A delegation of British rabbis has met Jewish and political leaders in Germany as part of Berlin’s Kristallnacht commemorations, 80 years after the notorious pogrom.
The Orthodox, Reform and Liberal Rabbis met German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, the Chancellor’s Chief of Staff Minister Helge Braun, and German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier.
The German leaders told the rabbis they were ever-weary of a return to the nationalism of 80 years ago, with Maas saying: “We must not allow antisemitic or racist resentment to take hold. First it is words – then the actions follow.”
Merkel said she saw “an ambiguous picture” 80 years on. “Jewish life is thriving in Germany again, an unexpected gift after the disruption of civilisation of the Holocaust,” she said. “But, at the same time we see a worrying antisemitism, which threatens Jewish life in our country.”
The German leader, who has said she will step down before the next election, asked the delegation: “Are our democratic institutions strong enough to prevent a new rise of antisemitism?”
Those visiting included Rabbi David Ian Hulbert of East London and Essex Liberal Synagogue, Rabbi Nathan Godleman of South London Liberal Synagogue, Rabbi Dr Barbara Borts of Darlington Hebrew Congregation, a Reform synagogue, Rabbinic Ordinand Alexander Goldberg, the Chaplain of the University of Surrey, and Professor Rabbi Marc Eli Saperstein.
Goldberg said: “Amongst Germany’s neighbours we see a double tide of antisemitism from both the far-right and hard-left, flowing into mainstream parties and governments that wish to increasingly restrict Jews and members of other minorities in their ability to have participation in civic and political life.”
He added: “We implore Germany to stand firm and to fulfil its pledges to strengthen democracy not only at home but across Europe, by challenging antisemitism and racism including amongst some of Germany’s neighbours.”