Germany is urging European Union member states to implement measures to counter rising antisemitism in Europe and fulfill their pledge to criminalise Holocaust denial, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas stated in an op-ed in Der Spiegel magazine ahead of the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp.
Maas lamented the rise of antisemitism in Germany, which he stated has become a part of everyday life. The minister made reference to an October shooting at a synagogue in the city of Halle, in which two people died. Additionally, Maas noted that over 400 incidents of antisemitism were recorded in the German capital of Berlin in the space of six months last year.
"We urgently need to take action so that such thoughts do not become bitter reality and large numbers of Jews do not leave Germany. It is an absolute nightmare that people of the Jewish faith no longer feel at home here in Germany – and a terrible disgrace 75 years after the liberation of Auschwitz", Maas wrote.
The German foreign minister stressed that Germany must lead action to combat antisemitism, and measures must be implemented by all EU member states to ensure the safety of Jewish citizens.
"A bit over a year ago, all EU member states pledged to develop strategies to counter anti-Semitism. Germany must be a role model in that fight. Too few member states have national commissioners for the fight against anti-Semitism, and that needs to change. We need a European network of commissioners from all member states to consolidate the fight against anti-Semitism in a European action plan", Maas added.
He also stated that during Germany’s EU presidency, set to begin in the second half of 2020, Berlin will step up efforts to combat online hate crime and anti-Semitic disinformation campaigns. Germany will also pressure EU nations to enact a pledge to fully criminalise denial of the Holocaust, an event Maas called “the worst crime in human history.”
The Auschwitz-Birkenau facility was Nazi Germany’s largest death camp and saw around 1.4 million people — including 1.1 million Jews — exterminated between 1941 and 1945, before the camp was liberated by the Red Army on 27 January 1945. It has also become a symbol of the Holocaust.