German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Sunday expressed “pain, sadness and shame” following a visit to Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial on the second day of his Israel trip.
“We Germans have burdened ourselves with unfathomable guilt,” he wrote in the guestbook of the memorial remembering the 6 million Jews murdered in the Holocaust.
“As part of taking responsibility for what happened, we stand firmly alongside Israel and are working together for our common future.”
Steinmeier had visited the graves of former president Shimon Peres and former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, assassinated in 1995, at the nearby Mount Herzl national cemetery before visiting Yad Vashem.
He had officially kicked off his second day in Israel by meeting Israeli author David Grossman, a harsh critic of the government’s settlement policies in the occupied Palestinian Territories.
Grossman, a noted peace activist, lost his 20-year-old son Uri when he fought as a soldier in Israel’s second war with Lebanon in 2006.
Steinmeier is scheduled to meet Amos Oz, another well-known Israeli writer critical of the Israeli government’s policies, on Monday.
The German president’s four-day visit to Israel comes amid strained relations between the two countries after a German minister met with two human rights groups seen as critical of the Israeli government.
Less than two weeks ago, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cancelled a meeting with German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel at the last minute after the German official refused to cancel his meeting with the Breaking the Silence and B’Tselem organizations.
B’Tselem has alleged human rights violations by Israelis against Palestinians and Breaking the Silence publishes critical soldiers’ testimonies of Israeli military practices against Palestinians.
Steinmeier is scheduled to meet Netanyahu on Sunday afternoon, followed by a speech planned at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
On Tuesday, he plans to visit Ramallah in the West Bank to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who last week was in Washington.(dpa/NAN)