Inan historic speech in the German Parliament on Wednesday, President ShimonPeres read Kaddish and spoke in Hebrew about the personal loss of hisgrandfather and the special relationship between Israel and Germany that wasestablished in the wake of the holocaust.
Withthe flags of the Bundenstag lowered to half-mast, Germany’s political leaderspaid tribute to the memory of the victims of the Nazis in a special parliamentsession in honor of the International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Theentire building rose to its feet as the Israeli President read Kaddish for thesix million Jews murdered by the Nazis during the Second World War.
“Today,the International Remembrance Day for the victims of the Holocaust is the dayon which the sun shone for the first time sixty-five years ago, after six evilyears, its rays revealing the full extent of the destruction of my people,”said Peres.
“OnJanuary 27th, 1945, the world awoke to the fact, somewhat too late,that six million Jews were no longer among the living.
“Thisday not only represents a memorial day for the victims, not only the pangs ofconscience of humankind in the face of the incomprehensible atrocity that tookplace, but also of the tragedy that derived from the procrastination in takingaction.”
Peresrarely speaks about his own personal loss, but chose to do so in the historicsetting, sharing with the German leadership and the people across the worldswho heard his words, his memories from his beloved grandfather.
“Ican see in my mind's eye, at this very moment, the imposing image of my deeplyrespected grandfather, Rabbi Zvi Melzer, handsome and dignified. I was blessedto have been his beloved grandson. He was my guide and mentor.
“Istill remember him at the train station from which I, an 11-year-old child,started on my journey from my village to Eretz Israel.
Iremember his poignant embrace. I remember the last words and the order thatheard from his mouth: ‘My boy, always remain a Jew!’
Thetrain whistled and started on its way. I continued watching my grandfather until he disappeared from sight.That was the last time I saw him.”
Pereschose in his speech to Present Israel as the Jewish people’s answer to the Naziatrocities.
“Asa Jew, I always carry the pain of the holocaust endured by my brothers andsisters. As an Israeli, I regret the tragic delay in the establishment of theJewish State that left my people with no safe harbor.
“Asa grandfather, I cannot come to terms with the loss of one and a half millionchildren – the greatest human and creative potential that could have changedIsrael's destiny.
“Iam proud that we are the arch-enemy of Nazi evil.”
Peresalso spoke about the legacy of the holocaust and gave his own interpretation ofthe words "Never again."
“Neveragain a racist doctrine. Never again the feeling of superiority.
Neveragain a so-called divine authority to incite, murder, scorn the law, deny Godand the Holocaust.
“Neveragain ignore blood-thirsty dictators, hiding behind demagogical masks, whoutter murderous slogans.”
Peresalso spoke about the present threat to peace and stability and hinted at thethreat the Israel currently faces from nuclear ambitious neighbors.
“Thethreats to annihilate a people and a nation are voiced in the shadow of weaponsof mass-destruction, which are held by irresponsible hands, by irrationalthinking and in an untruthful language.“
Addressingthe German People and their political leaders Peres, spoke about the specialrelationship that exists between Israel and Germany.
“Thefriendship that was established did not develop at the expense of forsaking thememory of the Holocaust, but from the memory of the dark hours of the past. Inview of the joint and decisive decision to look ahead – towards the horizon ofoptimistic hope. Tikkun Olam – puttingthe world aright.”
“Webelieved, and continue to believe, that the new Germany will be doing whateverneeds to be done to ensure that the Jewish state will never again have to fightfor its survival alone.
“Thatmurderous and condescending dictatorships will never again raise their heads,in our era.”
Afterspeaking about Israel’s survival against all odds and its many achievements,Peres turned to the topic of Peace.
Israel'svictories did not eliminate the dangers it faces. We do not crave for landwhich is not ours. We do not wishto rule other peoples…. Our national ambition is distinct and clear, to makepeace with our neighbors.
“Israelsupports the principle of the ‘two-state solution’.
“Wepaid a price in wars, we did not hesitate to also pay a price for peace.”
Peresspoke about the need for the world to join forces in apposing dictatorships andoppressive regimes and for the first time in his speech named Iran specificallyas a dangerous agent.
“Likeour neighbors, we identify with the millions of Iranians who revolt againstdictatorship and violence.
“Likethem we reject a fanatic regime, which contradicts the United Nations Charter. A regime which threatens destruction,accompanied by nuclear plants and missiles and who activates terror in itscountry and in other countries.
“Thisregime is a danger to the entire world,” stated Peres to the loud applause ofthose sitting in the audience.
Peresconcluded by presenting a vision of optimism for the middle East.
“Wewant to learn from the Europeans, who unshackled Europe from a thousand yearsof war, and bitterness and enabled Europe's young to substitute the hostilityof their forefathers by brotherhood.
“Itwould be wise to learn from their experience, to dream about a Middle East inwhich its countries will depart from the conflicts of their parents on behalfof peace for their children.”
Heconcluded the speech by reciting the words of the Israeli national anthem.
Peres’sspeech was translated simultaneously into German and English. It lasted 25minutes and when he finished he was applauded with a long and loud standingovation.
Theevent was attended by the members of the two German houses of parliament, thePresident and Chancellor of Germany, the Mayor of Berlin, Ambassadors fromaround the world and a contingent of holocaust survivors.
Speakingbefore Peres, was Dr. Norbert Lammert, the President of the Bundenstag, Germany'ssecond-highest ranking official after the President.
“Todaywe remember all of the victims of the Nazi regime, all those who were robbed oftheir dignity, their health, their worldly possessions and indeed of theirlives. European Jews, Gypsy and Roma, people with disabilities, forcedlaborers, homosexuals, political dissenters, artists, academics, all thosepeople who were vilified and persecuted as enemies of National Socialism,” saidLammert.
“Werenew our promise not to forget the past. We are aware of the responsibility webare to combat any form of hate, intolerance, discrimination, exclusion andanti-Semitism with determination.”
Lammertalso spoke of the relationship between Germany and Israel, saying it was not,has never been and will never be normal. “We Germans bare a responsibility forthe state of Isrel. Whenever the right of existence of the state of Israel andthe safety of its population is under threat, where the right of its people tolive in secure borders is threatened, there can be no neutrality for usGermans,” said Lammert, garnering applause. “Some things are negotiable, yetIsrael’s right to exist is non-negotiable. The existence of a country armedwith nuclear weapons in its neighborhood led by an openly anti-Semitic regime,is unacceptable, not only to Israel, the International community as awhole, must not tolerate such athing.”
Duringthe speeches a small anti-Israel demonstration took place outside the parlimetbuilding. Local reporters said that the protestors apposed Peres’s presence andthat the protester said that the honor should have been given to RichardGoldstone.