German journalist accuses Israel, Russia of hijacking Holocaust memorial ceremony | News | DW | 24.01.2020

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German journalist accuses Israel, Russia of hijacking Holocaust memorial ceremony

A German journalist has come under fire for writing that Russia and Israel exploited a Holocaust remembrance ceremony for their own agendas. She said the memorial missed an opportunity to stand against anti-Semitism.

A commentator for German public broadcaster HR has come under fire after accusing Russia and Israel of "seizing" control a ceremony held Thursday at Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center, to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp by the Red Army.

While praising German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier's speech as "moving and empathic," Sabine Müller said Russia and Israel used the ceremony for their own political and memorial "private party."

Read more: Anti-Semitism: Israelis want action, not words

Reporting from the event, Müller noted how both countries had recently made fresh verbal attacks against Poland and that Russian President Vladimir Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held "overlong bilateral talks" that kept other world leaders and elderly Holocaust survivors waiting. Müller's comments appeared to reference Putin's accusation last month that Warsaw colluded with Adolf Hitler during World War II.

Poland's president withdrew from Thursday's ceremony due to Putin's prominent role in the event.

Israel and Poland, meanwhile, have traded a war of words over a law enacted by Warsaw that makes it illegal to label the Nazi concentration camps as Polish. Israel's foreign minister accused Polish people last year of harboring “innate” anti-Semitism.

Read more: Muslim and Jewish leaders make 'historic' visit to Auschwitz

Polen Auschwitz KZ-Eingang

1.1 million of the 1.3 million people sent to Auschwitz during World War II were killed in its gas chambers

New memorial criticized

Müller's opinion article also took aim at Russia and Israel for "mercilessly" covering the opening of a memorial in Jerusalem to commemorate the victims of the siege of Leningrad.

Along with the Holocaust, the two-and-a-half-year siege was one of the most horrifying episodes of World War II, which saw more than 750,000 residents of the city, now known as St. Petersburg, die either of hunger or from the conflict.

"What should have been a worthy day ... left a bad aftertaste," Müller wrote.

Read more: Deported to Auschwitz: Sheindi Ehrenwald's diary revealed after 75 years

Jewish leaders hit back

Müller's comments were quickly rounded upon on social media. Ran Ronen, a board member of Germany's Central Council of Jews, said the far-right Alternative for Germany party would be "pleased with such a contribution" from a publicly funded broadcaster. He accused Müller's commentary of crossing "every line of reason and morality."

Jenny Havermann, founder of the German-Israeli Innovation Network accused Müller of forgetting "that we can't celebrate this day [the liberation of Auschwitz] without Israel and Russia." She said the journalist's "aversion to Netanyahu and Putin is inappropriate here."

Sergey Lagodinsky, an MEP for Germany's Green Party’s described the journalist of having "incredible chutzpah" for making the comments.

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