Germans must fight anti-Semitism and racism, Merkel says
Chancellor appears to reference Pegida group in speech ahead of Auschwitz anniversary
German chancellor Angela Merkel speaks at the opening ceremony for International Holocaust Remembrance Day on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp. Photograph: Bernd Von Jutrczenka/EPA.
German chancellor Angela Merkel has said Germans have an everlasting responsibility to fight all forms of anti-Semitism and racism.
Speaking on the eve of Tuesday’s 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz, Dr Merkel told a memorial for the victims of Auschwitz: “We’ve got to fight anti-Semitism and all racism from the outset.”
In what appeared to be an indirect reference to the grass-roots Pegida movement, which argues that Germany is being overrun by Muslims and refugees, she said “we’ve got to constantly be on guard to protect our freedom, democracy and rule of law”.
“We’ve got to expose those who promote prejudices and conjure up bogeymen, the old ones as well as the new.”
Dr Merkel said it was a disgrace that some Jews or those expressing support for Israel had been threatened or attacked in Germany, which was responsible for the Holocaust, and that protecting the growing Jewish community was a national duty.
Last year, German authorities and Jewish leaders blamed a rise in anti-Semitism mainly on Muslim extremists and young immigrants.
The chancellor, who led a major rally in support of Jews in Germany in September, called it “wonderful” that more than 100,000 Jews now live in Germany; the community has grown steadily in the decades since the end of the Cold War.
Pegida, or “Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West”, was due on Monday to renew its weekly rallies around Germany, which were set to be met by even larger counter-demonstrations and a big anti-Pegida rock concert in Dresden.
More than 17,000 protesters took part in a Pegida rally on Sunday in Dresden, centre of the anti-Islam rallies, according to police, down from the 25,000 who attended the previous demonstration on January 12th.
Monday’s anti-Pegida concert and rally, featuring rock star Herbert Groenemeyer, was expected to bring some 40,000 people to the square in front of Dresden’s landmark Baroque church, the Frauenkirche (Church of our Lady).