Berlin (dpa) – Germany’s lower house of parliament, the Bundestag, commemorated Wednesday the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camp of Auschwitz, with the presidents of Germany and Israel, respectively Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Reuven Rivlin, for the first time jointly participating and speaking to the assembly.
Opening the session, Bundestag President Wolfgang Schaeuble recalled the victims of the Nazi regime and in his speech warned against any playing down of the Nazi crimes. “Over and over there have been attempts, and there still are, to play down the crimes. This will not succeed,” he told the Bundestag.
In his speech, Steinmeier said that “the vast majority” of Germans were aware of their responsibility. “So let us take it on! Let us stand up to the old evil forces in the new era! Let us fight against antisemitism, racial hatred and nationalist zeal!” he said.
“We thought that the spectres of the past would vanish with time. But no, they are raising their ugly heads again in a new guise. Moreover, they are presenting their voelkisch (Eds: national) and authoritarian ideas as a vision for the future, as better answers to the open questions of our time,” the German president said.
“I fear that we were not prepared for this – but that is the very test we face in today’s world. And we must pass this test! We owe that to our responsibility for the past, the victims and the survivors,” he said.
Each year, the Bundestag holds a memorial session to remember the victims of Nazism. In the concentration and extermination camp of Auschwitz, in then German-occupied Poland, the SS soldiers murdered at least 1.1 million people, most of them Jews.
The few survivors were liberated on January 27, 1945 by soldiers of the Soviet Red Army. Throughout Eruope around six million Jews were exterminated in what has become known as the Holocaust. At least 55 million people perished in World War II that was triggered by Nazi Germany.