''Pro-Nazi'' speech to West German Bundestag

Philipp Jenninger 's Commemoration of Kristallnacht 

``The Victims Know What November 1938 Had To Mean For Them'' 

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeiting< on November 11, 1988.> 
    Ladies and Gentlemen: 
   Jews in Germany and in all the world are thinking today of the events of 50 
years ago. And we Germans, too, recall what took place in our country a half-
century ago, and it is good that we do this in both the states on German soil. 
For our history cannot be split into the good and the evil, and the 
responsibility for what happened cannot be distributed according to the 
geographical arbitrariness of the postwar order. 
   I greet at this commemoration in the federal Bundestag the federal 
President, and the ambassador of the state of Israel; and my special greeting 
on this day extends to every Jewish fellow citizen, man and woman, in Germany, 
and in particular to those who are participating as our guests at this hour of 
remembrance, at their head the Central Council of Jews in Germany. My greeting 
and my thanks also extend to you, the honorable Mrs. Ehre. 
   Many of us participated yesterday, on invitation of the Central Council of 
Jews in Germany, at the commemoration in the synagogue in Frankfurt am Main. 
Today, we find ourselves together in the German Bundestag, in Parliament to 
remember the pogrom of November 9 and 10, 1938, because, not the victims, but 
we ourselves, in whose midst the crimes took place, must remember and make an 
accounting; because we Germans want to become clear in understanding our 
history and the lessons for the political organization of our present and 
   The victims, Jews everywhere in the world, know only too well what November 
1938 had to mean for their future path of suffering--do we know, too? 

Promoted by the State 
   What occurred 50 years ago in Germany hadn't happened in any civilized 
country since the Middle Ages. And, worse still, as far as the violence was 
concerned, it was not a matter of the expression of an, as ever, spontaneously 
motivated people's rage, but rather an action conceived, arranged, and 
promoted by the leadership of the state. 
   The ruling party had, in the person of its highest representatives, 
suspended justice and law; the state itself made itself into the organizer of 
crime. In the place of carefully selected laws and ordinances, with the help 
of which over the years the creeping disenfranchisement of the Jews had been 
pursued, open terror now appeared. Open season was declared on a minority, 
which still numbered in the hundreds of thousands, and all their possessions 
were exposed to the destructive rage of an organized mob. 
   Far more than 200 synagogues were burned down or destroyed, Jewish 
cemeteries laid waste, thousands of businesses and homes destroyed and 
plundered; approximately 100 Jews were killed, and approximately 30,000 were 
dragged off to concentration camps; many of them never returned. But not to be 
captured in numbers was the human torment, the anguish, humiliation, 
mistreatment, and degradation. 
   Goebbels, who actually directed the entire action, had miscalculated--
insofar as no one, here or abroad, believed the fiction of ``spontaneous 
people's rage.'' That was taken care of by the police and firemen who stood 
by, doing nothing, letting the synagogues burn down and only intervening if 
``Aryan'' property was endangered. 
   The later Nazi Party trials confirmed with cynical openness that the 
uniformed SA troops and other arsonists and murderers had only transformed the 
``will of the leadership'' into action; ultimately only those were punished 
who were guilty of ``racial disgrace'' [rape of Jewish women--ed.]. 
   There is no doubt that the events, which were immediately characterized by 
the population as the ``Reich's Night of Broken Glass,'' marked a decisive 
turning point in the Jewish Policy of the National Socialist rulers. The time 
of the pseudo-legal embellishments of injustice was over; now began the path 
of systematic annihilation of the Jews in Germany and large portions of 

Most Looked the Other Way 
   The population largely remained passive; that corresponded to the attitude 
toward anti-Jewish actions and measures in earlier years. Only a few 
participated in the violence--but there was also no opposition, no resistance 
worth mentioning. Reports speak of shock and shame, of pity, even of disgust 
and horror. But only in a very isolated way were there sympathy and practical 
solidarity, support, and help. Everyone saw what happened--but most looked the 
other way and shuddered. The churches, too, were silent. 
   The concept of ``Reich's Night of Broken Glass'' is today quite rightly 
regarded as excessive. And yet, it reflects the then dominant mood and 
feelings rather well--a mixture of embarrassment, irony, and playing the whole 
thing down; but, above all, it was the expression of pain and the ambivalence 
of personal feelings in the face of the obvious responsibility of the party 
leadership and the state. 
