German Chancellor Angela Merkel did have her say in the Knesset, including a few halting words in Hebrew, thanking Israeli parliamentarians for giving her the honor of speaking before them. Although her address was received courteously by a nearly full MK delegation, there were several who were absent due to their unwillingness to hear her address in German, the same language spoken so fiercely once by another German Chancellor, Adolf Hitler.
This address was the crowing point of her visit, which is the third she has made since becoming Germany’s leader. Her predecessor, Gerhard Schroeder, did not visit Israel even once during his 7 year term from 1998 to 2005. Although Ms. Merkel appears to be very much aware of her country’s dark past, and it’s responsibilities towards preventing such an occurrence like the Holocaust from ever occurring again, she is also probably aware that as much as she would like to, she cannot guarantee that her countrymen and women will not one day forget the period that has gone down as one of the darkest annals in world history. Some of her remarks, during her 40 minute speech in regards to German responsibility for these events are noted here:
“You may think what you want about Israel and the Jews. Many media and others in Germany defame Israel. Yet I wish, publicly, to show on behalf of the German people our responsibility for the acts of our Nazi forebears, whom we elected. I want to do that in many ways, and my visit to Yad Vashem and my speech in the Knesset – which you may strongly dislike – best symbolize this. ”
I dealing with her personal awareness to her responsibilities concerning the Holocaust, she added:
“Since the war, Germany has been welcomed back into the family of nations and has again become a major political force. However, many abroad wonder how much of the criminal past is still latent within us, and when and to what extent it will reemerge. My frequent visits to Israel – and the nature of our relations with it – also show that I am well aware of that.”
In the end, Merkel’s speech before the Knesset can only be interpreted that as much as she and many other Germans would like to prevent new upsurges in German Antisemitism, she simply cannot be responsible for what will transpire in the future. It will not be long before everyone directly involved in the period of 1938 to 1945 will be dead; and this includes both the victims as well as their tormentors.
When this happens, it will be much easier for historians, in both Germany and elsewhere, to attempt to re-write history as there will be no witnesses around to prove it otherwise. Although there are plenty of photographs, records (the Nazis were excellent record keepers) and other material around, the longer time passes, the less this information will be believed as actual fact.
This is the reality of historical events, including one as awesome and as tragic as the Holocaust. But in a country like Germany where many people are trying to forget what their parents and grandparents did in WWII, history could very well be “re-written” in order to satisfy the nationalistic norms of future generations.
We should wish the efforts of Chancellor Merkel well, and hope that her successor will carry on her efforts to insure Germany’s responsibility in preventing such an occurrence from reoccurring, not only by her countrymen, but from those in other countries as well, especially ones like Iran, with whom Germany has good trading and diplomatic relations. For as the time worn saying goes, “he who does not learn from history is doomed to repeat it”.