Reuven Rivlin to address German Bundestag

Since taking office in July 2014, Rivlin has also hosted Chancellor Angela Merkel, as well as a succession of German presidents and other high ranking German dignitaries.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin talks during a press conference at the Presidential Palace in Nicosia, Cyprus February 12, 2019. (photo credit: YIANNIS KOURTOGLOU/REUTERS)
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin talks during a press conference at the Presidential Palace in Nicosia, Cyprus February 12, 2019.
(photo credit: YIANNIS KOURTOGLOU/REUTERS)
President Reuven Rivlin, who is in Poland for the official 75th anniversary commemoration of the liberation of Auschwitz, will continue on to Germany, where he will address the Bundestag on Wednesday.
It will not be his first presidential visit to Germany. He was also there in 2015 to participate in festivities marking the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Israel and Germany, the inauguration of which he had protested half a century earlier.
Since taking office in July 2014, Rivlin has also hosted Chancellor Angela Merkel, as well as a succession of German presidents and other high ranking German dignitaries.
The first Israeli president to visit Germany was Chaim Herzog in April 1987, who began by going to Bergen-Belsen which, as an officer in the British Army, he had helped to liberate.
On the site of the former death camp, Herzog recited kaddish, placed a monument hewn from Jerusalem stone and said: “I do not bring forgiveness with me, nor forgetfulness. The only ones who can forgive are dead; the living have no right to forget.”
Like Herzog, former president Ezer Weizman, who visited Germany in January 1996, also served in the British Army during World War II. It was equally difficult for both to stand on German soil. Weizman said something similar to what had been said by Herzog, but he said it in the Bundestag, shocking the parliamentarians who had gathered to hear him, thereby causing a furor in the German and international media.
After listing names of German Jews – who, following the rise of Nazism, had gone into exile after contributing so much to Germany in philosophy, the arts, and sciences – Weizman said: “These are only some of the names that this country has known. Among the millions of my people’s children whom the Nazis led to their deaths, there were other names that we might have uttered here today with the same degree of esteem and admiration. But we do not know their names. How many unwritten books died with them? How many uncomposed symphonies suffocated in their throats? How many scientific discoveries did not mature in their intellects?” he asked.
“Every one of them was killed twice: once as a child led by the Nazis to the camps, and again as the adult he or she might have been. The Nazis stole them, not only from their families and their people, but from the whole of humankind,” he lamented.
“I, as president of the State of Israel, can grieve for them and commemorate them, but I cannot forgive in their name,” he said. “I can only demand that you, members of the Bundestag and Bundesrat, with full cognizance of the past, set your minds to the future. It is yours to discern any manifestation of racism, quash every expression of neo-Nazism, know how to identify these phenomena courageously, and expunge them from your midst, lest they grow and spread.”
Moshe Katsav, during his visit to Germany as president to mark the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations, said: “Memory of the Holocaust and the conclusions drawn by the Germans regarding their responsibility is not obvious among us. We have to confront the issues of the Holocaust and antisemitism at all levels and we must ensure that the next generations will feel the responsibility of absorbing the lessons of the Holocaust.”
SHIMON PERES, during his presidential visit in January 2010, said in his address to the Bundestag: “In the State of Israel, and across the world, survivors of the Holocaust are gradually departing from the world of the living. Their numbers are daily diminishing. And at the same time, men and women, who took part in the most odious activity on earth – that of genocide – still live on German and European soil, and in other parts of the world.
“My request of you is: Please do everything to bring them to justice,” he implored.
Peres said this is not revenge, but rather an educational lesson.
“This is an hour of grace for the young generation, wherever they may be. That they may remember, and never forget, that they should know what took place. And that they never – absolutely never – have the slightest doubt in their minds that there is another option other than peace, reconciliation and love.”
He said January 27, 1945 was “the day on which the sun shone for the first time 65 years ago. After six evil years, its rays revealing the full extent of the destruction of my people.”
Rivlin, during his presidential visit to Germany in May 2015, said: “Today, we look at the world around us, and we see again, with great concern, the rise of antisemitism and racism on the streets across the world. It is our duty together – as Israelis, as Germans, as democracies, as part of humanity – to stand up to these terrible evils. Today we stand here and give testimony, not only to the dark lessons of the past, but of the bright promise of the future, as long as we stand strong for the values of freedom and democracy.”
When addressing world leaders in Jerusalem last week, Rivlin was somewhat more hard hitting in his remarks. Now that the situation in Germany has become even more worrisome, as humbly admitted to by German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier at Yad Vashem on Thursday, Rivlin will undoubtedly be even more caustic in his comments on Wednesday.
Much of his address, which will be in Hebrew, will be broadcast live at 12:30 p.m. Israel time.


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