   On January 30, 1933, the National Socialists had taken power in Germany. 
The five and one-half years leading to November 1938 were sufficient to wipe 
out the assimilation attained by the Jews in one and one-half centuries. It 
began with the boycott of Jewish businesses in April 1933 and the simultaneous 
forced retirement of Jewish civil servants, and then there followed in the 
same year the first professional ban of Jewish artists and journalists. The 
Nuremberg Laws of 1935 made Jews into second-class human beings without the 
rights of citizens; and with the ``Law for the Protection of German Blood and 
German Honor,'' the unspeakable criminal act of ``racial shame'' gained its 
   Ever stronger restrictions on professional activities, which led to 
professional bans on Jewish doctors and lawyers, actors, stockbrokers, and 
marriage brokers came with the Jews' elimination from government and cultural 
life. From the spring of 1938, the National Socialist leaders concentrated 
more on the ``Aryanization'' of the German economy, that is, the dispossession 
and exploitation of the Jews. 
   Goering, as the one entrusted with the Four Year Plan, was dissatisfied 
with the results of the November Pogrom. In conversation with Goebbels and 
Heydrich, he let slip the remark, ``I would have preferred if you had killed 
200 Jews and not destroyed so much of value.'' And yet, as if to mock the Jews 
even more, an ``act of atonement'' in the amount of a one-billion Reichsmark 
fine was imposed on the Jews; they had to immediately redress the damages of 
the pogrom; the insurance claims went to the state. Simultaneously, decrees 
for the complete elimination of Jews from economic life as of January 1, 1939 
were announced. 
   What then followed were measures to completely exclude the Jews from 
society. The goal was their total isolation and complete elimination from all 
areas of public life. For all those for whom there was no possibility of 
escaping the regime by emigration, the path ahead was traced out: the Yellow 
Star, ghetto, deportation, forced labor, extermination. 

A Criminal State 
   In retrospect, it is clear that between 1933 and 1938 the constitutional 
state had been transformed into an unconstitutional, criminal state, into an 
instrument for destruction of exactly those legal and moral norms and 
fundamentals the preservation of which is--according to the concept of the 
state--the state's actual concern. 
   At the end of this revolution, the National Socialist leadership was 
decisively established, and far more had been destroyed in the human 
consciousness of law than might be recognizable externally. 
   Germany had taken leave of all the humanitarian ideals that constituted the 
spiritual identity of Europe; the descent into barbarianism was intended and 
premeditated. Among those who furnished the theoretical presuppositions for 
that was Roland Freisler, at that time state secretary of the Reich's Ministry 
of Justice: ``The foundation of the new German law,'' according to Freisler, 
was ``the German view of life, transformed by the National Socialist 
revolution.... The people's will to justice expresses itself authoritatively 
in the proclamations of him who is the vehicle of the people's will, der 
Fuehrer. When the Fuehrer expresses principles with legal content outside the 
law with the will to validity and the demand for their observance, that is an 
equally direct source of legal findings as the law. To this in particular 
belongs the Party Program of the National Socialist Party of Germany.'' 
   That simply means: The administration of justice had to follow the National 
Socialist ideology because the word of the Fuehrer was law. 
   Hitler's successes were still more disastrous for the German and European 
Jews than were his atrocities and crimes. The years from 1933 to 1938 are, 
even looking back from a distance and in the knowledge of what followed, still 
fascinating insofar as there is in history hardly a parallel to Hitler's 
political triumphs in those first years. 
   Reincorporation of the Saar, introduction of universal military service, 
massive rearmament, effecting the German-English Naval Treaty, occupation of 
the Rhineland, the summer Olympic Games in Berlin, the Anschluss of Austria 
and the ``Greater German Reich,'' and, finally, only a few weeks before the 
November Pogrom, the Munich Treaty, partition of Czechoslovakia--the 
Versailles Treaty was really now only a scrap of paper, and the German Reich 
suddenly the hegemonic power of the continent. 
