fFor the small step, Walter Bingham needs support. An attendant shakes hands with the 98-year-old, who pushes himself up and takes the stage in front of the wall surrounding Jerusalem’s Old City, a few meters north of Jaffa Gate. Here he speaks on the occasion of the commemoration of the Night of Broken Glass in November 1938, in which 1,600 synagogues and Jewish prayer rooms were set on fire, Jewish shops were destroyed and thousands of people were hunted down and deported.
“It’s a dream to stand here,” says Walter Bingham in front of the wall against which a projector projects images of Holocaust survivors. And it’s also a small miracle. Walter Bingham was born in Karlsruhe in 1924 into a devout Jewish family. When he was six years old, he started school and was “treated like any other child for three years” – then the National Socialists came to power. After witnessing the pogrom night in 1938, 14-year-old Walter was rescued to Great Britain on a Kindertransport.
As a young man he fought in the British Army against the German occupiers in Normandy and was awarded a medal for bravery. After the victory, Bingham, whose mother tongue is German, interrogated National Socialist officials such as their Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop for the British. He had the nerve to claim that he knew nothing about the Holocaust. After his trial in Nuremberg, Ribbentrop was the first to be sentenced to death by hanging.
Bingham worked as a journalist after serving in the army. And he is to this day. Last year he received an entry in the Guinness Book of Records as the oldest working journalist in the world. He wrote down his speech that evening on November 9th in Jerusalem “as a reminder”. But the words come out clear from his mouth. His message: Jews and synagogues all over the world are still victims of anti-Semitism. They therefore need a safe place like Israel. And allies in all religious communities and countries who don’t look the other way. He is therefore part of the “Let there be light” campaign, which opposes hatred of Jews.
18 years ago, Bingham decided to make aliyah – he immigrated to Israel. “It was the most important decision of my life,” he says. He now lives and works in Jerusalem, writes for the Jerusalem Post and hosts a radio show. He also had a cameo role as a wizard in the first two Harry Potter films. “And that’s the least interesting thing about him,” said one attendee at the Jaffa Gate memorial.
Bingham has many fans: young men want to take a picture with him, after the speech and the presentation of an award for his commitment, visitors flock to him and want to shake his hand. They are obviously proud that someone like Bingham is among them, singing the Israeli national anthem and reciting the Jewish creed with emotion at the end of his speech.