An emotional Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, angrily told the German parliament on Thursday that the post-Holocaust pledge of “never again” means nothing in light of the West’s inaction in the face of Russia’s invasion of his country.
“’Never again’ was the slogan,” Zelenskyy, who is Jewish, said in his scathing remarks via video link from Kyiv. “But now it seems like it doesn’t mean anything anymore. A people is being destroyed in Europe”, and the West remains inactive.
The clearly exhausted president, appearing in his now iconic khaki t-shirt, accused Germany of ignoring Western values over the years so it could continue to do business with Russia. In the process, he became increasingly dependent on Russian oil and gas – a dependency that provided Russian President Vladimir Putin with funds to wage war, he explained.
“We kept telling you that the Nord Stream [gas pipelines] was a weapon, a preparation for a great war. But “the economy, the economy” has always been the priority with Germany, he said.
All of Europe, not just Ukraine, is in danger, he warned, evoking memories of Adolf Hitler’s march across Europe. “Help us stop the war,” he pleaded.
Zelenskyy also called on Germany to help tear down a new “wall” Russia was erecting in Europe.
It is “no longer a Berlin Wall – but rather a wall running through Europe between freedom and slavery, and this wall will grow stronger and stronger…higher and higher with each bomb” dropped on Ukraine, Zelenskyy told members of the Bundestag.
He urged German Chancellor Olaf Scholz to “tear down this wall”, echoing a 1987 speech by former US President Ronald Reagan in Berlin before the symbolic and physical barrier came down.
Parliament gave Zelenskyy a standing ovation before his speech and repeated it at the end, despite his harsh message.
Scholz in a tweet thanked him for his “energetic words”.