German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for a continued fight against anti-Semitism as Germany observed International Holocaust Remembrance Day Sunday. "This day is a chance for us to remember what racial fanaticism, hate and inhumanity can do," Merkel said in her weekend video podcast. Every individual has "the responsibility to ensure that we show zero tolerance against anti-Semitism, inhumanity, hatred and racial fanaticism," Merkel said. "Unfortunately, this is once again of great urgency in our time," she added.
Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas called for new approaches to teaching people about the Holocaust. "What we need now are new approaches to making historic occurrences useful in the present," he wrote in a guest column in the Sunday edition of Welt newspaper, as reported by dpa.
Meanwhile, German lawmakers from the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) were barred from attending Sunday's service marking Holocaust remembrance ceremonies. One of its most radical figures, Bjoern Hoecke, has sparked outrage with statements on Germany's Nazi past, calling Berlin's Holocaust monument a "memorial of shame" and urging a "180-degree shift" in the country's culture of remembrance. Hoecke had been given a ban after his comments, now the ban is extended to his whole party.
The move came amid escalating tensions between the German Jewish community and the AfD lawmakers. A Jewish community leader in Germany said Thursday she had been targeted with threats and hate mail "almost by the minute" since criticizing the far-right party. The AfD, which has always rejected charges of racism, entered the Bavarian parliament for the first time in a regional election last year, winning 22 seats to become the fourth largest party, on a par with the center-left Social Democrats. The rise of the AfD, which has representatives in all of Germany's 16 regional assemblies, has alarmed Jewish leaders who accuse it of contributing to a rise in anti-Semitism.