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July 29, 2015 3:00 pm

German Justice Minister Hails Berlin Maccabi Games as ‘Gift Our Country Didn’t Deserve’

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Athletes march in during the opening ceremony of the 14th Annual European Maccabi Games, this year in Berlin. Photo: Screenshot.

Athletes march in during the opening ceremony of the 14th Annual European Maccabi Games, this year in Berlin. Photo: Screenshot.

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.

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  • Andre Vincenzo

    I was very surprised to read that the Maccabi Games were held in Berlin Germany. Yes, it most certainly was a gift to the German nation. It is the one country selected to host this event nor I could have have participated in, especially at the Waldbühne amphitheater given it’s origin with a dark past.

    In the near future,I would love to see this international event hosted by the United States. In spite of the political leanings of our current administration in Washington, the people of this great nation have an even greater love and appreciation for the Jewish people.

    Subconsciously I share Uriel Priwes mind set, but I remain optimistic. I just hope and pray that we can get through this year and 2016 without a further meddling of the Obama white house in Israel’s affairs of state. Unfortunately, I don’t think that is going to happen. He can do a lot of damage to our relationship with Israel between now and the next election. I hope one day hear that we are hosting the Maccabi Games here in the U.S. This is my first awareness of this international athletic competition.

    There is the expression “forgive but never forget” attributed to the Jewish people. It’s the one adage that we all should heed and ever remain vigilant.

  • Elisheva

    For sure Germany does not deserve it. It is a pity WE don’t say that – and act upon it.

    • Ron Dror

      We should be supportive of the German Governement and its people. They are atoning for they have done and have shown unwavering support for Israel and jews. How many israelis are in Berlin, and how many are in Jeddah? There is a strong sense of anti semitism in some quarters mostly moslems in Germany. If we are going to despise countries with a strong anti jewish bias against Israel then we must include every muslim country on Earth. Something we don’t, most Israelis and jews want peace with the hateful arabs and here is a country hosting the Mahkabi (my spelling)games at some very considerable expense, and some here are spitting at the hosts. We have to move on and recognize who will come to our aid in crunch time, I would generally rely on the USA (very dependent on the president and his inclinations) or the Germans who are close and have a national policy and commitment to jewish survival. We need to forgive not forget.

  • Loraine Sukhram

    Let’s keep in mind there is still a higher percentage of anti-semitism in Germany (27%)compared to say Great Britain(8%). Germany has the 3rd highest percentage of anti-semitic attitudes in Europe(no 1 Greece and no 2 France) I live in Germany and I know in some areas, the police advise men not to wear a kippah publicly, better a baseball cap.

  • bea green JP BA

    Hitler is dead. His generation is dead. Their grandchildren bear the guilt for the atrocities that their forebears committed. I know. I was born in Munich and left on the Kindertransport just before the war.
    I have been back and found people apologising – people who were not even born then.
    There is more antisemitism here in the UK than I have encountered on my visits to Munich.
    I wonder if my grandchildren will emigrate to Germany!

  • Talk is cheap. The Germans were the first to send a top minister to Iran after the recent agreement was signed.

  • Raymond Rakower

    My father attended the international Maccabi games in Tel Aviv, Palestine under British mandate, in 1920!. He died in Auschwitz in 1942. He would have fully agreed that whatever happened during WWII should belong to the past: Many Germans have much suffered from the memory of the Holocaust, the German governments (with the German taxpayers’ money) have continuously supported the State of Israel in many ways, financial, diplomatic, patrol boats and hydrogen-driven submarines.
    My father would have fully agreed to show the German people with this Maccabi Games in Berlin that Germany is and stays nowadays one of the very few allies of the Jewish people and of the State of Israel.

  • Yussi

    He should be. Surpised and yes they don’t deserve to host the games.what is wrong with this world of today.? Why give them the benefits of having the games there of all places..

  • It’s all very well.Two generations have passed since the end of the slaughter, and for many it is ancient history. As for me, I neither want nor can forgive the unforgivable, or forget the unforgettable. Mr. Mass is quite right. Germany does not deserve the rehabilitation that comes with holding the Games in Berlin

  • I thought this gesture was a very generous gift of forgiveness toward the German government and is to be commended. It allows Ha Shem to further deal with those who have been against the apple of His eye. I hope the gratitude expressed was genuine on the part of the Germans.