Page last updated at 13:21 GMT, Sunday, 9 November 2008

Merkel urges anti-racist action


Chancellor Merkel said Germans could not be silent in the face of racism

As Germany marks the 70th anniversary of the Kristallnacht anti-Semitic riots, Chancellor Angela Merkel said all Germans must act against racism.

At a ceremony at Berlin's largest synagogue, she said Germans "cannot be silent" in the face of anti-Semitism.

Kristallnacht, or the Night of Broken Glass, is often regarded as the starting point of the Holocaust.

Nazis ransacked Jewish homes and businesses and burned synagogues as police and firefighters looked on.

More than 90 Jewish people were murdered and about 30,000 Jewish men were sent to concentration camps on 9 and 10 November 1938.

Millions were killed by the Nazi regime, including about six million Jewish people.

'Do something'

"Indifference is the first step towards endangering essential values," Mrs Merkel said at the commemoration service with the Central Council of Jews at the Rykestrasse synagogue in Berlin.

"Xenophobia, racism and anti-Semitism must never be given an opportunity in Europe again.

The Rykestrasse synagogue was damaged in the Kristallnacht rampage but has been recently restored.

People stand outside a Jewish-owned shop attacked on Kristallnacht (November 1938)
At least 90 Jewish people were killed on Kristallnacht

The anniversary comes at a time of concern that far right sentiments are on the rise in Germany.

"There was no storm of protest against the Nazis, but silence, shrugged shoulders and people looking away - from individual citizens to large parts of the church," Mrs Merkel said.

"We cannot be silent, we cannot be indifferent when Jewish cemeteries are desecrated and rabbis are insulted on the street."

On Sunday evening, a concert entitled "Tu Was", or "Do Something", was held at Berlin's Tempelhof airport.

Its organiser, British violinist Daniel Hope, said he was inspired by reading a book about the events in 1938 and realising there was nothing to mark the day other than the official ceremony.

"It's difficult to know how to commemorate a day of tragedy," he said.

"It is a wonderful chance for everybody to think about things. Not doing something is the worst thing anyone can do".

Peaceful protests

On Saturday, police estimated that about 600 people marched in Fulda in central Germany to protest against a march by members of the right wing National Democratic Party (NPD).

An anti-Nazi demonstrator holds a sign at a rally in Fulda, Germany (08/11/2008)
Demonstrators said Fulda was a Nazi-free zone

Demonstrators held up signs saying that Fulda was "a Nazi-free zone" and waved Israeli flags.

Police said the demonstrations were peaceful and the two groups were kept apart.

The secretary general of the Central Council of German Jews, Stephan Kramer, has said there should be better education for Germany children about the events of the Nazi era.

Mr Kramer told a German newspaper that young people should "more than ever at the moment be warned against the dangers of the future, of a new anti-Semitism and of the far-right".

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