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Steinmeier: Germany still faces anti-Semitism

December 15, 2017

Anti-Semitism was still showing "its evil face" in Germany, said President Frank-Walter Steinmeier. Speaking at the Israeli embassy, he added he was "horrified and ashamed" by crowds burning Israeli flags in Berlin.

Berlin Botschaft Israel | Auftakt des Jubiläumsjahres "70 Jahre Staatsgründung Israel"
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/M. Gambarini

People burning Israeli flags on German streets "do not understand, or do not respect, what it means to be German" President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said on Friday, commenting on the recent protest that saw angry crowds in Berlin's Neukölln neighborhood destroying symbols of Israel.

Speaking at the event hosted by the the Israeli embassy, Steinmeier added that Germany's historical responsibility for the Holocaust applied to everyone in the country.

Demonstrators burning Israeli flag
Demonstrators burning a makeshift Israeli flag in BerlinImage: picture alliance/dpa/Jüdisches Forum für Demokratie und gegen Antisemitismus e.V.

"This responsibility does not recognize caveats for migrant backgrounds and no exceptions for newcomers," Steinmeier said. "It is non-negotiable, for everyone who lives here and wants to live here!'

The German president also said he was "horrified and ashamed" by the act.

Read more: 'Burning a flag is like burning one's own integrity,' says Israeli envoy to Germany

Jerusalem still at the center of the storm

The ceremony on Friday at the Israeli embassy marked the opening of year-long festivities to mark 50 years since the founding of modern Israel in 1948. The Jewish state managed to harness crucial international backing after the mass killings of European Jews by the German Nazi regime.

In his speech, Steinmeier said that anti-Semitism has not yet been beaten in Germany.

"It is showing its evil face in many shapes," including public acts with hate-filled slogans, but also in the spreading of prejudice and ethnically-charged politics, he said.

Read more: German laws on burning the Israeli flag - what you need to know?

Steinmeier also referred to the US decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem, saying he discussed it with his Israeli counterpart Reuven Rivlin.

"My message to him was: There are good reasons to doubt that the unilateral recognition of Jerusalem would contribute to peace in the Middle East," Steinmeier said, adding it was both Berlin's official stance and his personal view.

However, this political view did not justify "hatred against Israel and disparagement of our Jewish citizens in Germany's streets," he said.

dj/ng (KNA, dpa)