Chancellor Angela Merkel calls threats, attacks against Jews in Germany 'disgrace'

German Chancellor Angela Merkel standing in front of a historic picture of the Auschwitz concentration camp as she gives a speech during the International Auschwitz Committee’s remembrance ceremony to mark the 70th anniversary of the liberation of
German Chancellor Angela Merkel standing in front of a historic picture of the Auschwitz concentration camp as she gives a speech during the International Auschwitz Committee’s remembrance ceremony to mark the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camp on Monday in Berlin. -- PHOTO: AFP

BERLIN (AFP) - Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Monday it was a "disgrace" that Jews in Germany faced insults, threats or violence, as she marked 70 years since the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp.

Dr Merkel joined survivors of the former camp, created by Nazi Germany in southern Poland, for a sombre event in the German capital ahead of Tuesday's anniversary.

Auschwitz is a "warning" of what people can do to each other, Dr Merkel said, adding that the camp - the site of the largest single number of murders committed during World War II - had been an "atrocious departure" in the course of history.

She said more than 100,000 Jews have today made Germany their home but that it was "unfortunately not without cause" that some feared insult or assault.

"It's a disgrace that people in Germany are abused, threatened or attacked when they indicate somehow they are Jewish or when they side with the state of Israel," she said, to applause.

Dr Merkel said the fact that synagogues and Jewish institutions had to be guarded by police was like a "stain on our country".

Anti-Semitism and other forms of inhumanity had to be faced down, she said.

She stressed the "everlasting responsibility" for Germans to remember the horrors of the Holocaust.

"With us, everyone must be able to live free and safe, irrespective of religion or origin," she added.

She also referred to the deadly attacks earlier this month in Paris, in which 17 people were killed, including four Jews.

Calling Islamic terrorism and anti-Semitism the "two big evils of our time" she stressed the unity of people of different faiths.

Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said the deadly attack on a kosher supermarket in Paris was a reminder that the fight against anti-Semitism had "lost none of its urgency".

"If European Jews can no longer feel safe none of us can feel safe," he said.

Between 1940 and 1945, some 1.1 million people, including one million Jews, perished in the twin death camps of Auschwitz-Birkenau created by Nazi Germany in Oswiecim, southern Poland.

Two survivors addressed the Berlin event together with three young people from Poland, Israel and Germany.

Mr Josef Schuster, head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, said in a written statement that all of German society had an "abiding commitment" to remember the Holocaust.

He also said the threat against Jews worldwide had increased and that assaults by radical Muslims were an additional danger for the Jewish community.

"Nobody may shut their eyes to that," he said.