   For the Germans, who had viewed the Weimar Republic as a consequence of 
foreign policy humiliations, all this must have seemed like a miracle. And 
there was still more: From mass unemployment had come full employment, from 
mass misery, something like prosperity for the broadest layers of the 
population. Rather than despair and hopelessness, optimism and self-confidence 
now ruled. Didn't Hitler make true what Kaiser Wilhelm II had only promised--
namely, to lead the Germans toward glorious times? Had he not truly been 
selected by Providence, a Fuehrer, as Providence grants to a people only once 
in a thousand years? 
   Certainly, in free elections, Hitler had never brought a majority of the 
Germans behind him. But who now doubted that a great majority of Germans stood 
behind him, identified with him and his policy. Certainly, some ``grumbling 
faultfinders'' (Haffner) would not be satisfied, and were persecuted by the 
secret police and the Gestapo, but most Germans and, indeed, from all layers 
of society, must have been convinced in 1938 that they should see in Hitler 
the greatest statesman in our history. 
   And yet, it must not be overlooked that all the astonishing successes of 
Hitler were overall and individually a belated slap in the face to the Weimar 
system. And Weimar was not only synonymous with foreign policy weakness, with 
party squabbles, and political disorder in the widest sense; Weimar was also a 
synonym for democracy and parliamentarianism, for division of power and 
citizens' rights, for freedom of the press and of assembly, and, finally, for 
the highest degree of Jewish emancipation and assimilation. 
   That is, Hitler's successes belatedly discredited primarily the 
parliamentary system of freedom, the Weimar democracy itself. For many 
Germans, it was no longer even a question which system to prefer. They enjoyed 
perhaps less individual freedom in separate areas of life, but personally 
things were going better than before, and the Reich was undoubtedly again 
great, indeed, greater and more powerful than before. Had not even the leaders 
of Great Britain, France, and Italy paid court to Hitler at Munich and helped 
him to a further victory, which the people had not considered possible? 
   And as for the Jews, had they not, in the past, presumptuously assumed a 
role which they did not deserve? Shouldn't they finally, for once, have to put 
up with some restrictions? Didn't they perhaps deserve to be put back in their 
place? And above all: Didn't the propaganda--except for the wild exaggerations 
which were not to be taken seriously--match essential points of the people's 
own ideas and convictions? 
   And if things got even worse, as they did in November 1938, one could 
always just say, in the words of one contemporary, ``Why should we care about 
it? If you're horrified, just look the other way. That's not going to be  
destiny'' (Rauschning). 
   In Germany, as well as in many other countries, anti-Semitism had been 
around for a long time. For centuries, the Jews had been the object of 
persecution by the church and the state. Church-sponsored anti-Judaism, 
bolstered by theological prejudice, could look back on a long tradition. 
   This makes us all the more thankful that, ever since the war's end, the 
Christian confessions and the Jews have been able to join in open dialogue 
with each other. 
   There are other examples of this in history: Prussia, for example, which 
became the new home not only for French Huguenots, Salzburg Protestants, and 
Scottish Catholics, but also for many persecuted Jews. Virtually up to the 
point of Hitler's seizure of power, German anti-Semitism had been demonstrably 
restrained, when compared to the militant hatred of Jews prevailing in Eastern 
and Southeastern Europe. It was not accidental that, 10 years before the 
French Revolution, Lessing published his play  and through 
both the empire and the republic, our state institutions--true to the ideas of 
enlightened despotism--stood by their policy of Jewish emancipation and 

How Anti-Semitism Grew 
   Another aspect is that German nationalism differed in a very specific way 
from nationalism in other countries. For reasons which can't be gone into 
here, our parliamentary, liberal, and democratic components were rather 
underdeveloped, whereas there was a special emphasis on our common origin and 
heritage, on our common history, on our ``German-ness.'' This was evident both 
during the Napoleonic Wars and in 1848-49, and was quite marked in the Empire. 
The result was--externally--an increasingly aggressive national consciousness, 
right alongside an acceptance of dictatorial government structures at home, 
where aggressivity was directed against such minorities as Catholics, 
Socialists, and Jews. For this reason, many historians have also lamented that 
Germany's history has lacked a revolution, or at least a general evolutionary 
turning toward democracy, to the rights of the individual human being. Thomas 
Mann spoke caustically of the Germans' ``militant servility,'' a wedding of 
``arrogance and contrition.'' 
