Germany still dealing with 'same evil' that led to Holocaust, president says in Jerusalem

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Germany has still not learned “once and for all” its lesson from the Holocaust, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said on Thursday, as he expressed sorrow for his country’s role in the murder of six million Jews during World War Two.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin speaks at the World Holocaust Forum marking 75 years since the liberation of the Nazi extermination camp Auschwitz, at Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial centre in Jerusalem January 23, 2020. Abir Sultan/Pool via REUTERS

Steinmeier spoke at a Jerusalem memorial event marking the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp, where more than one million people, most of them Jews, were killed by the Nazis.

The World Holocaust Forum at the Yad Vashem memorial center in Jerusalem was attended by some 40 world leaders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence.

In sombre tones, dignitaries spoke of the resurgence of anti-Semitism and pledged to combat it.

“I bow in deepest sorrow,” Steinmeier said. “The mass murder of six million Jews, the worst crime in the history of humanity, it was committed by my countrymen.”

With anti-Semitic attacks increasing in frequency in Germany and across Europe, Steinmeier, 64, voiced regret that his country was still dealing with the bigotry and hatred that led to the Holocaust.

“I wish I could say that we Germans have learnt from history once and for all. But I cannot say that when hatred is spreading,” Steinmeier said.

In October, a gunman who denounced Jews opened fire outside a German synagogue on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish year, killing two people as he livestreamed his attack online.

“Of course, our age is a different age. The words are not the same. The perpetrators are not the same. But it is the same evil. And there remains only one answer: Never again! Nie wieder!” Steinmeier said.

The president’s office said he chose to address the World Holocaust Forum in English, not German, so as not to upset any of the Holocaust survivors in the audience.

“Germany’s responsibility does not expire,” Steinmeier said. “We want to live up to our responsibility. By this, you should measure us.”

Reporting by Rami Ayyub and Ari Rabinovitch. Editing by Stephen Farrell and Gareth Jones