German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel visits the Hall of Remembrance at Yad Vashem on April 24, 2017.
(photo credit: AFP PHOTO / GALI TIBBON)
German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel came under fire from the Simon Wiesenthal Center and German NGOs on Friday for his alleged trivialization of the Holocaust, in which he wrote that Jewish victims and social democrats were equal victims of the Nazis.
Gabriel wrote in an opinion article on Tuesday in the Frankfurter Rundschau daily that "Social democrats were, like the Jews, the first victims of the Holocaust. The social democrats were the victims of political persecution, the others [Jews] were victims of race madness."
The head of the Jerusalem office of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Dr. Efraim Zuroff, told The Jerusalem Post
that "anyone with knowledge of the Final Solution is aware of the fact that the fate of European Jews under the Nazis was different than any of the other victims of the Nazis."
Zuroff, who is the Wiesenthal Center's chief Nazi-hunter, said Gabriel's assertion is an "abuse of the memory of the Holocaust."
Gabriel's article appeared in newspapers in Cologne, Frankfurt and Berlin.
Dr. Elvira Grozinger, the head of the German chapter of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME), told the Post
: "Our Minister of Foreign Affairs seems to have no idea of what the Holocaust meant for the Jews. The Social Democrats were political opponents and therefore -like in any other dictatorship - unwanted and imprisoned but never systematically gassed. Six million dead Jewish victims including over 1 Million children."
She said, "The comparison of these Jewish victims who were murdered just because they were born as Jews and Social Democrats as political opponents in the '3rd Reich' is therefore not acceptable. It is a symptom of lack of historical and social differentiation which disqualifies such a member of government as a minister."
SPME has over 50,000 members world-wide.
A spokesperson for Germany's foreign ministry told the Post
, "Foreign minster Gabriel is a close friend of Israel and has always unambiguously embraced German responsibility for the Holocaust and the security of Israel. There can be no doubt about this. The foreign minister made this again a point of his visit to Yad Vashem on Yom HaShoah."
Gabriel was the subject of a scandal in Israel this week because he refused to cancel meetings with far-left NGOs who seek, according to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, to delegitimize the Jewish state and the IDF. Netanyahu protested Gabriel's meeting with the NGOs Breaking the Silence and B'Tselem by cancelling his meeting
with Germany's top diplomat.
Gabriel's alleged playing down of the Holocaust prompted criticism in the media and among historians. The popular Spiegel
columnist Sascha Lobo tweeted "We were however also Holocaust victims!!!--wrote the German social democratic foreign minister about Israel. Unbelievable."
Wolfgang Wippermann, a history professor at the Free University in Berlin, called Gabriel's parallel "terrible."
Michael Spaney, the executive director fo the Mideast Freedom Forum in Berlin, told the Post
: "The FM’s statement clearly shows how he misunderstands the Holocaust as something as a general catastrophe that can happen to anyone. And how he disregards the centrality of antisemitism to the Nazi ideology. No wonder that he disregards the antisemitism of Israel’s enemies. No wonder that he fails to see that not Israel is responsible for the collapse of negotiations to a two-state-solution."
He added, " Gabriel said that Netanyahu rejected the meeting this week out of domestic reasons while he himself is using the scandal for the social democrat’s election campaign in Germany. He used his post for party politics in order to gain support with his electorate while he was expected to make a first encounter with his Israeli colleague. Taking into account his new statement about the Holocaust one can definitely say that he is unfit for the job of Germany’s highest diplomat."