Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s speech at the opening of the Leipzig Book Fair was interrupted several times by demonstrators on Wednesday evening. During the speech, several activists scattered around the Gewandhaus shouted loudly but largely incomprehensibly into the SPD politician’s speech. According to several witnesses sitting closer, the shouters accused the Israeli government of genocide in the Gaza Strip. When a woman called in at the start of the speech, Scholz said: “Stop yelling, it’s over.”

“It is the power of words that brings us all together here in Leipzig, not the power of shouting,” said Scholz. When he was interrupted again by loud shouts from a spectator, the Chancellor said: “I believe that it is not right to confuse democracy with loud roaring.”

Later, another spectator shouted, apparently in protest against arms deliveries to Israel. He was booed by the audience. Large parts of the protest were drowned out by sustained applause from the audience.

After a few minutes he was able to continue his opening speech. Scholz came out as a bookworm. “All of us – and I include myself here – are united by a love of reading,” he said. “Whether as a child in the evening before going to sleep, as a young politician on the train between Hamburg and Bonn, or now, whenever time allows – books have accompanied me through my life for as long as I can remember.”

It is no more tied to a specific genre than the fair: science or society, adventure or crime, non-fiction or novel. “If you allow it, then behind the cover of the book there will be a surprise that we often miss on the Internet because algorithms there show us primarily what we think is good anyway, or should like.” If you allow it, you will find something interesting, exciting or touching everywhere. Anyone who reads allows perspectives other than their own and takes a personal interest in developments, says Scholz. With every chapter, with every new page, contradictions that seemed unbridgeable in everyday life could be overcome.

The Leipzig Book Fair – the most important German literary show after Frankfurt – runs from Thursday to Sunday. 2085 exhibitors from 40 countries present their books and new publications. After positive advance sales, an increase in visitor numbers is expected; 274,000 people came last year.

As guest countries this year, the Netherlands and Flanders are presenting themselves as a common language and cultural area under the motto “Everything but flat”. Around 100 events with 41 authors are planned.