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AMERICAN EDITION July 24, 2012 Dear Friends: With the summer vacation season upon us here in the U.S., in Germany it’s that plus a lot more. It seems as if everybody is “out to lunch” – lunch there is a 24 hour happening and it runs (usually) for 6 weeks. They get a lot of vacation – and they take it! One has to dig through their newspapers to find much that is really of note. Of course, the Euro may go “belly up” causing some absolutely devastating economic repercussions. I’m guessing here – but I think many Germans feel that if it’s going to happen, well, let’s hope it doesn’t mess up our summer vacation. If I was in a cool spa in the Alps somewhere I’d feel exactly the same way. When news is sparse, small matters look bigger. For instance, a Russian opera singer, Evgeny Nikitin happens to have a swastika tattooed on him somewhere and that caused him to opt out (or be pushed out) of the Wagner Opera Fest in Bayreuth. No one seems to know why he has a swastika (it’s one of many tattoos he has) but there it is and there he ain’t anymore, at least in Bayreuth. It made headlines Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, in his upcoming European & Middle East jaunt, had hoped to come to Berlin and meet Chancellor Merkel. It was reported (widely) that his advisors touted him off of it because they were afraid he couldn’t come close to the 200,000 person turnout that Barack Obama had in 2008. In addition, the Chancellor wasn’t available as she was to be in Bayreuth for the Fest. Tickets, even for a Chancellor, are as hard to come by as for Kentucky basketball games, and there are some things you don’t pass on. On a somewhat more serious matter, those politicos who have been contemplating the outlawing of the neo-Nazi NPD party are in trouble. It seems that someone in the Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz (You’ll have to read below to find out what that is) 1
shredded secret service files and now a lot of the evidence is gone. You can’t make these things up. Enough already! Let’s get on with the news (such as it is)… IN THIS EDITION APOCALYPSE SOON? NOT YET! – But maybe soon. The Euro like my NY Mets can’t seem to get its act together. GERMAN ARMY JEWS – Yes! There are some. OBERMAYER GERMAN JEWISH HISTORY AWARDS – Do you have a contestant? THE CIRCUMCISION WARS – A German court causes a worldwide problem. BUNDESAMT FÜR VERFASSUNGSSCHUTZ (BfV) - Keep reading. You’ll find out what it is below. GERMAN STUDENT FRATERNITIES – They should stick to beer and coeds. However, some seem “political”. ISRAEL & THE EU – Can something good be happening? APOCALYPSE SOON? NOT YET! In the last number of months there have been numerous discussions, meetings, planning events and God knows what else in order to try to save the Euro. Finally, at the end of June some sort of a complicated 12th hour temporary kind of agreement was reached with Chancellor Merkel backing down somewhat so that Italy and Spain could have a little more financial breathing room. The German Bundestag voted in favor of the agreement. If you follow such matters you have already read about it. If not, click here a Spiegel On-Line explanation. According to the article she did not come out so badly after all. http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/merkelconcessions-at-euro-crisis-summit-smarter-than-they-seem-a-841772.html Maybe the agreement will do the job in solving the Euro financial problems. I wouldn’t bet on it. There are such wide differences between the various European countries involved that it is very difficult to get anything to work long term. When you are dealing with such dissimilar cultures and national needs, you are dealing with, perhaps, irreconcilable differences. (See your local Divorce Court) What would happen if some of the European nations said “Bye Bye” to the common
currency? Would it really be such a disaster? About a month ago Der Spiegel (Spiegel On-Line) took a crack at what might happen if the impossible became possible. Read it and you’ll shiver. However, you should remember that, at least for the time being, the inevitable has been put off. What appears below was written before the latest agreement. Investment experts at Deutsche Bank now feel that a collapse of the common currency is "a very likely scenario." German companies are preparing themselves for the possibility that their business contacts in Madrid and Barcelona could soon be paying with pesetas again. And in Italy, former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is thinking of running a new election campaign, possibly this year, on a return-to-thelira platform. Nothing seems impossible anymore, not even a scenario in which all members of the currency zone dust off their old coins and bills -- bidding farewell to the euro, and instead welcoming back the guilder, deutsche mark and drachma. It would be a dream for nationalist politicians, and a nightmare for the economy. Everything that has grown together in two decades of euro history would have to be painstakingly torn apart. Millions of contracts, business relationships and partnerships would have to be reassessed, while thousands of companies would need protection from bankruptcy. All of Europe would plunge into a deep recession. Governments, which would be forced to borrow additional billions to meet their needs, would face the choice between two unattractive options: either to drastically increase taxes or to impose significant financial burdens on their citizens in the form of higher inflation. Until now, the defenders of the euro have been able to resort to the massive funds of the ECB, if necessary. If things got tight, the monetary watchdogs could inject new money into the market. But now even the ECB has largely exhausted its