Many countries will be commemorating the victims of the Holocaust later this week on the 71st anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz Nazi death camp by Soviet troops. A ceremony has already been held in Rwanda.
Tributes were paid on Monday (25.01.2016) to the memory of the victims of the Holocaust at a ceremony at the Kigali Genocide Memorial Site in Rwanda, which was attended by the German ambassador to Rwanda, Peter Fahrenholtz, and his Israeli counterpart, Belaynesh Zevadia.
Fahrenholtz warned that genocide did not simply appear out of nowhere.
"We must never forget that the process that eventually leads to genocide always begins with the violation of the dignity and rights of human beings," he said.
Modern day Germany had a special responsibility, he explained.
"The German government recognizes Germans' responsibility for the Holocaust which forms the basis of the relationship with the state of Israel and Jews all over the world. We are very aware that our bilateral relations with Israel are unique; our relationship is marked by the Holocaust as well as the experience of shaping our present and future together," he said.
The Holocaust refers to the genocide committed by Nazi Germany between 1941 and 1945 in which around six million Jews perished.
Postwar West Germany paid the state of Israel millions of marks in reparations for the Holocaust. Relations between reunited Germany and Israel remain sensitive and German politicians are still fairly reluctant to criticize Israeli policy in the Middle East.
Fahrenholtz warned that Germany will continue to denounce any attempt to deny the Holocaust, or any other genocide, or anyone who calls into question Israel’s right to exist.
Israel’s ambassador to Rwanda, Belaynesh Zevadia, said there was a need to remember the Holocaust so that the lessons that history has left should not be forgotten.
“We also celebrate the power of forgiveness and positive thinking, we must work together to create a world where there is no need for evil,” she said.
Zevadia described Germany as "one of the most reliable allies of the state of Israel" since the establishment of diplomatic relations between West Germany and Israel in 1956.
Belaynesh Zevadia, Israeli ambassador to Rwanda (left) and her German counterpart, Peter Fahrenholtz (right), tour the Kigali memorial site.
Jean Damascene Bizimana, who represented the Rwanda National Commission for the Fight Against Genocide at the ceremony, acknowledged Germany’s commitment to the pursuit of those who committed genocide in Rwanda in 1994.
"We thank the German government for bringing genocide perpetrators to book," he said.
He was evidently referring to the sentencing to life in prison by a German court in late December 2015 of Onesphore Rwabukombe, a former Rwandan mayor, for his part in the massacre of more than 400 people in a church during the Rwandan genocide.
In Rwanda in 1994, an estimated 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were slaughtered in a hundred days. The genocide ended when Tutsi rebels led by Paul Kagame, now Rwanda's president, seized control.
United Nations Resident Coordinator in Rwanda, Lamin M Manneh, said that even though the world has pledged that there would never be another Holocaust, conflicts, cruelties and more bloodshed will continue to happen if nothing is done.
“We have seen the rise of anti-Semitism in some parts of the world. We have observed the rise of terrorism in several countries which most of the time is based on religious radicalism, which, in many instances, targets Jews as happened recently in France, Belgium, Latin America and North Africa. Together, we must uphold the terrible truth of the Holocaust against those who deny it," he warned.