   Other things came on top of this. The impetuous industrialization and 
urbanization, especially after 1871, led to a widespread, diffuse uneasiness 
concerning all things modern. And it was precisely in this process of 
revolutionary change, which many people perceived as a threat, that the Jews 
played an outstanding, often brilliant role: in industry, in banking and in 
business, among doctors and lawyers, in the entire cultural realm, and in the 
modern natural sciences. This spawned jealousy and inferiority complexes, and 
the immigration of Jews from the East was looked upon with extreme 
   Capitalism, and the big cities with their inevitable ramifications--all 
this seemed to be as ``un-German'' as was the prominent involvement of Jews in 
various liberal and socialist groupings. 
   A flood of writings and tracts dealt with the allegedly damaging role of 
``the'' Jew, and alongside authors unknown and well-known, such as Gobineau 
and [Houston Stewart] Chamberlain, it was the great men of Germany's 
intellectual and cultural life, such as Heinrich von Treitschke and Richard 
Wagner, who made anti-Jewish sentiments socially acceptable. The Jews became 
socially admissible hate-objects. 
   A particularly ominous development proved to be anti-Semitic propagandists' 
adoption of the Darwinian theory of evolution. Here they finally had the 
equipment they needed to give a scientific veneer to their whisperings about a 
Jewish world conspiracy and the eternal war of the races; here you had all 
that was healthy, strong, useful; there all that was sickly, cheap, damaging--
the Jewish ``degeneration,'' the ``vermin'' which had to be gotten rid of 
through ``purification'' and ``destruction.'' 
   Hitler's so-called worldview contained not a single original idea. 
Everything had been there before him: the hatred of Jews, whipped up into 
biological racism, as well as the revulsion against all things modern, and the 
utopia of primeval agrarian society whose realization required  
(Living Space) in the East. His own contribution--outside of his further 
vulgarization, simplification, and brutalization of a worldview he adopted 
from others--lay in his fanatical obsessiveness and his gift for mass-
psychological manipulation, which he used to elevate himself into the most 
important propagandist and promulgator of National Socialism. 
   While in earlier times the Jews were held responsible for plagues and 
catastrophes, and later for economic woes and ``un-German'' machinations, 
Hitler held them guilty of all evil in general: It was they who were behind 
the ``November criminals'' of 1918, the ``bloodsuckers'' and ``capitalists,'' 
the ``Bolsheviks'' and ``Freemasons,'' the ``liberals'' and ``democrats,'' the 
``desecrators of our culture'' and ``destroyers of our morals''--in short, 
they were the real string-pullers and initiators of all military, political, 
economic, and social misfortunes that had befallen Germany. 
   History was reduced to a struggle between races, between Aryans and Jews, 
between ``Germanic culture creators'' and ``Jewish subhumans.'' The German 
people could only be saved, and the corruptors of humanity overthrown, once 
the world were freed of Jewish blood, the source of all evil in history. 
   The opposite image was the warrior and the peasant, who, out in the East's 
wide spaces, and in continual battle against Asiatic hordes, would extend the 
boundaries of lands under German cultural influence, while at the same time, 
through breeding and refinement, would elevate the Germanic race to lonely 
heights. While elsewhere, people were already working on the atomic bomb, 
Himmler and others were preaching these ideas verging on idiocy, with the 
tiring monotony of a mental asylum inmate. 
   The same went for Hitler's hallucination of the black-haired, hook-nosed 
Jew, whose blood desecrates the white, blonde-haired Germanic woman and thus 
steals her from her people forever. Already in  we repeatedly 
come across this delusion, which continues all the way into his will, in an 
interminable litany about ``unchastity'' and ``bastardization,'' ``rape'' and 
``desecration of blood.'' 
   A misery-ridden childhood, the denigrations of youth, the shattered dreams 
of a failed artist, the ostracism of a drifter without a job or a place to 
live, and the obsessions of a sexually disturbed person--in Hitler all this 
found a single outlet: his immeasurable and never-ending hatred of the Jews. 
Up to his very last moment, he was ruled by his desire to degrade, to strike, 
to exterminate, and to obliterate. 

