Article by Foreign Minister Heiko Maas in WELT (in German) and CNN.
This year, Germany celebrates a special anniversary: Ancient documents have found that people of Jewish faith have been living in today’s Germany since the year 321.
This anniversary reminds us how deep our Jewish roots run, and of the great extent to which they shape who we are in Germany to this very day. What would our philosophy be without the thinking of Moses Mendelssohn or Hannah Arendt? What would the natural sciences be without Albert Einstein? How much poorer would our lives and our culture be without the music of Gustav Mahler, the poetry of Else Lasker-Schüler or the stories of Heinrich Heine or Franz Kafka?
Yet the 1,700-year-old history of Judaism in Germany can unfortunately not be told without also speaking about persecution, genocide and hatred of Jews. Hence, we are humbled and grateful that, today, once again some 200,000 Jews are a part of German society.
However, to this day, anti-Semitism has not disappeared. It just keeps shape-shifting. This is becoming evident in the wild conspiracy theories surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic. Anyone who marches through the streets of Berlin alongside right-wing extremists bearing a sign that reads “Impfen macht frei” (“vaccinations set you free,” referencing the quote “Arbeit macht frei,” or “work makes you free,” on the gates of Auschwitz), or storms the US Capitol wearing a “Camp Auschwitz” sweatshirt, is not a peaceful protester but an anti-Semite. He or she mocks the victims of National Socialism, or Nazism, plays down its horrific brutality and destroys civilized values that are fundamental to our coexistence and our democracy.