SHARE
COPY LINK

ANTI-SEMITISM

Holocaust survivor urges Germany to fight ‘cancer’ of hatred

In what was expected to be one of the last addresses by a Holocaust survivor to the German parliament, Inge Auerbacher appealed Thursday to keep alive the victims' memory.

Holocaust survivor Inge Auerbacher speaks addresses the Bundestag
Holocaust survivor Inge Auerbacher speaks addresses the Bundestag on Holocaust Remembrance Day. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Kay Nietfeld

Fighting back tears as she recalled the suffering and loss she endured at the hands of the Nazis, Auerbacher told the Bundestag as it marked International Holocaust Remembrance Day that it was essential to fight the spreading “cancer” of hatred.

“I have lived in New York for 75 years and can still remember well this terrible time of terror and hate,” said Auerbacher, 87, who flew to Berlin in the face of the pandemic to take part in the ceremonies.

“Unfortunately this cancer has resurfaced and hatred of Jews is common in many countries of the world including Germany,” she said on the 77th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp.

READ ALSO: Tourist detained for Nazi salute at Auschwitz

“This sickness must be healed as soon as possible,” she said to applause from MPs, Chancellor Olaf Scholz and his cabinet.

Auerbacher said she had been the last Jewish child born in her hometown of Kippenheim in 1934 before the Nazis’ genocidal campaign.

While her grandmother was deported to Riga and murdered, Auerbacher and her parents were sent to the Theresienstadt concentration camp when she was just seven years old.

She recounted the abuse and horrific conditions she and her family endured, but also her close friendship at the camp with a Jewish girl her age from Berlin, Ruth Nelly Abraham, who was later murdered at Auschwitz.

Holocaust survivor Inge Auerbacher

Holocaust survivor Inge Auerbacher shows the yellow star she was made to wear as a child. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Federico Gambarini

Auerbacher will on Friday visit the family’s home to place candles at small plaques in their memory.

The speaker of the Israeli Knesset, Mickey Levy, who was also in attendance embraced Auerbacher and wept openly as he recited a prayer for the dead.

“Keeping the memory of the Holocaust alive is a difficult task, a task placed on the shoulders of the every generation,” he said.

Germany has officially marked Holocaust Remembrance Day every January 27 since 1996 with commemorations across the country.

READ ALSO: Four words that tell us something about German culture

Scholz’s spokesman Steffen Hebestreit noted that Germany would “soon have to go forward without the personal recollections of the last survivors”.

Of the six million Jews killed in the Holocaust, more than one million were murdered at Auschwitz-Birkenau, most in its notorious gas chambers, along with tens of thousands of others including homosexuals, Roma and Soviet prisoners of war.

This year’s anniversary is marked by growing concerns about extremist violence and incitement in Germany, particularly among militant opponents of government coronavirus restrictions.

The number of crimes committed by right-wing extremists jumped in 2020 to its highest level ever recorded in the post-war period, an over five-percent rise to 23,604.

Member comments

  1. A timely reminder of how the Nuremberg code and clause 2 of the German constitution came about and why there are some powers that a Parliament should never take upon itself – whatever the majority – and which are simply forbidden in a civilised state.

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

GERMAN HISTORY

Inside Germany’s secret Cold War cash bunker

For many years, the residents of the leafy town of Cochem in the German Rhineland went about their daily business with no idea they were living on a gold mine.

Inside Germany's secret Cold War cash bunker

During the Cold War, the German central bank stashed away almost 15 billion marks’ worth of an emergency currency in a 1,500-square-metre nuclear bunker beneath the town.

A closely guarded state secret, the currency was codenamed “BBK II” and intended for use if Germany was the target of an attack on its monetary system.

After the Cold War, the bunker passed into the hands of a regional cooperative bank and then a real estate fund. In 2016, it was bought by German couple Manfred and Petra Reuter, who turned it into a museum.

A staircase with a secret exit in the former vault of the Bundesbank Bunker Museum in Cochem, western Germany. (Photo by Ina FASSBENDER / AFP)

Today, with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine stoking fears of nuclear conflict, interest in the bunker is growing again.

“Many people we know have pointed out that we have a safe bunker and asked whether there would be room for them in case of an emergency,” said Petra Reuter.

On tours of the bunker, “questions are naturally asked about the current situation”, which feels like “a leap back in time 60 years”, she said. “The fears are the same.”

Inside, behind a heavy iron door, long corridors lead to decontamination chambers and offices equipped with typewriters and rotary phones.

Petra Reuter, owner of the Bundesbank Bunker Museum, walks through the working room in the former vault of the museum in Cochem, western Germany on February 8th, 2022. Photo by Ina FASSBENDER / AFP)

The main room consists of 12 cages where, for almost 25 years, some 18,300 boxes containing millions of 10, 20, 50 and 100 mark banknotes were stored up to the ceiling.

Hundreds of trucks
On the front, the banknotes were almost identical to the real deutschmarks in circulation at the time, but on the back they were very different.

Starting in 1964, the notes were delivered to the bunker by hundreds of trucks over a period of about 10 years, with no one suspecting a thing — not even the East German Stasi secret police.

The bunker was accessed via a secret passage from what was ostensibly a training and development centre for Bundesbank employees in a residential area of the town.

Cochem, located about 100 kilometres (60 miles) from the border with Belgium and Luxembourg, was chosen because it was such a long way from the Iron Curtain.

“The citizens of the community were astonished to discover this treasure, which had been hidden for so long near their homes,” said Wolfgang Lambertz, the former mayor of the town, which has around 5,000 inhabitants.

This picture shows a working room with decoding devices in the former vault of the Bundesbank Bunker Museum in Cochem, western Germany. (Photo by Ina FASSBENDER / AFP)

Along with the 15 billion marks stored in the bunker, just under 11 billion marks’ worth of the alternative currency was also stored in the vaults of the central bank in Frankfurt.

Altogether, this added up to around 25 billion marks — roughly equivalent to the total amount of cash circulating in the German economy in 1963.

Facsimiles of former banknotes of the substitute currency are pictured in the former vault of the Bundesbank Bunker Museum in Cochem, western Germany on February 8th, 2022. (Photo by Ina FASSBENDER / AFP)

Operation Bernhard
Perhaps an extreme measure to ward off a merely hypothetical attack, but the German authorities had been guided by lessons from history.

During World War II, the Nazis had launched “Operation Bernhard”, in which prisoners in concentration camps were forced to manufacture counterfeit pounds with the aim of flooding England with them.

“The most plausible explanation was probably the fear that counterfeit money would be smuggled through the Iron Curtain in order to damage the West German economy,” according to Bernd Kaltenhaueser, president of the Bundesbank’s regional office for Rhineland-Palatinate and Saarland.

This shows a picture of the original and substitute 100 Mark notes in the former vault of the Bundesbank Bunker Museum in Cochem, western Germany.  (Photo by Ina FASSBENDER / AFP)

But creating a backup currency today “would no longer make sense because there is less counterfeit money in circulation and there are fewer cash payments”, according to Kaltenhaueser.

In the 1980s, with the Cold War winding down and technology evolving, it was decided that the replacement currency no longer met Germany’s security standards.

By 1989, the year the Berlin Wall fell, all of the notes had been taken out of the bunker, shredded and burned.

READ MORE:

SHOW COMMENTS