Rivlin attended a memorial ceremony on Platform 17 in Berlin, from which tens of thousands of Jews were sent to death and concentration camps during the Holocaust.
"Seventy years have passed since the last transport left Platform 17; yet once again, fascist and neo-Nazi movements are growing stronger and stronger on European soil. Apathy, indifference, or denial is not the answer," Rivlin said.
"The German people did not wake up one morning, to the swastikas of the Third Reich. Anti-Semitism, racism, xenophobia, and frustration grew like a cancer under the surface for many years. This poisoned soil was the foundation, on which the Nazi monster acted unchallenged," the president continued.
"We must remember, democracy alone does not make us immune to nationalism and fascism. No nation is immune to anti-Semitism. No nation is immune to extremism or fundamentalism. Here, on Platform 17, we must commit, to look hatred in the eye," Rivlin said.
The president laid a wreath at the foot of the memorial and kindled the memorial flame.
Also participating in the ceremony was Israel’s Ambassador to Germany, Yakov Hadas-Handelsman, as well as Rabbis, leaders, and members of the Berlin Jewish community.
Earlier in the day, Rivlin was treated to a somewhat an unusual welcome to the presidential palace: German high school students from a Muslim background were invited to take part in the official reception, along with Jewish students and the children of Israeli diplomats. The young people were all holding Israeli and German flags.
The students exchanged a few words with Rivlin and German President Joachim Gauck, and their wives.
Rivlin's state visit is due to last three days, and on Tuesday will he attend the official ceremony to mark the five decades of ties.
Speaking after an hour-long private discussion with his counterpart, Rivlin paid tribute to the strong bilateral ties.
"This is a close relationship, which we can appreciate without reference to the difficult past we share," Rivlin said.
"In light of this difficult past, I think this relationship is even rarer and more special. It is based on shared values of democracy, freedom of expression and equal rights. It's important to state the close and warm connection between the people of Israel and Germany and between the two governments does not constitute, in any form, compensation for the Holocaust."
Turning to the issue of rising anti-Semitism in Europe, Rivlin said: "Today, we look at the world around us, and we see again, with great concern, the rise of anti-Semitism, and racism on the streets across the world. It is our duty together, as Israelis, as Germans, as democracies, as part of humanity, to stand up to these terrible evils."
Gauck echoed Rivlin's comments on the close relations between the two countries, despite some difference in opinion regarding the political situation in the Middle East.
"We are connected, not only by the horrendous crimes of the past, but by the values in which we both believe. The ties between our countries, do not solely find expression in the close friendship between our governments, but in the many citizens involved in cooperation and partnership projects," Gauck said.
"Our strong connections exist not only between our governments but also between our civil societies, artists, and journalists," he added.
"I welcome the fact that so many Israelis not only come to visit Berlin, but also choose to live in the city that symbolizes that Germany is open to all."
As he set out from Israel, Rivlin said the trip was "deeply significant and emotional." He added: "I depart on my journey both filled with emotion and with hope for the future."
After his talks with Gauck, Rivlin received a guard of honor at the palace.