resources. It has already bought up so much of the sovereign debt of ailing countries that any additional shopping spree threatens to backfire, causing interest rates to explode instead of fall. It's also clear, says Hamburg economist Dirk Meyer, that the timetable for a euro exit in the affected countries would begin on a Monday, or "Day X." Over the weekend, the governments would have issued the surprising announcement that banks would remain closed on Monday. The bank holiday would be needed to include all savings and checking accounts in the operation. On Tuesday, the banks and savings banks would begin stamping their customers' bank notes with forgery-proof ink. Capital transactions would be monitored. Black market prices would quickly develop in what the scenario defines as an "unofficial, virtual currency market." Another bank holiday would be needed to convert accounts and balances to the new currency. But at least another year would pass before new
bank notes could be printed and distributed. The stamped euro banknotes would remain legal tender in the meantime. O.K.! That’s enough! I think you get the flavor of what might happen – and I haven’t even touched on the damage that would be brought down on the various world economies including our own. Germany would be particularly hard hit. The worldwide damage should be understood in 1929 terms. We would be living in a different kind of a world for a long time to come. You should read the entire article which you can do by clicking here and pray for the continuation of the Euro. http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/fears-grow-of-consequences-of-potential-eurocollapse-a-840634.html However, in the last few days it seems that the Germans feel as if the worst kind of disaster could be averted and all European banks and institutions are trying to position themselves for a Greek departure. The Germans are not willing to cough up anymore funding feeling, I guess, that it would only be more good money going after bad. Pray harder! GERMAN ARMY JEWS While at one time it might have been unthinkable, the post World War II integration of Jews into all facets of Germany society is continuing apace. Why not? There are somewhere now between 200,000 and 250,000 Jews living in Germany. While many of those from the former Soviet Union are not citizens, some are. When those are added to those whose families have been in Germany since before 1989 you have quite a few. While it still may seem an oddity that there can be German Jewish military personnel, to younger people, I believe, it is not an anomaly. There are, indeed, Germany Jewish patriots and some have volunteered to serve, Toby Axelrod writing in JTA recently reported, “Michael Fuerst signed up in 1966 and is likely the first Jew to do so in West Germany. The Jewish community called him “the shmuck from Hanover who joined the army,” he recalls with a laugh. To Jews from the outside, such patriotism may seem odd. But like all social and legal institutions in West Germany (which carries over to today’s unified Germany), the military was remade in a democratic image. One major difference is that soldiers are empowered to disobey a command if they believe it would lead to a criminal act. And unlike in Hitler’s day, soldiers do not swear allegiance to the Fuehrer “but to uphold the constitution and defend the freedom of the German people,” Fischer said.
The earliest records of Jews in Germany go back to the fourth century. Lt. Col. Gideon Romer-Hillebrecht, the co-editor with 1st Lt. Michael Berger of a new tome on “Jewish Soldiers-Jewish Resistance in Germany and France,” says Jews may have fought in Germanic troops as early as the 13th century. But it wasn’t until Napoleon’s conquest of the western regions that Jews were granted equal rights -including the right to be drafted, Romer-Hillebrecht told JTA. In World War I, more than 100,000 Jews served -- that was about a fifth of the total Jewish population at the time -- and about 12,000 died on the front. Hitler later blamed Germany’s defeat on Jewish soldiers. Fuerst, an attorney who has chaired the Jewish Association of the State of Lower Saxony since 1980, said his grandfathers and uncles served in World War I, “but nobody was protected by that.” Some of his relatives fled Nazi Germany to the United States, but his paternal grandfather died in the Riga ghetto. His mother survived Theresienstadt. “I am a German patriot, but you know, I know exactly what happened here,” Fuerst said. “That is the difference between the normal patriot and the Jewish patriot.” Fuerst was born in 1947 in Hanover, his father’s hometown. In 1966 he signed up to become a paratrooper -- the only one of his Jewish friends to join the Bundeswehr. “I always heard from my other friends that I am German, so there were no discussions in my family about whether I would go to the army or not,” he said. During the 1967 Six-Day War, he considered fighting for Israel. “For me it was not so easy. I thought, ‘How can I get to Israel?’ But after five days I did not have to think about it anymore,” Fuerst said. “I have no dual loyalty,” he adds. “I have loyalty only for Germany and for my Jewishness.” Still, his fellow soldiers sometimes admired him simply because they looked up to Israeli paratroopers, Fuerst says with a laugh. Fuerst says he rarely experienced anti-Semitism, either before or during his service. But he balked during an early military apprenticeship when a captain told the trainees, “Don’t be so loud: You’re not in the Jew school.” . Fuerst asked to be transferred to another course. The captain responded, "It is good that you request this because I have to tell you, I am an anti-Semite … All the problems we have in Germany were brought to us by the Jews.” The captain was dismissed from his post the next day.
