Germany’s Habeck Signs Vashem Book with Work by Jewish Poet Celan

German Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck has signed the guest book of the Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem in Jerusalem with the poem “Near the Graves” by the Jewish poet Paul Celan.

He himself approached the “unimaginable” of the Holocaust through literature, the Green politician, who also serves as Germany’s minister for economic affairs and climate action, said on Tuesday during his visit to Israel.

Celan’s poem to his murdered mother ends with the words: “And do you, mother, as once, oh, at home, tolerate the soft, the German, the painful rhyme?”

Habeck, who studied literature and worked as a writer before entering politics, said that his preoccupation with Celan had left a strong mark on him.

The minister recalled that Celan (1920-70) was born under the name Paul Antschel in what is now Ukraine. He would later adopt the pseudonym Celan.

His early poems came from the time when his parents were arrested by the Nazis and his mother was murdered in a camp.

Habeck said he had written “Near the Graves” in the guest book because for him it created a connection to the present and at the same time “puts in a nutshell the difficulty that Germans in particular, a German politician, have with the history of his country here in Yad Vashem”.

Yad Vashem commemorates the 6 million Jews who were murdered by the Nazis.

Habeck’s programme until Thursday also includes visits to the Palestinian Territories and Jordan.

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