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“A Monument of Shame”? German far-right leader belittles Holocaust memorial

Alternativ für Deutschland’s alternative take on Berlin’s Holocaust Memorial.

Björn Höcke, the leader of anti-immigration AfD in the eastern German state of Thuringia, said that German history was being made “appalling and laughable.” Höcke added: “These stupid politics of coming to grips with the past cripple us – we need nothing other than a 180-degree reversal on the politics of remembrance.”


Berlin’s Holocaust Memorial.

The Holocaust(hólos, “whole” and kaustós, “burnt”), meaning to completely consume by fire, is the most profound genocidal event etched in modern European history. So profound in the European experience, The Holocaust has become the conduit by which we remember and try to understand genocides and mass murders across the globe; encapsulated in World Holocaust Memorial Day.  Understanding goes far beyond trying to shame various groups. It is about what can happen to humanity at its worse, even somewhere like Germany which was considered one of the most civilised nations on earth.

Björn Höcke, may well be reflecting the anger and helplessness felt by individuals who are overwhelmed when confronted by the enormity of genocide and their reaction to some people’s attempts to blame and shame others, who were not present in 1938-45 and can do nothing to change or rectify what has happened.

It is incumbent on us all to commemorate, but not wallow; to act and prevent, not shame and blame; to listen more and speak less; to not make a new generation bear the unbearable. However, Björn Höcke is neither right to start with, and diminish, the Berlin Holocaust Memorial, nor to reinforce a message which is not the true intent of memorialisation. Indeed, for Jews in particular, commemorating those who were murdered in the Holocaust and understanding the Holocaust as an event in our national memory is a moral imperative. Speaking of attempts to memorialise the Holocaust as a campaign of shame belittles the experiences and memories of the Jewish people, and makes this moral imperative out to be a cynical tool of manipulation, an insinuation which is inherently antisemitic.

Josef Schuster,, President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany commented: “It is deeply outrageous and completely unacceptable to describe the Berlin Holocaust Memorial as Björn Höcke did as a ‘monument of shame. With these antisemitic and extremely misanthropic remarks, the AfD is showing its true face. I would not have believed that it was possible for a politician in Germany to say such things 70 years after the Shoah“.


Please note that this speech was made in January 2017.