I am pleased to send this message to our Jewish Community in Germany.
In 1949, President Theodore Heuss said in his New Year’s message to Jews in western Germany that “we must together overcome our evil inheritance”. At the same time, Chancellor Konrad Adenauer called on Jews in Germany “to take part in the intellectual, social and political reconstruction of our country”.
Since those days, Germany has transformed into a different country,especially in the last few decades. After re-unification in 1990, we facilitated the immigration of many Jews who are now well integrated into German society. Germany has rediscovered its confidence after the Holocaust and is playing a meaningful role on the international stage. Lately, we took a stand with refugees to be welcomed which will add to our multi-cultural landscape of a vibrant Germany. This is the spirit of Germany today.
Despite our success, and to my regret and shame, German synagogues still require armed police protection. There has also been a substantial increase in anti-Semitic attacks on Jews. The Longerich Report in 2012 found that anti-Jewish sentiment is significantly entrenched in Germany. This is totally unacceptable. Unfortunately there has been no strategy to combat anti-Semitism.
Jews have been living in Germany for about 2,000 years and contributed far beyond their numbers to Germany’s success in the arts and sciences, reflected in the many German Jewish Nobel prize winners. The time is overdue to correct, rather than manage Germany’s historical anti-Semitism which unfortunately is still embedded in aspects of the folklore and culture of our country.
During these High Holy Days, Jews turn towards self-appraisal and reset themselves for ‘tikkun olam’ to make the world a better place.
Just as Germany has made great political and economic strides, we now need to address the culture of anti-Semitism in its different forms, including historical revisionism. It will take some time, but needs to be commenced sooner rather than later. Tikkun Olam must apply to all Germany.
I have therefore pleasure in announcing that I have instructed various ministries and the main churches to embark on a suitable basic education program whereby school children learn not only about the Holocaust, but also about broader Jewish history, contributions to ancient and modern civilization, Jewish customs and traditions. We also need to examine the destructive role of some outdated anti-Semitic theologies such as with Augustine, Luther and Zionism as a unique liberation movement. This is by no means exhaustive but is an essential and sincere first step in addressing our shame and celebrating our special relationship, which I have spoken of before. With extremism facing Europe, we need to rise up against these challenges. We shall be better Germans for it and strengthen our identity as a modern inclusive Christian-based society in which all can thrive in peace and confidence.
In this spirit, I wish you, my fellow Germans, a very prosperous and peaceful New Year and together may we make our good country into a truly wonderful country where all feel safe and proud of whom we are and what we stand for.
On behalf of my government, I wish you and your loved ones a happy Rosh Hashana 5776.