German responsibility for the Holocaust is the reason Germany will always ensure Israel's security and protect the Jewish people, Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Wednesday as he and Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett visited Yad Vashem, Israel's national Holocaust memorial.
The mass killing of Jews "conceived, planned and executed by Germans" in World War II gives "every German government a perpetual responsibility for the security of the State of Israel and the protection of Jewish life," Scholz wrote in the Yad Vashem visitors book.
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The visit, Scholz's first to Israel since taking office, comes a week into Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the largest military operation against a sovereign state in Europe since World War II, and a day after Ukraine condemned a Russian strike on Kyiv’s primary television transmitter near a memorial on the site of the Babi Yar massacre of tens of thousands of Jews.
Scholz was originally set to visit Jordan and the West Bank as well, but has canceled those visits and will only remain in the region for a day.
Yad Vashem has criticized Russian President Vladimir Putin’s claim that he invaded Ukraine to "denazify" the country.
Dani Dayan, chairman of Yad Vashem, tweeted Sunday that “the propagandist discourse accompanying the current hostilities is saturated with irresponsible statements and completely inaccurate comparisons with Nazi ideology and actions before and during the Holocaust."
Scholz's schedule also has him meeting with Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy, a lawmaker from the Yesh Atid party, in addition to holding a meeting with Bennett.
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Last Friday, Foreign Minster Yair Lapid spoke with his German counterpart, Annalena Baerbock, about Israel's offer of humanitarian assistance to Ukraine. Baerbock visited Israel last month and met with both Lapid and Bennett.
Scholz announced on Friday that Germany would sharply increase its spending on defense to more than 2 percent of its economic output in one of a series of policy shifts prompted by Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
Germany also halted its Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project with Russia and agreed to send weapons to Ukraine after long resisting pressure from Western allies on both issues and facing accusations of being too dovish towards the Kremlin.
The German foreign minister, Annalena Baerbock, visited Israel last month, meeting with her Israeli counterpart, Yair Lapid, and with Bennett.
Reuters and DPA contributed to this report.