In Landmark Bundestag Speech, Israel's Knesset Speaker Warns of Breakdown of Democracy

Mickey Levy also cautioned against rising antisemitism against German Jews in his speech to lawmakers on Holocaust Memorial Day

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Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy delivers a speech during the annual ceremony in memory of Holocaust victims and survivors in the Bundestag on Thursday, on International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy delivers a speech during the annual ceremony in memory of Holocaust victims and survivors in the Bundestag on Thursday, on International Holocaust Remembrance Day.Credit: Stefanie LOOS / AFP
Sam Sokol
Sam Sokol

Germany’s descent into Nazism provides an object lesson on the fragility of democracy and the need to preserve it, Knesset speaker Mickey Levy told German lawmakers on Thursday. Levy is the first Knesset speaker to address the German parliament.  

Addressing the Bundestag during a special International Holocaust Remembrance Day session, the Israeli politician stated that the German parliament stood as a monument to the “ability of human beings to take advantage of democracy to defeat democracy.”

“This is a place where values were lost and where democracy descended into racist tyranny. So precisely here, between the walls of this house, standing as silent stone and steel witnesses, we are relearning how fragile democracy is and we are reminded of our duty to protect it at all costs,” he said.

80 years ago, the Nazi leadership met in the Berlin suburb of Wannsee to plan the Final Solution but since then the Jewish people “have risen once again” to build an “independent state in our historic homeland," he continued.

"Today we will remember, and we want to build a bright future together,” he continued. “We need to plan a future together based on shared values and dreams.”

Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy at the Bundestag on ThursdayCredit: Boaz Arad

The importance of democracy has been a prominent leitmotif in Levy’s comments since arriving in Berlin earlier this week.

"For the first time in history, the Speaker of the Knesset – the democratically elected parliament of the only Jewish State – will stand where more than 80 years ago Nazi oppressors called for the annihilation of our people before executing the most horrific crime in mankind’s history - the Holocaust,” Levy declared upon landing in Germany on Monday.

“I will stand proud being Jewish, with six million silent souls by my side and deliver the speech in Hebrew, the eternal language of the Jewish people.”

Meeting with Bundestag President Bärbel Bas on Tuesday, Levy called on Germany and other world powers to “take very seriously the voices coming out of Teheran calling for the destruction of the State of Israel,” calling on them to “be aware of Iran’s deviousness and avoid stepping into a trap signing a toothless agreement lacking effective monitoring systems, which will not prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear capabilities.”

Inge Auerbacher, Holocaust survivor, is embraced by Mickey Levy, Knesset Speaker, next to Baerbel Bas, right, President of the Bundestag, during the "Day of Remembrance of the Victims of National SociCredit: Kay Nietfeld/dpa via AP

He also told German Interior Ministry officials that despite positive efforts by local officials, he was concerned about rising antisemitism against German Jews.

The number of politically motivated crimes rose sharply in Germany in 2020, including a 15 percent increase in antisemitic offenses. Last summer German Jews demanded increased protection due to a wave of attacks on their institutions during the latest round of fighting between the IDF and Hamas.

A European Commission report released last June found that online antisemitism grew significantly during the pandemic, especially in Germany, with COVID-19 ushering in “a new wave of antisemitic conspiracy theories.”

Antisemitic conspiracy theories proposing Jewish responsibility for the coronavirus have gained traction among Germany’s fringe, the EC found, noting a a thirteen-fold growth in the use of antisemitic keywords on German accounts since the beginning of the worldwide health crisis.

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