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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.

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CRIME

101-year-old former Nazi guard pleads innocent in German trial

A 101-year-old former Nazi concentration camp guard on Monday once again denied being complicit in war crimes during the Holocaust as his trial drew to a close in Germany.

101-year-old former Nazi guard pleads innocent in German trial

Josef S., the oldest person so far to face trial over Nazi crimes during World War II, is accused of involvement in the murders of 3,518 prisoners at the Sachsenhausen camp in Oranienburg, north of Berlin, between 1942 and 1945.

The pensioner, who now lives in Brandenburg state, has pleaded innocent throughout the trial, saying he did “absolutely nothing” and was not aware of the gruesome crimes being carried out at the camp.

“I don’t know why I am here,” he said again at the close of the proceedings, his voice wavering.

Dressed in a grey shirt and pyjama bottoms and sitting in a wheelchair, the man insisted he had had nothing to do with the atrocities and was “telling the truth”.

READ ALSO: Ex-Nazi death camp secretary who fled trial to face court in Germany

Prosecutors say he “knowingly and willingly” participated in the crimes as a guard at the camp and are seeking to punish him with five years behind bars.

But his lawyer, Stefan Waterkamp, said that since there were no photographs of him wearing an SS uniform, the case was based on “hints” of his possible involvement.

“As early as 1973, investigators had information about him but did not pursue him. At the time, witnesses could have been heard but now they are all dead or no longer able to speak,” Waterkamp said.

Former Nazi guard

The 101-year-old former Nazi guard covers his face at the Neuruppin courthouse. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Fabian Sommer

It would be a mistake for the court to try to “make up for the mistakes of a previous generation of judges”, the lawyer said.

Antoine Grumbach, 80, whose father died in Sachsenhausen, told AFP that the man “does not want to remember”, calling it “a form of defence”.

The trial was not just about “putting a centenarian in prison”, he said. It had also produced evidence that Sachsenhausen was an “experimental extermination camp”.

“All the cruellest methods were invented there and then exported,” Grumbach said.

READ ALSO: Trials of aging Nazis a ‘reminder for the present’, says German prosecutor

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