Anita Lasker-Wallfisch is one of the last living members of the women’s orchestra at the Auschwitz death camp in occupied Poland.
In an unwavering voice, she told the rapt chamber that the Bundestag lower house, including deputies of the rightwing Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, that hatred of Jews and Holocaust denial were staging a dangerous comeback.
“Anti-Semitism is a 2,000-year-old virus that is apparently incurable,” she said.
“Denying something that is part of Germany’s past is simply unacceptable.”
Lasker-Wallfisch called it a “scandal” that Jewish schools and even creches required round-the-clock police protection.
“Hatred is simply a poison and in the end you poison yourself.”
Lasker-Wallfisch was led into the chamber on the arm of German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier while Chancellor Angela Merkel helped her sister, Renate Lasker-Harpprecht, to her seat.
The AfD came in third in Germany’s general elections in September with nearly 13 percent of the vote, granting them more than 90 seats in the Bundestag.
Although it began as an anti-euro party, its rhetoric has veered right to primarily rail against immigration and Islam.
– Enslaved –
Key AfD members have challenged Germany’s culture of atonement over World War II and the slaughter of six million Jews in the Holocaust — the bedrock of its post-war identity.
In a 30-minute speech, Lasker-Wallfisch recounted her harrowing wartime experiences.
Born in 1925 into a Jewish family in what was then the German town of Breslau, today Wroclaw in Poland, Anita was sent to Auschwitz in 1943 while still a teenager. Her sister Renate was deported on a separate train.
Already an accomplished cellist, she was able to join the camp’s orchestra for women and girls — a fact she said likely saved her life.
The musicians were forced to play for slave labourers on their way to and from work each day, and for the SS guards.
When the Nazis evacuated Auschwitz to flee the encroaching Red Army in October 1944, Lasker-Wallfisch was sent to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp where she endured hunger and rampant disease.
After the war she testified in trials of top Nazis who worked at Bergen-Belsen before she resettled in Britain.
She only returned in the mid-1990s to Germany, where she now frequently speaks about her experiences during the Holocaust to school classes.