East German Holocaust Apology Welcomed, But Some Say Shame Can't Be Erased With PM-East
Apr. 12, 1990
East German Holocaust Apology Welcomed, But Some Say Shame Can't Be Erased With PM-East Germany, Bjt
JERUSALEM (AP) _ Israel today welcomed East Germany's apology for the atrocities of the Nazi Holocaust, but one official said the shame of Germany for the murder of 6 million Jews could never be erased.
The declaration today by East Germany's first freely elected Parliament marked the first time the country formally accepted responsibility for Nazi crimes against Jews and said it was prepared to pay reparations to victims.
Israeli officials said the declaration could ease the way toward establishing ties between the two countries.
Yossi Ahimeir, a spokesman for Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, said that ''at first glance, it looks like a positive announcement.''
Asked to decribe the view of the Polish-born Shamir, who lost most of his family in the Holocaust, Ahimeir said: ''The prime minister knows to put a line between the past and the future, even though the memories are very strong at the bottom of his heart.''
But Parliament Speaker Dov Shilansky, a survivor of the Dachau concentration camp, said he would never grant forgiveness for the killing of 6 million Jews during World War II.
''I, who have been there and have seen with my own eyes what happened there, say that even in a thousand years, the shame of Germany will not be erased,'' Shilansky told The Associated Press.
East Germany's hard-line Communist rulers, whose 40-year-rule was ended last fall in a popular revolt, refused to accept responsibility for the Holocaust, arguing that they themselves were persecuted by the Nazis.
West Germany apologized many years ago for Nazi atrocities and has paid hundreds of millions of dollars in reparations to Jewish victims.
In today's declaration, the East German Parliament said: ''In the name of the people of East Germany, we accept responsibility for the humiliation, expulsion and murder of Jewish women, men and children. We feel sorrow and shame and face up to this burden of German history.''
''Jews in all the world and the people of Israel are asked to forgive us for the wrongs they experienced. Persecuted Jews should be granted asylum in the future in East Germany,'' it said.
Parliament also suggested East Germany was willing to pay reparations, saying it would ''do everything in its power to contribute to the healing of emotional and physical suffering of the survivors, and to fight for a just compensation for material losses.''
The declaration was welcomed by Michael Shilo, a Foreign Ministry official who headed an Israeli delegation that earlier this year held two rounds of preliminary talks with East Germany's Communist-led transition government on establishing diplomatic ties.
''It's a very positive text. It may be overdue, but it is nonetheless welcome,'' Shilo told the AP after being read the full text in German.
Shilo said the declaration appeared to meet Israel's two conditions for establishing ties - East Germany's acceptance of moral responsibility for the Holocaust and its willingness to negotiate reparations.
''It paves the way for further dialogue,'' Shilo said.