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Envoys warn of rising antisemitism at Taipei Holocaust Remembrance event

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Israel's representative to Taiwan Maya Yaron (second right), Knesset member Boaz Toporovsky (right) and German Institute Taipei Director General Jörg Polster (left) are joined by President Tsai Ing-wen (third left), Taiwan Foundation for Democracy Chairma

Taipei, April 17 (CNA) Israel and Germany's top representatives to Taiwan on Wednesday warned of rising antisemitism around the globe as both countries remembered victims and survivors of the Holocaust during an annual memorial event in Taipei attended by President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文).

Speaking during her address at the event held at the Taipei Guest House, Israel's representative to Taiwan Maya Yaron said the memorial was held at "a time of great sorrow and tension, when antisemitism and violence are evident in so many places in our world."

According to Yaron, 2023 marked the year with the highest number of antisemitic incidents around the world for many years, not only on social media platforms but also in terms of direct physical assaults.

She mentioned the terrorist attack by Hamas on Israel on Oct. 7, 2023, which killed more than 1,200 Israelis, with 139 still held as hostages as of Wednesday.

"The atrocities of Oct. 7 brought back the darkest memories that my own grandparents -- similar to all of Israel's grandparents -- experienced during the Holocaust," she said at the 2024 International Holocaust Remembrance Day event.

According to the envoy, International Holocaust Remembrance Day reminds people of commitment to promote respect, understanding, tolerance and knowledge.

"It is in our hands to build bridges and not deepen divisions," she added.

German representative to Taiwan Jörg Polster said the Holocaust is a "horror without comparison in its atrocity and brutality."

"On the basis of a racist and antisemitic ideology, 6 million Jewish people perished by the hands of Nazi Germany."

It is important that mankind always honor the victims and to make sure nobody forgets what happened back then, he said.

"We have to keep the memory alive to what happened then in order to make sure that we make the right choice today and in future."

Polster also warned that Germany has witnessed "polarization leading to especially accentuated if not extreme opinions" over the past years.

"As one of the consequences, almost 80 years after the end of World War II, antisemitism is on the rise again," he said.

Despite the alarming development, the envoy said there is still hope as governments and civil society have jointly demonstrated that they are against extremism.

"The message, loud and clear, is 'never again.' And nobody in his right mind could possibly think otherwise," he said.

Attending the annual event for the last time in her capacity as president, outgoing President Tsai said each year people come together for the memorial event "to remember those who perished in the Holocaust, as well as those who endured unimaginable suffering because of this tragedy."

"We must pledge to never forget the spirit and history while human dignity is cast aside for political ideology," Tsai said.

The president added that the fight against "discrimination and bigotry" needs to continue.

"We must also be reminded that there are still countless people who continue to suffer authoritarianism and dictatorship just because they are of different ethnic origin, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or political ideology," she added.

Tsai also said her administration over the past eight years has made an effort to promote transitional justice with the examples of Israel and Germany in mind.

Wednesday's International Holocaust Remembrance Day event was co-hosted by the Israel Economic and Cultural Office in Taipei and the German Institute of Taipei together with the government-funded Taiwan Foundation for Democracy to raise public awareness of the Holocaust.

Taiwan has since 2016 observed International Holocaust Remembrance Day, designated by the United Nations in 2005, to remember the victims of the genocide committed by Nazi Germany between 1941 and 1945.

The U.N. chose Jan. 27 as the remembrance date, as that was when the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland was liberated by the Russian army in 1945.

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