German President Christian Wulff said he shared his nation’s “shock and indignation” at recent revelations of a far-right-wing murder wave aimed at immigrants in his country.
Wulff said in a speech Tuesday while accepting the German Jewish community’s top annual award that he would organize a memorial ceremony for the victims.
“We cannot stand silent in the face of the bereaved,” he said in accepting the Leo Baeck Prize from the Central Council of Jews in Germany at a gala dinner at the Jewish Museum Berlin.
Wulff, 52, also said that Israeli and Palestinian leaders should both have “the courage to make difficult and unpopular decisions, including the subject of settlements. There is no time to lose” in the quest to establish two states, he said.
As the 53rd recipient of the Baeck award, named for a leader of Germany’s liberal movement, Wulff was honored for his “genuine empathy and deep solidarity” with the Jewish community in Germany and with Israel, said Dieter Graumann, president of the Central Council. Wulff was appointed president in June 2010.
Graumann called Wulff “a man of clear words and unequivocal signals.” Among Wulff’s first official acts was to attend the dedication of a new synagogue in Mainz and to visit Israel, where he took his teenage daughter to the Yad Vashem memorial, “making a clear statement about the continuity of responsibility and the future of all people in Germany,” Graumann said.
Graumann, 61, who traveled with Wulff last January to ceremonies marking the 66th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp in Poland, said Wulff was “moved and moving” as the first German president to speak at the annual commemoration.
Wulff in accepting the prize spoke of “a renaissance of Jewish life in Germany that brings new challenges,” and applauded the Central Council for its role in representing Jewish communities from the religious to the secular.
The Central Council represents the 105,000 official members of Jewish congregations in Germany. It is estimated that another 120,000 people of Jewish background are not affiliated.
The German presidency is a symbolic office whose holder is considered to represent the country’s moral conscience.