German Chancellor Angela Merkel has urged Europeans to confront populism, nationalism, racism, and anti-Semitism as she paid tribute to the Nazi resistance in her own country.
Speaking on Saturday (July 20) at a solemn ceremony marking the anniversary of the failed attempt to kill Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler, Merkel said that the courage and sacrifice of the conspirator should serve as an example to people today.
“They put humanity over their own human lives,” she told the crowd at the site where plot leader Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg and others were executed. Von Stauffenberg tried to kill Hitler with a briefcase bomb on July 20, 1944, during a meeting at his headquarters in what was then East Prussia.
Hitler escaped the full force of the blast when someone moved the briefcase next to a table leg, deflecting much of the explosive force. The plot crumbled when news spread that Hitler had survived. Von Stauffenberg and his fellow plotters were executed within hours.
Merkel took the occasion to pay tribute to all who stood up against the Nazis in different ways, including people who hid Jews to save them from the death camps, the Jews who rose up in the Warsaw Ghetto to attack their Nazi captors in 1943, the Polish fighters of the 1944 Warsaw Uprising, and other partisans who fought against the German occupiers and others.
“Von Stauffenberg is a symbol of the resistance, but his story is not the only story of the resistance,” she said. Amid evidence of rising anti-Semitism and racism in Germany, Merkel said that people need to draw inspiration from the civil courage shown by those who resisted the Nazis and made their voices heard.
“Instead of looking away or being silent, we need to be engaged,” she said. On a wider scale, she said that Europeans need to speak out and act against nationalism and populism.
“We need to think multilaterally, not unilaterally; global, not national; open not isolationist; together, not alone,” she said to applause. “Those are the tasks of today.”