Holocaust survivor hails ‘wonderful’ German anti-right protests

Holocaust survivor hails ‘wonderful’ German anti-right protests
Holocaust survivor hails ‘wonderful’ German anti-right protests

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Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - Holocaust survivor Eva Szepesi, who was liberated from Auschwitz at the age of 12, told German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, his cabinet and MPs in a Bundestag ceremony that she was heartened by hundreds of thousands of Germans joining pro-democracy rallies. — AFP pic

BERLIN, Jan 31 — Holocaust survivor Eva Szepesi today welcomed mass German protests against the resurgent far right but said stronger action was crucial to stand up to rising anti-Semitism.

Szepesi, who was liberated from Auschwitz at the age of 12, told German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, his cabinet and MPs in a Bundestag ceremony that she was heartened by hundreds of thousands of Germans joining pro-democracy rallies.

“It is wonderful that so many people took to the streets in recent weeks to demonstrate against right-wing extremism,” Szepesi, 91, told the chamber.

“However I wish these demonstrators would also loudly object to inhumane and anti-Semitic remarks from their acquaintances and at work,” she added, invoking a “responsibility” to confront hatred where it arises.

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She said Germany’s “wonderful constitution and democracy” deserved defending against forces seeking to undermine them, without mentioning the far-right AfD party by name.

The AfD, which has soared in opinion polls since last summer to around 20 percent on the back of fears about economic decline and rising migration, had largely boycotted last year’s Holocaust Memorial Commemoration in parliament.

The party’s leaders and MPs however were in attendance for Szepesi’s speech and applauded with other lawmakers as she called on Germans to resist “remaining silent and looking away” in the face of extremism.

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Szepesi, born in Budapest to a Jewish family, was sent to the Nazi extermination camp Auschwitz at the age of 11 and was one of the few child prisoners to escape death in the gas chambers.

She said she had taken advice to lie about her age, telling guards she was 16, which had likely saved her life.

Prisoners who were deemed unfit to work were systematically murdered immediately on arrival, a fate that her mother and brother had met at the camp.

After the war, Szepesi and her husband, a fellow Holocaust survivor, settled in Germany due to Cold War upheaval in Hungary.

She thanked Scholz and his government for their “solidarity” with Israel after the deadly Hamas attacks in October.

But she expressed alarm about the sharp rise in anti-Semitic crimes recorded in Germany since the war between Israel and Hamas broke out.

“It worries me deeply and I am sad to see what is happening on the streets—the readiness to use violence and the hatred of Jews,” she said. — AFP

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