German Justice Minister Hails Berlin Maccabi Games as ‘Gift Our Country Didn’t Deserve’
German Justice Minister Heiko Maas said the Maccabi Games bringing together Jewish athletes from around the globe in Berlin this week were a gift the country “didn’t deserve” after the Holocaust.
“[The games are] not something we could possibly have ever hoped for after World War II and the Holocaust. I see this as a stroke of good fortune and gift for our country that we didn’t deserve,” Mass told some 15,000 people who had gathered at the Waldbühne amphitheater, a part of Berlin’s sporting events complex built during Nazi rule.
One competitor, Golan Shaul, told NBC News that he felt goosebumps playing at the Nazi-erected stadium, and said the games provided some sort of “closure.”
The 14th European Maccabi Games will take place July 27 to August 5 and will include 2,000 competitors from 26 countries competing in 19 disciplines including basketball, soccer, squash, athletics and swimming.
Participants need at least one Jewish parent or grandparent to compete.
German President Joachim Gauck said he was “moved” that the Maccabi Games had chosen Berlin, which some 45,000 German Jews still call home, to compete.
“I’m glad and I think it is significant that you chose this place, and I am very moved that this country and this city will now see the Jewish games,” said Gauck in his opening speech, according to Deutsche Welle.