German Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier warned of rising antisemitism as he praised over 1,700 years of Jewish life in Germany.
Steinmeier visited a synagogue in Cologne where a ceremony was held to honor the contributions of the Jewish people in Germany within the past two millennia.
“Whether in philosophy, literature, art and music, science, medicine or business, Jews have been instrumental in writing and shaping our history and illuminating our culture,” Steinmeier said at the ceremony.
He added that Jewish contributions to German culture “made a decisive contribution” to Germany’s emergence into the Modern Age.
The German president requested that the world take an “honest look” at the history of the Jewish people – referring to the open antisemitism and persecution it faces – and see that it is “one of emancipation and prosperity, but also of humiliation, exclusion and disenfranchisement.”
“That is the only way we can learn lessons for the present and for the future,” Steinmeier said. “That is and remains our responsibility.”
He then added that Jewish life within the Diaspora is under direct threat from open antisemitism and called on his audience to work towards combating its relevancy.
The ceremony marked the start of a festival celebrating 1,700 years of Jewish life in Germany, where somewhere near 1,000 events about Jewish culture will take place over the next few months.
President Reuven Rivlin visited Germany in late January to meet with his German counterpart. The two presidents sat down with students at the Berlin Moses Mendelssohn School, a Jewish school in Berlin.
“We are grateful for the German commitment to Israel’s safety,” Rivlin said in January, mentioning the German air force officers who train in Israel alongside the IAF. “Such joint training is important to ensure we are ready to deal with threats now and in the future.”