I have known Michael for a long time. He is an outstanding human being and a leader among the Jews of Lower Saxony. Probably a bit too old to serve any longer on active duty, I can understand why he probably made a great soldier. You can read the rest of the article by clicking here. http://www.jta.org/news/article/2012/06/26/3099236/germanys-jewish-patriots-find-ahome-in-the-military OBERMAYER GERMAN JEWISH HISTORY AWARDS Every year Arthur Obermayer of Newton, MA gives awards to non-Jewish Germans who have contributed to maintaining German Jewish history. Arthur notes in his press release, “As righteous gentiles who protected Jews during the Holocaust are becoming fewer, a newer generation of non-Jewish Germans today is keeping alive the memory of former Jewish communities in Germany. These people are honored each year as recipients of the Obermayer German Jewish History Award. Nominations are submitted by Jews from outside of Germany, many of whom have ancestral connections with particular communities in Germany and/or who lost relatives in the Holocaust. These awards, which are co-sponsored by the Berlin Parliament, are given in its Plenary Chamber each January at the time of the German Holocaust Memorial Day. They are presented to five individuals who have made extraordinary contributions to preserving Jewish history, culture, synagogues, cemeteries, and so forth, in their own local communities Past awardees include: a primary school principal who, for the past 18 years, has had her sixthgrade classes prepare bricks, each with the name of a local Holocaust victim, as part of a wall which now has 1,000 bricks stonemasons who restore dilapidated gravestones a banker who has raised funds to rebuild a destroyed synagogue an individual who provides small memorial plaques in the sidewalks where Holocaust victims had lived a filmmaker who has contrasted the experiences of teenage Jews and non-Jews during the Hitler era
a business executive who organized and raised funds to move a longabandoned synagogue to a new location 30 miles away. teachers who, with their classes, have extensively researched and recorded the history of Jews of their community Nominations for these awards are currently being solicited, and must be submitted by September 24, 2012. The winners will be selected by a jury of seven eminent and knowledgeable individuals. The Call for Nominations and information about past awards and awardees can be found at http://www.obermayer.us/award. If you know of someone who might receive such an award please contact Arthur at the website listed above. THE CIRCUMCISION WARS According to Y-Net News, at the end of June a German court ruled that, “Nonmedical circumcision is a "serious and irreversible interference in the integrity of the human body,” An article in Germany's Financial Times said that the ruling renders religious circumcisions performed by Jews and Muslims a crime. The Cologne District Court addressed the issue after a Muslim doctor performed a circumcision on a four-year-old boy. Two days later the boy's mother brought the child to the emergency room because he was bleeding. Charges were subsequently brought against the doctor, who was found not guilty in the first instance, but the prosecutor appealed. "The ruling is enormously important above all for doctors because it's the first time that they have a legal certainty," Holm Putzke of the University of Passau told the Financial Times. “The court has, in contrast to many politicians, not allowed itself to be scared by the fear of being criticized as anti-Semitic or opposed to religion,” Putzke said. "This decision could not only affect future legal rulings but in the best case it could lead to a change of consciousness among the affected religions when it comes to respecting the basic rights of children." While the ruling in the District Court had no affect on the national level, the hue and cry from Jews and Muslims throughout Germany and, indeed, the world reached 7
