For the first time, the presidents of Germany and Israel together participated in the Holocaust commemoration.
At the commemoration hour of the Bundestag for the victims of National Socialism, German President Mr Frank-Walter Steinmeier, in the presence of his Israeli counterpart Mr Reuven Rivlin, warned against attempts to relativize the memory of German crimes. "We agreed on the lessons of the past and a culture of remembrance that had to be cultivated together," said Mr Steinmeier. "But I'm afraid that our confidence was deceptive."
The Federal President further said in his speech: "I wish I could, especially in front of our guest from Israel, say with conviction today: We Germans understood", said the Federal President. "But how can I say that when hatred and agitation spread, when the poison of nationalism seeps back into debates - also here with us."
Mr Steinmeier emphasized that the commitment to German responsibility had become part of the "democratic consensus". "My predecessors were able to rely on this democratic consensus at this point," he said. "It was a long, decades-long process accompanied by resistance and setbacks."
Among others, members of the radical party AfD sat opposite of him during the plenary session of the Bundestag. AfD politicians had repeatedly made contemptuous statements about the German culture of remembrance. Group leader Mr Alexander Gauland had described the time of National Socialism as "bird shit" in German history.
As before during his visits to Israel and Auschwitz, Mr Steinmeier called for a fight against ethnic thinking and a relapse into authoritarian structures: "Let us rise against the old nonsense in the new times! Let us fight against anti-Semitism, against racial hatred and national zeal! we're not seducing the authoritarian! Let's argue with arguments, not with hate! "