27 May 2002
Yad Vashem today condemned the recent use of antisemitic and xenophobic imagery in the political debate by two figures in the Free Democratic Party, and calls for all responsible public leaders in Germany to denounce such verbal assaults.
In Germany public political discourse is taken seriously. This is a lesson learned from the role rhetoric played in Nazi crimes. During the Holocaust era, words of aggression paved the way to unprecedented public violence. The laws passed by the Bundestag concerning expressions of antisemitism reflect this understanding.
Elements in Germany exploit the legitimate and serious discussion about Israel and the Middle East to pursue their antisemitic agenda. This cynical use of democratic forums undermines the basic tenets of tolerance in a pluralistic society. The use of antisemitic rhetoric, which for decades was not tolerated, has again reared its head and is in danger of becoming accepted and legitimate. The cracks in the democratic edifice have allowed a growing number of hate mongers from all sides of the political spectrum to come to the surface.
Yad Vashem urges German politicians, public figures, educators, and their European colleagues to banish such insidious rhetoric from the public arena. Everything possible must be done to ensure that the democratic tradition of tolerance and truthful debate not be further eroded.
While at Yad Vashem, Westerwelle laid a wreath and rekindled the eternal flame at the Hall of Remembrance, and visited the Historical Museum, the Children’s Memorial and the Valley of the Communities.