fever pitch. According to Israel Hayom, “European Jewish Congress President Dr. Moshe Kantor called the ruling an assault on religious practices.”We would hope that in Germany of all places where there is a high level of sensitivity to such freedoms, Jewish life would be allowed to flourish without restriction." Kantor called on the German government to "take a clear stand against this ruling and [fall] in line with the German constitution, which guarantees religious freedom." The German government is usually very sensitive to Jewish concerns. .Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said Sunday that a legal debate "must not lead to doubts arising internationally about religious tolerance in Germany. He said in a statement: "The free exercise of religion is protected in Germany. That includes religious traditions." Perhaps the most embarrassed person on the issue is the German Ambassador to Israel Andreas Michaelas. He’s caught between a rock and a hard place. The Times of Israel reports, “While some German lawmakers are considering drafting legislation that would enshrine parents’ rights to circumcise their children, there is little else the German government can do about last month’s decision by a local court that effectively outlawed the procedure, Berlin’s ambassador to Israel said Monday. “I ask for your understanding that the federal government — I represent Germany’s federal government here in Israel — respects the independence of the German judiciary. That is no different by us than it is with you. Therefore, my abilities to comment on this judgment are limited,” Ambassador Andreas Michaelis told the Knesset Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs Committee. Yet Michaelis emphasized there is no law in the German books that prohibits circumcisions and that the controversial court ruling only applies locally. “This verdict is not binding for other courts. It’s a decision based on a single case,” he said. We’re in a “wait and see” situation at the moment. Members of the Bundestag are trying to fashion an acceptable law that will allow religious circumcision. So, as I said above, let’s wait and see! While we’re doing that the fallout from the court decision is not without some terrible consequences. Haaretz reported, “Two Swiss hospitals temporarily suspend all circumcisions, pending a reassessment of policies; a German court recently ruled the practice illegal. ”…the Zurich children's hospital announced that it was temporarily halting circumcision operations. "We are in the process of evaluating the legal and ethical stance in Switzerland," said Marco Stuecheli, a spokesman for the hospital. "There can be complicated cases where the mother of a child wants a circumcision but the father is opposed to it," he added.
The hospital said it performs only one or two such operations a month. Meanwhile, another children's hospital, located in the city of St. Gallen in northeastern Switzerland, has also decided to reassess its policy on circumcision. A senior administrator at the hospital told the local media that a decision on the matter would be reached after the summer vacation. More “wait and see”. BUNDESAMT FÜR VERFASSUNGSSCHUTZ (BfV) What is the Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz? In English it’s the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Germany’s domestic intelligence agency. Unhappily for Germany it has a very checkered career going back to the time of its origin in the 1950’s when it was revealed that some of its operatives had worked for the Gestapo. If you’ve read any of the older John LeCarre novels you know that intelligence work is “dirty”. How much good it does is another question. A month or so ago I wrote about a scandal when information emerged that a neoNazi gang had been killing people for almost 10 years right under the noses of the BfV. Geir Moulson writing in My Way noted, “The case horrified Germany, a nation where the Hitler era still casts a long shadow: a small band of neo-Nazis suspected of killing ethnic Turks and others in a seven-year terror spree, undetected by security forces until a botched bank robbery brought down the group last year. Now, Germany's domestic spy agency faces awkward questions about a possible cover-up after revelations that an official destroyed files related to the neo-Nazi group. The case prompted the government to announce this week that the agency's head for the past 12 years will take early retirement. Before he leaves, a parliamentary committee wants to question Heinz Fromm and the official responsible for the files on Thursday about whether the material was destroyed by mistake or deliberately. The case had already proven deeply embarrassing to the agency, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, because of the failure to solve the killings of eight Turkish small businessmen and a Greek between 2000 and 2006 and a policewoman in 2007. So we have a long term undetected neo-Nazi gang, 10 or so killings, the destroying of evidence, a cover up, the resignation of the BfV head, calls for reform – and no real answers as yet. Where is John LeCarre when we need him?