Hitler's Killing Spree 
   The attack on the Soviet Union offered an opportunity to unite two things 
at once: the conquest of  in the East, and the ``destruction of 
the Jewish race in Europe,'' which Hitler had already threatened publicly on 
January 30, 1939. Already the beginning stages of the Eastern campaign, under 
titles such as ``Commissary Order'' and ``Special Detachment,'' saw the coming 
of a gigantic killing spree, which was to outstrip even what had previously 
happened in Poland. During the months following June 22, 1941, under the 
pretext of fighting partisans and looters, hundreds of thousands of Jewish 
men, women, and children were shot by special detachments working behind the 
front lines. The ``Final Solution'' had begun--long before it was made 
official at the ``Wannsee Conference'' of January 20, 1942. 
   In the wake of the special detachments came the death factories; the ``gas 
cars'' turned into gas-chambers and ovens, while the shootings continued. The 
innocent victims were deprived even of an executioner; the killers replaced 
the hangman with the methods of the roach exterminator, monstrously amplified 
and industrialized--in keeping with their talk of ``cleaning out the vermin.'' 
   And we do not want to close our eyes to even this ultimate horror, even to 
this day. 
   Dostoyevsky coined the phrase, ``If God didn't exist, all would be 
permitted.'' If there is no God, everything is relative and imaginary, since 
all is made by men. Then there is no ordering of values, no binding moral 
laws, no crimes, no guilt, no pangs of conscience. And since ``all is 
permitted'' of those who are in on this secret, their acts are entirely 
dependent on their own will alone. They are free to place themselves above all 
law and moral values. 
   In many of his works, Dostoyevsky investigated these ideas--which turn up 
later in Nietzsche--in terms of their consequences for the individual, as well 
as for how human beings live with each other, for society. What might have 
seemed to his contemporaries as the errant speculations of a religious 
brooder, proved to be a prophetic anticipation of the political crimes of the 
20th century. 

An Eyewitness Report 
   Let us hear about this from an eyewitness of the German reality in 1942: 
   ``The men, women, and children emerging from the trucks were ordered by an 
SS man, a riding- or dog-whip in hand, to undress and to lay their garments at 
specified places, divided up according to shoes, clothes, and underclothes.... 
These people undressed themselves without any screams or cries, stood together 
in family groups, kissed and said good-bye, and waited for an indication from 
another SS man, who stood by the open grave, likewise with whip in hand.... I 
observed one family of about eight people--a husband and wife of about 50 
years, with their children, about 1, 8, and 10 years old, as well as two adult 
daughters of 20 to 24 years old. 
   ``An old woman with snow-white hair held a one-year-old child in her arms, 
and sang something to it, and tickled it. The child squealed with pleasure. 
The married couple looked on, with tears in their eyes. The father held the 
hand of a boy about 10 years old, and spoke to him softly. The boy was 
fighting back tears. The father pointed to heaven, stroked him on the head, 
and seemed to say something to him. Then the SS man at the grave shouted 
something to his comrades. These separated off around 20 people, and indicated 
to them that they should go behind the mound of earth.... I went around the 
mound, and stood before a gigantic grave. Closely pressed against one another, 
the people lay on top of one another in such a way that only the heads were to 
be seen. Blood ran down over the shoulders from almost all the heads. Some of 
those who had been shot were still moving. Some raised their arms and turned 
their heads to show that they were still alive. The grave was about three-
quarters full. In my estimation, there were already around 1,000 [bodies] 
lying there. I looked around toward the one with the gun. He, an SS man, sat 
on the edge of the small side of the grave on the mound of earth, letting his 
legs hang down into the grave, with a machine-gun on his knees, and was 
smoking a cigarette. The totally naked people went down some steps that were 
dug in the clay wall of the grave, slipped and slid over the heads of those 
lying there, to a place that the SS man indicated. They lay down before the 
dead and those who had been shot; some stroked those still alive, and spoke 
softly to them. Then I heard a series of shots. I looked into the grave, and 
saw how the bodies twitched or the heads, now quiet, lay on the bodies before 
them.... Then the next group came up, climbed down into the grave, arranged 
themselves next to the previous victims, and were shot.'' 
   And let us now hear the Reichsfuehrer SS [Heinrich Himmler], from his 
speech to the SS group leaders in Posen in October 1943: 
   ``I want here, in all openness, to refer also to a quite difficult matter. 
