Germany’s president warned that “spirits of evil” are rising as Europe grapples with incidents of anti-Semitism.
Speaking at the World Holocaust Forum in Jerusalem with dozens of other world leaders, President Frank-Walter Steinmeier expressed “sorrow” for the Holocaust and fear that the sentiments that preceded the genocide are on the rise again.
“The spirits of evil are emerging in a new guise, presenting their anti-Semitic, racist, authoritarian thinking as an answer for the future, a new solution to the problems of our age. And I wish I could say that we Germans have learnt from history once and for all. But I cannot say that when hatred is spreading,” he said.
The forum in Jerusalem, which also featured Russian President Vladimir Putin, French President Emmanuel Macron and Vice President Pence, is marking the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp.
A survey by the Anti-Defamation League released in November found that roughly 1 in 4 Europeans hold anti-Semitic beliefs, with the highest rates occurring in Eastern Europe.
Steinmeier’s remarks come as Germany also grapples with a rise in anti-Semitic incidents. Officials have said attacks targeting Jews rose 10 percent in 2018, while physical attacks increased by more than a third, according to The New York Times.
In one of the highest-profile attacks, a German gunman attacked a synagogue in October, just months after the government official charged with tackling anti-Semitism said Jews should not wear yarmulkes in public.
“These days, this is more than just rhetoric,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in December. “These days, it is important that we state this in an unequivocal manner, because what we are experiencing of late is an alarming level of racism, increasing intolerance, a wave of hate crimes.”