BERLIN (AP) — Israel’s president addressed Germany’s parliament on Tuesday about atrocities committed during the Third Reich, while at the same time praising the close and friendly relations that have emerged between the two countries since the end of the Holocaust.
Six million European Jews were murdered by Germany’s Nazis and their henchmen during World War II.
“Never in human history was there a campaign like the one the Nazis and their accomplices conducted to annihilate the Jewish people,” Israeli President Isaac Herzog told lawmakers at the Bundestag.
“Never in history was a state responsible, as Nazi Germany was responsible, for the loss of all semblance of humanity, for the erasure of all mercy, for the pursuit of the worldwide obliteration, with such awful cruelty, of an entire people.”
Herzog also spoke about his father, former Israeli President Chaim Herzog, who was among the liberators of the concentration camp of Bergen-Belsen in northern Germany in April 1945, as an officer of the British forces.
“I shall never forget how he described to me the horrors he witnessed. The stench. The human skeletons in striped pajamas, the piles of corpses, the destruction, the hell on earth,” the Israeli president told German lawmakers.
After his speech, Herzog and Steinmeier, accompanied by their wives, went to Berlin’s Memorial to the Murdered Jews — a field of 2,700 gray concrete slabs near the the city’s landmark Brandenburg Gate — where they laid two wreaths for the victims of the Holocaust.
On Tuesday afternoon, the two presidents are set to visit the site of the former concentration camp. After a tour of the memorial site, they are expected to meet with survivors and German high school students.
The Israeli president arrived for a state visit to Germany earlier this week that also included a trip to Munich on Monday where he participated in the 50-year anniversary ceremony for the 11 Israeli athletes murdered by Palestinian militants at the 1972 Olympic Games.
Looking forward, Herzog praised close relations between the two countries and their joint commitment to fight antisemitism.
“The partnership between Israel and Germany has achieved global renown, and we must continue deepening and cultivating it, for the benefit of a brilliant future not only for our countries but for the whole of humanity,” he said in parliament.
Tia Goldberg contributed to this report from Jerusalem.