WARSAW GHETTO survivor Marcel Reich-Ranicki (R) 390.
(photo credit: Tobias Schwarz/Reuters)
Germany commemorated the 67th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz on Friday in the Bundestag. The memorial event mirrored the form of remembrance across Europe’s capitals – a solemn pledge to heighten awareness about the crimes of the Holocaust and nebulous declarations about stopping future genocides.
In one of the more bizarre columns tackling the meaning of Holocaust Remembrance Day in the Bundestag, a journalist with the large daily Die Welt, complained about embarrassment because photographers showed up in jeans and sneakers to take photos of the keynote speaker, Marcel Reich-Ranicki. The journalist called for a dress code at future events.
Though last year Iranian lawmakers, who represent a Holocaust- denying government, appeared in the Bundestag for meetings, there were no media calls for a code of conduct barring Iranian deniers of the Shoah.
The 91-year-old Polish-born Reich-Ranicki spoke about how he survived the Warsaw Ghetto. Reich-Ranicki is widely considered to be one of Germany’s greatest book critics.
While the president of the Bundestag, Norbert Lammert of the Christian Democratic Union, admirably urged Germans to combat all expression of radical right-wing extremism, he failed to mention that his party colleague, Ruprecht Polenz, helped make his backyard hospitable for Iranian lawmakers who represent Holocaust denial.
In short, it can be argued, what the Bundestag president and deputies ignored on Friday was that their chamber cordially welcomed in June a delegation of Iranian parliamentarians who embody the genocidal rhetoric calling to abolish Israel and the Holocaust denial of Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Polenz, as head of the Foreign Affairs Committee, facilitated the visit of Iranian lawmakers and defiantly declared that “sanctions do not rule out” talks with them.
Just this month Tom Koenigs, a deputy with the German Green Party, traveled to the Islamic Republic. The constant interplay between Iranian legislators and German deputies is part and parcel of a long-running love affair. That helps to explain why The Wall Street Journal Europe ran a series of editorial several years ago on “Germany loves Iran.”
There is a long bill of particulars to be leveled against Germany’s willingness to engage the main exporter of Holocaust denial, the Islamic Republic of Iran. Sacha Stawski, the Frankfurt-based head of Honestly Concerned, one of Germany’s most important watchdog organizations monitoring anti-Semitism, told The Jerusalem Post
on Saturday that Germany is not carrying out its declared goal of combating modern anti-Semitism. He cited the presence of Iran’s media in Germany. “An official Bundestag document by an expert commission outlines, but not outlaws, how the Islamic Republic of Iran redistributes its anti-Semitic hatred and Holocaust denial right from within Germany through its IRIB TV channel,” Stawski said.
Germany permitted the current speaker of the Iranian parliament, Ali Larijani, to issue a statement at the Munich Security conference in 2009 in which elements of Holocaust denial were present. Larijani said his country has “different perspectives on the Holocaust,” and no laws barring such denial.
A year later, Peter Gauweiler, chairman of the Bundestag’s Culture and Education Committee, traveled with committee members from a cross section of German parties to meet Larijani in Tehran. The deputies, Luc Jochimsen from the Left Party, Claudia Roth from the Green Party, the Social Democrat’s Günter Gloser, and Monika Grütters, from the Christian Democrats, remained conspicuously silent about Larijani’s Holocaust denial.
Munich will host the annual security conference next week and Iran’s foreign minister, Ali Akbar Salehi, apparently will attend. Salehi was sanctioned by the EU for his illicit work on Iran’s nuclear program.
Many commentators have argued that the true litmus test for Germany’s willingness to confront its responsibility for the crimes of the Shoah is its policies toward Iran’s anti- Semitism and its nuclear program.
Tom Gross, a British-born Middle East commentator, told the Post on Saturday that “while Holocaust remembrance is welcome, it is contradicted by German officials not shunning representatives of the world’s leading Holocaust-denying government.”
Gross continued, “They [Germans] need to make up their minds about whether they are serious about combating Holocaust denial.”
Stawski told the Post
that “Germany carries a special responsibility towards Jews and towards the one and only Jewish state.”
While the Bundestag commemoration event, to its credit, prioritized the horrific scandal surrounding the lackluster fight against a neo-Nazi cell that over the past decade murdered Greek and Turkish immigrants, as well as a German police woman, critics are troubled by the German government and Bundestag’s blind spot – Iranian genocidal anti- Semitism and Holocaust denial.