Among us, it should be quite openly discussed, and despite that, we will never 
speak of it publicly.... I mean the evacuation of the Jews, the extermination 
of the Jewish people. It is one of those things that is easily said: `The 
Jewish people will be exterminated,' a Party comrade said, `quite clearly, in 
our Program. Elimination of the Jews, extermination, let us do that.' And then 
here, you all come along, the good 80 million Germans, and each has his decent 
Jew. It is clear, the others are swine, but this one is a first-rate Jew. None 
of those who talk like that has watched, none has gone through it. Most of you 
will know what it means if 100 corpses are lying together, if 500 are lying 
there, if 1,000 are lying there. To have gone through that and--apart from the 
exception of human weakness--to have remained decent, that has made us hard. 
This is a page of glory, never written and never to be written, of our 
history.... Overall, we can say that we have fulfilled this most difficult 
task in love of our people. And we have not, in so doing, suffered any harm to 
our inner being, to our soul, to our character.'' 

The Hideous Truth 
   Face to face with these statements, we are impotent, just as we are 
impotent face to face with the millionfold ruination. Numbers and words no 
longer help. Human suffering cannot be made good again, and every individual 
who became a victim was irreplaceable for his own sake. Thus something 
remains, against which all attempts to explain and understand are wrecked. 
   The end of the war in 1945 was in many respects a shock for the Germans. 
The collapse was total, the surrender unconditional. All efforts and 
sacrifices had been meaningless. In addition to the horror of the Holocaust 
came the knowledge, perhaps even today not fully internalized, that the 
planning of the war in the East and the annihilation of the Jews were 
indissolubly connected together, that neither could have been possible without 
the other. 
   The Germans were thrown back on their bare existence; no one knew, looking 
at the millions of dead and the bombed-out cities, how anything was going to 
continue. All values that had been believed in, all virtues and authorities, 
were compromised. Hitler's fall came almost lightning-quick; the 12 years of 
the ``Thousand-Year Reich'' soon seemed like an apparition. In that was 
expressed, certainly, not only a total disillusionment with the methods and 
goals of National Socialism, but also a rejection of sorrow and guilt, a 
repulsion against a pitiless confrontation with the past. 
   The rapid identification with the Western victors demanded the conviction, 
ultimately, of being, exactly like other peoples, ``occupied'' by the National 
Socialist rulers and finally of being liberated. This also is one of the bases 
on which a tremendous capacity of reconstruction brought forth the German 
economic miracle, astonishing the incredulous world. 
   Today, we can criticize such repressive processes for obvious reasons, and 
we do well to consider this criticism seriously and without reservation. Moral 
superiority leads, of course, no further in that respect. Perhaps the German 
people, in the awful position of 1945, could not have reacted otherwise, and 
perhaps we, in looking back, are asking too much of ourselves in our demands 
on that time. 

In Knowledge of Auschwitz 
   Today, all questions come up in full knowledge of Auschwitz. In 1933, no 
one could have imagined what the reality would be after 1941. But a hostility 
to Jews that had been growing for over a century had prepared the soil for a 
limitless propaganda and for the conviction of many Germans that the existence 
of the Jews did present a problem, that there really was something like a 
``Jewish question.'' The compulsory resettlement of all Jews--perhaps to 
Madagascar, as the National Socialist rulers mentioned in passing--would 
supposedly have found agreement. 
   It is true that the National Socialists did make great efforts to keep the 
reality of the mass murder secret. But it is also true that everyone knew of 
the Nuremberg Laws, that everybody could see what was happening over 50 years 
ago today,l in Germany, and that the deportations took place completely 
openly. And it is true that the millionfold crimes from the acts of many 
individuals existed, that the work of the Einsatzgruppen [SS Commando Units 
involved in the mass murder of Jews in the East] was the object of whispered 
conversations, not only in the Army, but also at home. Our immortal colleague 
Adolf Arndt said in this hall, 20 years after the end of the war, ``The 
essentials were known.'' 
    Why didn't anyone provide resistance against the genocide? Ultimately, 
those in power had not been able to carry out their euthanasia murder to the 
extent originally planned, because they encountered resistance from the 
relatives of the victims and the churches. But the Jews stood alone. Their 
fate met with blindness and coldness of heart.] 
   Many Germans allowed themselves to be blinded and seduced by National 
Socialism. Many made the crimes possible through their indifference. Many 
themselves became criminals. The question of guilt and its repression must be 
answered by each, for himself. 
