Tears ran down my cheeks. Hot and angry tears. It felt as if their trail was burning my skin. I remember well, when I had to break the news to you that I would be leaving the U.S. and returning to Germany. Our friendship was one of the most precious gifts I had been gifted with during our time in New York. Under your leadership we fed the hungry through the pantry of your synagogue and stilled the hunger of those, who had been hit hardest during the economic effects of the pandemic. It was on this day, that I promised to you that within my next call I would commit myself to fight Antisemitism and racism. I would infuse this commitment into the German Federal Police through education. Only a few months later, I started teaching young Police Cadets infusing the strong sense of commitment for Human rights, dignity and our German constitution, which was born as a democratic law out of the pain and death of millions.
Two years later, as I listened to the words of Dr. Borys Zabarko, my hand discreetly stroke my cheek down the same path the tears had taken over two years ago reminding me of the promise I had made to you. The auditorium was filled with 250 members of the German Federal Police. As Dr. Zabarko spoke about his experiences during the Holocaust, you could’ve heard a needle, if it would’ve dropped.
Dr. Zabarko had escaped the ghetto of Sharhorod as a child. After the Second World War he studied at the Chernivtsi University, and commenced his PhD at the Institute for History at the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine in Kiev, where he received a PhD in 1971. He dedicated his whole career to combating Antisemitism and researching on the disaster of the Holocaust. The number of books he has written is impressive and he is at the forefront of research of the Holocaust in the Ukraine, gifting generations with his knowledge and commitment to combat this terrible heresy, which has cost millions of people their lives and has brought suffering over generations.
It was a twist of historical irony that he as a Ukrainian Jew was standing in front of a German audience, speaking about the horrible things which had happened through Nazi-Germany and its executive authorities. Now he had to flee his own country finding refuge where the perpetrators and terrible deadly heresy of Antisemitism had once installed a brutal system of death and catastrophe.
As he talked about the deadly role the police during the Nazi dictatorship had played, I held my breath and tried to swallow away the tears – the same hot tears of grief I had felt back then when I broke the news to you. Dr. Zabarko spoke about the massacre of Babyn Yar as the site of the largest massacre carried out by Nazi Germany’s forces during its campaign against the Soviet Union in World War II. It took place 29–30 September 1941, killing some 33,771 Jews in an industrial manner. He spoke about how the massacre was commenced with a mass ditch, in which line by line the victims fell through the hand of Sonderkommando 4a of Einsatzgruppe C, consisting of SD (Sicherheitsdienst) and SiPo (Sicherheitspolizei) men, the third company of the Special Duties Waffen-SS battalion, and a platoon of the No. 9 police battalion. As you can guess, a large number of these men had been police officers. While I glanced over the large number of listening police members and looked at the dark blue of my own police uniform, it felt as though not only the skin of my cheeks was set on fire. An important fire I hope others in the audience felt as well.
I am utmost blessed that the Leading Police Director understands my vision and calling. We share the same goal as we try to strengthen our democracy, standing up for human rights and combating Antisemitism, racism and any kind of exclusion through education and leading by example. There are so many obstacles in our way as we try to infuse these goals into the educational system of executive authority. Sometimes I am at the brink of giving up and the sacrifice of being ripped away from the comfort of our friendship seems to high of a cost as loneliness sometimes clouds my soul – but the shared goal of education within the German Federal Police and the promise I once made to you keep me going.
And I must admit: this remarkable day with Dr. Zabarko was in my eyes a living expression of the vision we are pursuing. It even found its outward expression as he signed the Golden Book of the City of Bamberg while Holocaust survivors, civil servants, politicians, and police officers were present.
I wish, you could’ve been here and experienced it first hand. I am delivering my promise to you bit by bit – with every new cadet being committed to combat Antisemitism, racism and other forms of hate. May it be a consolation across the miles as we are far apart, but united in heart and mind.