German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier toured the Museum of Tolerance Monday and became the first German official to read Hitler’s signed letter from 1919 in which he calls for the “removal of Jews from society.”
“The tragedy is that 22, approximately 22 years later, he (Hitler) implements what he wrote in this letter,” said Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder and dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. “And this letter, the significance of the letter, of course, is this pre-dates `Mein Kampf.”’
Steinmeier also viewed a 1933 letter from Albert Einstein, written just after he was declared an “enemy of the state” by the Nazis.
In the letter, Einstein writes, “Without an atmosphere of freedom and tolerance, none of us can imagine a life which would be worth living.”
Steinmeier also joined Hier and Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the center’s associate dean and director of global social action, for a guided tour of the museum, followed by a closed-door meeting with eight Jewish leaders, including a Holocaust survivor.
The Museum of Tolerance is a human rights laboratory and educational center dedicated to challenging visitors to understand the Holocaust in both historic and contemporary contexts and confront all forms of prejudice and discrimination.
The Westside-based Simon Wiesenthal Center is an international Jewish human rights organization that combats hate and anti-Semitism around the world.
Steinmeier on Monday also toured Los Angeles Trade Technical College’s Advanced Transportation Training Institute with Mayor Eric Garcetti. He is scheduled to deliver opening remarks Tuesday at “The Struggle for Democracy” conference at The Getty Center.
The German president is the nation’s head of state, while the chancellor, currently Angela Merkel, is the head of government. The president’s right to intervene in politics is strictly limited under German law. He or she generally does not comment on issues. Since the founding of the Federal Republic of Germany in 1949, all presidents have suspended their party memberships while in office.
Steinmeier, 62, was Germany’s minister of foreign affairs from 2005-2009 and 2013-17 and vice chancellor from 2007-09. He was the Social Democratic Party’s candidate for chancellor in 2009, but his party lost the election to Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union.
Steinmeier was elected as president on Feb. 12, 2017, by members of the Federal Convention, which consists of all members of Germany’s parliament, the Bundestag, and electors chosen by the nation’s 16 state parliaments.