nazis between 1942 and 1945 as a deportation camp for Berlin Jews. It only started being used again as a Jewish high school in 1993.
The Israeli president warned of the anti-Semitism, hate and racism that has reappeared around the world.
Countries such as Germany and Israel have to show – despite their differences on everyday politics – “that they are on the same wavelength when it comes to defending democracy, defending human rights and fighting for the rights of minorities,” Steinmeier said.
“We need a common international understanding of the foundations of democracy,” he added.
Rivlin said he and Steinmeier share the same values.
Their joint visit in Berlin came one day after both men attended commemorations for the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz Nazi death camp in modern-day Poland. The two leaders flew back to Berlin together.
Steinmeier was also one of the many world leaders hosted by Rivlin last week at a gathering at Yad Vashem to mark the Auschwitz anniversary and raise awareness of modern-day anti-Semitism.
On Wednesday, Rivlin is to give a speech in Hebrew before German lawmakers in the Bundestag parliament to commemorate the victims of the Nazi regime. Steinmeier will also speak at the event.
Auschwitz is seen around the world as a symbol of the Nazis’ persecution of the Jews. At least 1.1 million people were killed in that concentration camp alone. Across Europe, some 6 million Jews died during the Holocaust.
May 8 will mark the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II and the removal of the Nazis in Germany by the Allied forces in 1945.
Steinmeier has ordered for a state ceremony to be held on that day in Berlin, in agreement with Chancellor Angela Merkel, a spokeswoman for the president said on Tuesday.
The country’s political leadership will take part, including the presidents of the upper and lower houses of parliament, as well as of the Constitutional Court. Talks are also under way about whether May 8 should be declared a national public holiday.
Steinmeier said at the Jewish high school that teachers and schools have the responsibility to inform their pupils about National Socialism, the Shoah and those responsible.
“What I am concerned about is that the role of schooling is changing because the influence of social media is today competing with the upbringing in schools and families,” he noted.
Rivlin also met German soldiers and Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer on Tuesday.
He praised the cooperation between German and Israeli soldiers, saying: “Joint exercises are important to ensure that we are ready to face present and future threats.”
A working meeting with Merkel was foreseen for the evening.