   But we must all turn ourselves away from questioning the historical truth, 
the miscalculation of the number of victims, the denial of the facts. Whoever 
wishes to play down the guilt, whoever asserts that ``it wasn't really so--or 
entirely so,'' is making an attempt to defend that which is indefensible. 
   Such efforts do not merely stem tendentiously from a denial of the victims; 
they are also quite senseless. For, whatever happens in the future or whatever 
may be forgotten of that which happens: Human beings, until the end of time, 
will think of Auschwitz as part of German history. 
   For that reason, it is also senseless to make the demand, to ``finally be 
done with'' the past. Our past will not be put to rest, it will also not fade 
away. And, indeed, quite independently of the fact that the young people 
cannot be blamed at all. On this point, Renate Harpprecht, a survivor of 
Auschwitz, said, ``We cannot choose our people. Back then, I many times wished 
that I weren't a Jew, but then I became one in a very conscious way. Young 
Germans must accept that they are Germans, that they cannot slip away from 
this destiny.'' 
   They do not want to slip away from it. They want rather to know from us, 
how it happened, how it could have happened. Thus, the preoccupation with the 
National Socialists' crimes is not decreasing, despite the increasing temporal 
distance of those events, but rather growing in intensity. It is also true for 
the mind of this people that digesting the past is only possible in the 
painful experience of the truth. This self-liberation in the confrontation 
with the hideous is less tormenting than its repression: ``To learn from the 
past for the future is the desire of many. To recognize what was in order to 
understand what is, and to comprehend what will be--that seems to be the task 
to which historical knowledge is devoted.'' These sentences were written in 
May 1946 by Leo Baeck, who escaped death in the Theresienstadt Concentration 
   Ladies and gentlemen, to keep fresh the memory and to accept the past as a 
part of our identity as Germans--this alone promises for us older people, as 
well as for the youth, liberation from the burden of history. 
   ``Europe is held by its brain, by thought, but the continent trembles, 
thinking has its crevices''--thus Gottfried Benn. Today, these crevices appear 
before us as gaping fissures. 
   Against the background of the catastrophic errors of our recent history, we 
are, virtually by necessity, faced with a growing, special responsibility: a 
new ``ethics of responsibility for the future,'' as was taught by Hans Jonas, 
who was awarded the Peace Prize of the German book trade in 1987 and is 
himself a Jew. 
   In the age of grand technology, of mass society and mass consumption, the 
threat, not only to the individual but also to humanity as a whole, has grown. 
A threat that can exist for our conditions of life, but may also call into 
question the basis of values of our mortal order of existence. 
   This threat manifests in a double way: On the one hand, in a potential for 
catastrophe--such as a possible nuclear war, but also the creeping destruction 
of the environment--and, on the other hand, in a potential for manipulation 
that can lead, perhaps through a genetic reconstitution of our nature, but 
also through a grand bureaucratic form of rule, to the ethical incapacitation 
of human beings. 
   Both demand our vigilance, a vigilance in the use of human power that is as 
conscious of its responsibility to future generations as it is of that which 
man can do to man in the spirit of unbridled and fanatical misuse of power. 
   On the foundation of our state and our history, it is a matter of founding 
a new moral tradition that must evidence itself in the human and moral 
sensibility of our society. 

Today's Duties 
   Externally, duty means the duty to the collective responsibility for peace, 
to the active liberation of the world. Included in that for us is the right to 
the existence of the Jewish people within secure borders. It means a 
cooperation in opening up systems between West and East. And it means the duty 
to guarantee the survival of the Third World. 
   Internally, it means an openness to and tolerance of our fellow man--
without regard to his race, his background, his political conviction. It means 
an unconditional recognition of rights. It means vigilance against injustice. 
And it means uncompromising intervention against arbitrariness, against every 
attack on the dignity of man. 
   This is the most important thing: May we never again permit that our 
neighbor be denied the quality of being human. He deserves regard, for he, 
like us, has a human face. ] 
   Many Germans allowed themselves to be blinded and seduced by National 
Socialism. Many made the crimes possible through their indifference. Many 
themselves became criminals. The question of guilt and its repression must be 
answered by each, for himself. 
   But we must all turn ourselves away from questioning the historical truth, 
the miscalculation of the number of victims, the denial of the facts. Whoever 
wishes to play down the guilt, whoe