German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, who recently was entangled in a tiff with Prime Minister Netanyahu over his meeting with anti-Zionist NGOs during his visit to Israel, is now being criticized for equating Social Democrat victims of Nazism with Jewish victims of the same.
Gabriel published an op-ed headlined “Together against nationalism” in Frankfurter Rundschau, stating that the Social Democrats and the Jews were the first victims of the Holocaust, one group for political, the other for racial reasons.
In an article devoted to the need for democrats of all stripes to stand up to the wave of nationalism threatening Europe, Gabriel argued that German Social Democrats have always been the most pro-Israel component of the country’s politics.
“The government under Christian Democrat Konrad Adenauer had not received a majority in 1952 for Israel reparations worth 3.5 billion German marks. Nationalist deputies refused. Adenauer could only pass the agreement by the Bundestag in 1953, with the help of the SPD (Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands),” Gabriel pointed out.
“This pro-Israeli attitude became the hallmark of the German Social Democracy,” the FM continued, observing that “Social Democrats, like Jews, were the first victims of the Holocaust. One was the victim of political persecution, the other of racial delusion.”
The newspaper’s editors have since deleted from article, the line: “Social democrats, like Jews, were the first victims of the Holocaust,” replacing it with the more accurate, “Social democrats, like Jews, were the first victims of the National Socialists.”
Gabriel’s good intentions were missed by the director of the Israeli branch of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Dr. Efraim Zuroff, who said that anyone with knowledge of the Final Solution is aware that the fate of European Jews under the Nazis was different than any other victim. “Gabriel’s claim is a negative exploitation of the memory of the Holocaust,” he said.
It is possible that Dr. Zuroff’s reaction would have been different had he read the article to which he referred.
Yad Vashem also condemned Gabriel’s statement, saying: “It is very unfortunate that an unnecessary and historically incorrect statement found its way into the political storm surrounding Gabriel’s cancelled meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.”
A spokesman for the German foreign ministry said that Gabriel is a close friend of Israel and has always accepted Germany’s responsibility for the Holocaust and for Israel’s security. “There can be no doubt about this, and the foreign minister made this statement again during his (recent) visit to Yad Vashem,” the spokesman said.