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Germany

Germany remembers anti-Jewish pogrom with controversial author's speech

A remembrance ceremony for the Nazi-sanctioned Kristallnacht pogrom against Jewish communities in Germany has been held in Frankfurt amid a row over the key speaker at the event.

A pedestrian looks at the wreckage of a Jewish shop in Berlin

November 9 was the 72nd anniversary of Kristallnacht

Germany has remembered the anniversary of the infamous Kristallnacht, or Night of Broken Glass, pogrom with a ceremony in Frankfurt. The key speaker at the event was a controversial choice, attacked by German Jewish groups for his criticism of Israel.

The 1938 Kristallnacht is considered to be the first Nazi-sanctioned nation-wide attack against Jews. Mobs sought out and torched Jewish-owned shops, homes and synagogues around the country. Many were murdered, while tens of thousands were deported to Nazi concentration camps.

Key speaker at the Frankfurt St Paul's church ceremony was German-born French author Alfred Grosser.

As expected, Grosser launched into a critique of Israeli policies towards the Palestinians, saying it could not be expected that those in Gaza could "understand the horror of assassinations, if you do not show great sympathy in understanding the suffering in the Gaza Strip."

The announcement that Grosser would speak at the anniversary ceremony had led to fierce objections from Germany's Central Council of Jews and others in the country's Jewish community.

Many threatened to walk out of the proceedings if Grosser entered into a diatribe against the Jewish state.

Grosser said he felt justified in criticizing Israel as he considered the country to be part of Europe, adding that everybody should be held accountable to Western values.

Alfred Grosser

Grosser has taken an interest in the Israel-Palestine conflict

Despite the 85-year-old's comments, none of the attendees at the service walked out. Members of the Central Council of Jews attending the ceremony said Grosser had not crossed the line in his speech.

Focus on Israel

Grosser comes from a Jewish family which immigrated to France in 1933. The political scientist and author of numerous books and essays is seen as an important pioneer in post-war Franco-German understanding. In recent years he has become increasingly interested in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

His 2009 book "Von Auschwitz nach Jerusalem" (From Auschwitz to Jerusalem) caused controversy as he dealt with the permissibility of questioning the policies of Israel.

Meanwhile, the president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany has used the Kristallnacht anniversary to warn of rising anti-Semitism in the country.

President Charlotte Knobloch called for more civil courage from Germans to fight xenophobia and anti-Semitism. She stressed that young Germans should take a more active roll in remembering the crimes of the Nazi era.

Author: Darren Mara (dpa, AP)
Editor: Michael Lawton

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