Jerusalem museum devoted to the Holocaust's horrors was a place of "deep shame for all Germans", but Israel expressed concern that Europe had not learned from its recent history.
Fischer, who was among about 40 world leaders attending the two-day opening ceremonies of the $56 million museum, said he was ashamed that his country "will remain forever linked" to the Nazi genocide of six million Jews during World War Two.
However in a statement obtained by BosNewsLife News Center, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon expressed concern "over the increase of anti-Semitism" across Europe where he said "there is great importance in education and legislation on the matter."
It came as news emerged that in Hungary, a former ally of Nazi Germany, Swastikas were painted on statues and memorial tablets in Debrecen, the country's second largest city, in the latest in a series of anti Jewish incidents here and elsewhere in Europe.
"Debrecen was exposed to an unprecedented provocation," Hungarian News Agency MTI quoted Mayor Lajos Kosa as saying. He said swastikas "had even been painted" on the wall of the city's famous Calvinist College during the national holiday of March 15, the 157th anniversary of the outbreak of the Hungarian 1848-49 revolution and freedom fight.
Hungary has Eastern Europe's largest Jewish community outside Russia, although an estimated 600,000 Hungarian Jews perished in the Holocaust. Israel hopes its museum will better equip Europeans and others to understand and fight anti Semitism as it tells the story of the Holocaust from the victims’ viewpoint through personal testimonies and artifacts.
The new museum, which took a decade to make, is reportedly four times larger than the old one, and is housed in a new building of architectural concrete that cuts through the Mount of Remembrance on which the Yad Vashem complex rests.
It contains 90 personal accounts and displays 2,500 authentic items, testimonies, films, art works and music. The idea of collecting survivors' stories to narrate the history of the Holocaust came when an elderly survivor brought Museum Curator Yehudit Inbar crumbling spectacles her mother had given her on arrival at concentration camp Auschwitz shortly
before she was sent to the gas chambers.
"It didn't happen in another world, in a different reality," said Inbar in an interview with Reuters news agency. "The sky was blue and the grass was green at Auschwitz." The museum's philosophy is encapsulated by its Hall of Names, designed by award-winning architect Moshe Safdie, in which photographs and names of three million of the estimated six million Jews killed in the Holocaust surround a watery abyss.
"There are 6 million souls, 6 million names, 12 million hands. No visitor to the museum will fail to feel a personal link and a personal loss," United Press International (UPI) quoted a Yediot Aharonot newspaper editorial as saying.
Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski suggested the museum had given him a new impulse to try to preserve the memory of the Polish Jewish community that was nearly obliterated by the Nazis. "I see it as a continuation of the ceremonies that were held a few weeks ago, including those at [Poland's] Auschwitz-Birkenau [concentration camp], and I think that it is our obligation to coming generations and to the peoples of the world to teach what we know about the Holocaust," he said in a statement send to BosNewsLife News Center.
"[We] tell the whole world: Never again," he added. "While it is true that we have very bitter memories of Poland, from the actions of the Nazis and those who collaborated with them, in recent years, bilateral relations have progressively strengthened, and I hope that the current visit will contribute to their further enhancement," Sharon noted.
French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin promised his government would fight anti-Semitism. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg urged all "as citizens of the world, to never forget." Prime Minister Sharon suggested it was important that Israel was able to exist in peace and urged the European Union to step up the fight against terrorism.
The Israeli government also decided to withdraw all its forces from the West Bank town of Jericho and transfer control of the town to the Palestinian Authority Wednesday, March 16, a move it hopes till encourage a new round of peace talks.
(With BosNewsLife News Center, reports from Israel and Hungary).