Faith leaders from across the world gathered in Berlin last week at a symposium to mark the 80th anniversary of the Wannsee Conference.
In response to a plea from the Jewish community in Europe, the multi-faith attendees signed a declaration which stated that “the criminalization of circumcision and kosher slaughter must be resisted, as they are central to Jewish religious practice and are protected by the right to freedom of religion and belief, as enshrined in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”
Under the title “Fight Anti-Semitism, Protect Jewish Life,” the declaration noted that “the Holocaust did not start with the Wannsee conference but with a long series of laws and edicts which were passed to isolate, discredit and delegitimize Jewish culture and religion.”
Among the multi-faith signatories of the statement are the Secretary-General of the World Evangelical Alliance, Dr. Thomas Schirrmacher; the Chair of the Pentecostal Religious Liberty Commission, Dr. Arto Hämäläinen; the National Commissioner against Anti-Semitism at the Evangelical-Protestant Church (EKD) in Germany, Dr. Christian Staffa.
The one-day symposium explored how the Christian tradition, up to this very day, has always struggled and is still struggling to relate to Jewish faith with respect and dignity.
“Eighty years after the Wannsee conference, more and more Jews are asking themselves if there is still a future in Europe,” said Gady Gronich, CEO of the Conference of European Rabbis Foundation. “The challenges facing the Jewish communities today are not only old forms of anti-Semitism, but new legislation which is restricting Jewish practice of religious freedom. Without circumcision and kosher slaughter there can be no religious Jewish life in Europe.”
The Wannsee Conference was a meeting of senior members of the Nazi German government who gathered in a Berlin suburb to plan and coordinate the implementation of the Final Solution to the Jewish Question – the extermination of all the Jews in Europe.
“Among the 15 delegates at the Wannsee conference, eight held academic doctoral degrees, and many were members of the Protestant or the Catholic Church,” noted conference organizer Tomas Sandell of the European Coalition for Israel. “Neither good education nor religious faith makes anyone immune against anti-Semitism.”
Professor Katharina von Kellenbach, from the Evangelical Academy in Berlin, presented concrete examples from the German school textbooks of today, which still misrepresent Jewish life and culture to the point of recycling old Jewish stereotypes.
In a recorded message, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, decried what he called the "profound evil of anti-Semitism,” and urged Europeans to “constantly be vigilant against the first signs of an eruption coming. We can never ever tolerate any anti-Semitism. There is no acceptable level of anti-Semitism.”
Tal Heinrich is a senior correspondent for both ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS. She is currently based in New York City. Tal also provides reports and analysis for Israeli Hebrew media Channel 14 News.