Controversy over anti-Israel Kristallnacht speaker

The choice of a writer seen to be disproportionately critical of Israel as the speaker at a Kristallnacht memorial ceremony has been described as “unnecessary”.

German-French academic Alfred Grosser was invited by Frankfurt Mayor Petra Roth to speak at an event on Tuesday evening marking 72 years since the pogrom.

Members of the German Jewish community had warned that they might walk out of the talk in protest at his invitation but did not do so.

During his speech at the annual service in Frankfurt’s St Paul's Church, Mr Grosser called for "sympathy in understanding the suffering in the Gaza Strip."

Mr Grosser, who was born into a Jewish family in Frankfurt in 1925 but escaped to France at the age of eight, has previously drawn a comparison between the behaviour of the Nazis and Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians.

He wrote a book called “From Auschwitz to Jerusalem” and has repeatedly said that Germany should be more critical of Israel.

Last year he said: “When the Israelis want something from the Germans, they like to remind them of Auschwitz."

Emmanuel Nahshon, the deputy chief of mission for Germany’s Israeli Embassy told the Jerusalem Post that arranging for the academic to speak at the event cast an “unfortunate and unnecessary shadow”.

He said: “[Grosser’s] extreme opinions are tainted by self-hatred.”

Elan Steinberg, from the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants, condemned the choice of speaker.

He said: “It is as a mark of disrespect that mocks our suffering.”

On November 9 and 19 1938 a wave of Nazi directed anti-Jewish violence swept through Germany. Synagogues and Torah scrolls were burned and Jewish homes and businesses smashed. More than 90 Jews were killed in the pogrom.

Last updated: 5:29pm, November 10 2010