FRANKFURT - A row over the choice of a guest speaker clouded Tuesday Germany's main event to commemorate ‘Kristallnacht’, the anniversary of the beginning of deadly pogroms against Jews across Nazi Germany.
"Kristallnacht," or Night of Broken Glass on November 9, 1938, was the first openly violent Nazi-sanctioned targeting of Jews, when mobs torched synagogues and destroyed thousands of Jewish shops and private homes around the country.
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Many Jews were murdered, while tens of thousands were deported to Nazi concentration camps.
Key speaker at the main remembrance ceremony at Frankfurt’s St. Paul's church was German-born French author Alfred Grosser. In his speech he criticized Israel’s policies towards the Palestinians, saying it could not be expected that those in Gaza could "understand the horror of assassinations, if you do not show great sympathy in understanding the suffering in the Gaza Strip."
The Central Council of Jews in Germany, the main umbrella organization for the country's 180,000 Jews, had objected to the choice of Grosser as main speaker and threatened to walk out of the church if Israel was unilaterally criticized.
Stephan J. Kramer, general secretary of the Central Council of Jews in Germany had asked the city of Frankfurt to cancel Grosser's invitation, arguing that his views made him an unfit choice of guest. But the city’s mayor, Petra Roth, refused to withdraw the invitation.
Members of the Council had threatened to walk out of the church if Israel was unilaterally criticized. But none of the members of the Council of Jews attending the ceremony walked out. They said Grosser had not crossed the line in his speech.
According to the Frankfurt Jewish community, in recent years Alfred Grosser "has represented escalating positions that are unacceptable for us." Grosser said he felt justified in criticizing Israel as he considered the country to be part of Europe, adding that everybody should be held accountable to Western values.
The 85-year-old was born to a Jewish family in Frankfurt, but emigrated
to France in 1933 at age 8 and is a French citizen. He is a major author
on politics and German modern history.
His 2009 book Von Auschwitz nach Jerusalem
("From Auschwitz to
Jerusalem") caused controversy as he dealt with the permissibility of
questioning the policies of Israel.