"A free press is the cornerstone of our society and the basis for all freedoms," German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Monday at an 80th birthday party for Alfred Neven DuMont, owner of one of Germany's oldest publishing houses and a part-owner of Haaretz.

"To achieve these goals, we need someone like you," she said at the Berlin event, addressing DuMont.

Merkel also noted DuMont's ties to Israel and thanked him for his contribution to drawing the German and Israeli people closer. This contribution, she said, includes his support for the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya and his partnership in Haaretz. She cited the latter in particular as an expression of DuMont's "long-standing desire for reconciliation with Israel."

"The more peoples and cultures draw near to each other and come to know each other, the more they enrich each other," she added.

The event, organized by the Federal Association of German Newspaper Publishers, was attended by some 200 politicians, economists and journalists, including Haaretz publisher Amos Schocken.

DuMont, commenting on his investment in Haaretz, noted that there are people of German origin in Israel who were acquainted with a different, better Germany - the Germany that preceded the Nazi era. He also corrected a statement by the president of the publishers' association, Helmut Heinen, saying: "Haaretz is not one of the most important newspapers, but the most important daily newspaper in Israel."