‘We’re Open to Antisemites,’ Israel’s National Holocaust Memorial Acknowledges After Visit of Far Right German MPs
by Ben Cohen
Yad Vashem, Israel’s national memorial to the Holocaust, acknowledged the visit of two far right German parliamentarians on Tuesday, saying that its exhibits were “open to all, including antisemites.”
The two MPs, Matthias Moosdorf and Marc Jongen, are representatives of the far right “Alternative for Germany” (AfD) in the country’s federal parliament, the Bundestag. According to a spokesperson for Yad Vashem, their visit to the memorial in Jerusalem was classified as “private,” German media outlets reported.
The Israeli government’s official position is to shun any contact with the AfD, an anti-immigrant, anti-EU party founded in 2013 whose leaders have frequently courted controversy by demeaning or playing down the Nazi Holocaust. The AfD currently occupies 81 of the Bundestag’s 736 seats.
Writing on Twitter, Yad Vashem’s chairman, Dani Dayan, stopped short of welcoming the visit without condemning it outright.
“Yad Vashem is open to all, especially to those in need of intensive Holocaust education,” Dayan stated. “The AfD and its members have still a long way to go in understanding the Holocaust and addressing German responsibility of this past.”
When other Twitter users responded by citing quotes from AfD officials denigrating the Holocaust, Dayan answered: “I can add many more quotes from AfD members. That’s the reason Yad Vashem does not have any contact with the party and its members. No YV execs met them. We rejected the German embassy request to lay a wreath. But we are open to all, including antisemites. That’s all.”
Among the Holocaust-related controversies involving the AfD was a 2017 speech by its leader in the eastern state of Thuringia, Bjoern Hoecke, who denounced the Holocaust memorial in Berlin by saying that “Germans are the only people in the world who have planted a monument of shame in the heart of their capital.” AfD members rejected a proposal to expel Hoecke from the party’s ranks in May 2018.
The former leader of the AfD’s parliamentary grouping, Alexander Gauland, has also expressed similar sentiments. In a June 2018 speech, Gauland dismissed the Nazi dictatorship as “bird shit in over 1,000 years of successful German history.” In 2020, Gauland pushed back against a proposal to create a national holiday on May 8, the date of the Allied victory over the Nazis, arguing that “[Y]ou can’t make May 8 a happy day for Germany. For the concentration camp inmates it was a day of liberation. But it was also a day of absolute defeat, a day of the loss of large parts of Germany and the loss of national autonomy.”