BERLIN (AP) — A prominent Holocaust survivor on Thursday said that Germany has learned from its Nazi past and become a bulwark against intolerance.
Speaking at a memorial event in parliament commemorating the 6 million European Jews murdered in the Holocaust, Israeli historian Saul Friedlaender asked Germans to “continue fighting for tolerance and inclusiveness, humanity and freedom, in short for true democracy.”
The 86-year-old, who survived the Shoah in a Catholic boarding school in France and whose parents were killed in Auschwitz, warned that anti-Semitism and authoritarianism are on the rise again.
“Anti-Semitism is only one of the scourges which one nation after the other will now be slowly afflicted with,” Friedlaender said. “Xenophobia, the temptation of authoritarian practices of domination and especially a further intensifying nationalism are everywhere in the world on the rise in a worrisome way.”
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Germany’s parliament holds a special session annually to mark the day, commemorating not only victims of the Holocaust but also those who helped the persecuted and others who resisted Adolf Hitler’s tyranny.
International Holocaust Remembrance Day fell this year on Sunday — 74 years after the Soviet army liberated the Auschwitz death camp in occupied Poland on January 27, 1945.
Friedlaender said he first hesitated whether he should speak in the German parliament but then agreed because “like many people worldwide I see in today’s Germany a Germany that has fundamentally changed.”
“Thanks to its longtime changes since the war, Germany has become a bulwark against the threats I’ve mentioned,” he said.
The famous historian also recalled the incredible sufferings of his childhood at the hands of the German Nazis.
Friedlaender, who was born to a family of German Jews in Prague in 1932, fled with his family to France during the Third Reich.
When Friedlander’s parents sent him to a Catholic boarding school to keep him safe from the Nazis, he ran away but was taken back again by his mother and father.
“What must they have felt when they saw how their little boy who fought tooth and nail (to stay with them),” Friedlaender asked his German audience at parliament.
“It was our last encounter,” he added.