GERMAN STUDENT FRATERNITIES If the above article (and others like it) doesn’t convince the federal authorities that neo-Nazism needs more attention than they have been giving it, how about recent information regarding German student fraternities. According to Klaus Dahmann also writing in DW, “Cherished virtues like brotherhood and secrecy seem to be a thing of the past, as bitter infighting rages between members of Germany's student fraternities. Two fraternity brothers are now taking the matter to court. It's a serious accusation: according to the defendant Christian Joachim Becker, many of Germany's fraternities have been saturated by right-wing extremism in the past decades. Some of the country's most significant student fraternities, steeped in tradition, have already been completely infiltrated. For this reason, Becker launched the initiative known as Burschenschafter gegen Neonazis (Fraternities Against Neonazis). With its online portal QuoVadisBuxe, the organization denounces all forms of right-wing extremism. One example is Norbert Weidner, who called the theologian and resistance fighter Dietrich Bonhoeffer, executed by the Nazis, a "traitor." Weidner said his sentencing was "legally justified." Weidner is currently the editor-in-chief of the 'Burschenschaftlichen Blätter', Germany's fraternity quarterly publication, and is therefore one of the most influential and highest-paid officials in the larger umbrella organization of Germany's fraternities, the 'Deutschen Burschenschaft.' In his youth, Weidner was part of the far-right Viking Youth organization, and then moved on to become an official in the Free German Workers' Party. After this farright party was banned in 1995, Weidner disappeared for a short while, only to reemerge in the Bonn area fraternity 'Alten Breslauer Burschenschaft der Raczeks zu Bonn', the same fraternity to which Becker belongs. Becker, however, does not want their fight to be reduced to a matter of personal animosity. On the contrary, he thinks the problem of right-wing extremism is one faced by the wider community of German fraternities. "We would like the topic of right-wing extremism at the academic level to be discussed, and that politicians and the authorities deal with the issue," he said. The situation is serious, he adds. "Writings by these academic neo-Nazis give rise to farright slogans, and this then sparks violence." The charge that fraternities are a catchment basin for right-wing extremists is not new. The roots of these student organizations date back to the 19th century. At the
time, the fraternities were staunchly regional, with names like Alemannia, Frankonia or Rhenania. Fraternities at that time advocated unity, freedom and democracy, and later wrapped themselves in the national colors of black, red and gold. After the first unification of Germany in 1871, some of these fraternities drifted off into the conservative and reactionary camp. Today, fraternities maintain a dusty and jingoistic Germanness in public life: antiquated caps belong as much to their uniforms as ribbons in the association colors. Large flags adorn the facades of the mostly generously equipped and centrally located fraternity houses. Becker's initiative against the neo-Nazis has called for the dissolution of the Deutschen Burschenschaft "due to the tolerance, promotion and financing of rightwing extremists." For the moment, however, observers believe it more likely that the organization will shrink until the only members left are those already beholden to the right-wing extremists. Is QuoVadisBuxe too late? "The fight is in no way lost," says Becker. "The right-wing extremists may have won in the larger organization, but for us fraternity brothers their decision is not conclusive." Do they have something up their sleeves? "At the moment, a new organization is being founded," says Becker. "But I'm not allowed to say more"…only that "it won't be long." Frankly, I don’t know enough about the German fraternities to know where they stand politically. However, if there is a neo-Nazi NPD connection the BfV should be doing something about it. However, in their obviously weakened condition with all sorts of investigations taking place it’s questionable how much they can do at present. Whatever the Bundestag or the Chancellor winds up doing about the BfV scandal, there is no doubt that something has to happen to strengthen the forces that deal with neo-Nazism. Whether a BfV reform is in order or whether their duties should be turned over to the police agencies is something that has to be decided after proper investigation. However, neo-Nazism is not dead. Sadly, it is alive and kicking so whatever is going to happen should happen soon. By the way, feeling the heat, somebody must have said, “Do something about it!” So they did. Spiegel On-Line reported, “Police in Germany carried out raids in three German states at the homes of suspected neo-Nazis. Officials believe they may have been in the process of creating a new armed, right-wing extremist group. You can read the entire by clicking here. http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/german-officials-believe-they-have-uncoverednew-far-right-group-a-843430.html
ISRAEL & THE EU When it comes to Israel and the EU, especially its High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Lady Catherine Ashton, I have been very critical. I’ve written many times that she gave every indication of being anti-Israel and has taken every opportunity to criticize the Jewish State about its policies in the West Bank. While Germany remains a staunch friend the overall EU has been cold and critical. However, an Israeli news service, Y-Net News, recently reported, “Britain's The Guardian says relations to be upgraded in more than 60 areas including agriculture, energy and migration The EU will offer Israel upgraded trade and diplomatic relations in more than 60 areas at a high-level meeting in Brussels on Tuesday, just weeks after European foreign ministers warned that Israeli policies in the West Bank "threaten to make a two-state solution impossible," The Guardian reported Monday. A diplomatic source shared with the newspapers details of the package of benefits that will be offered to Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. According to the report, the EU will widen its relationship with Israel on a range of areas including migration, energy and agriculture. It will remove obstacles impeding Israel's access to European government-controlled markets and enhance Israel's co-operation with nine EU agencies, including Europol and the European Space Agency One senior EU diplomat criticized the decision citing Israel's non-compliance with its obligations under international law. He noted that not one minister was prepared to oppose Tuesday's agreement for fear of irking Jewish communities. "I was struck by the fact that a whole range of relations was offered to Israel – at the request of Israel – as if nothing is happening on the ground," the diplomat said. "Most ministers are too afraid to speak out in case they are singled out as being too critical towards Israel, because, in the end, relations with Israel are on the one hand relations with the Jewish community at large and on the other hand with Washington – nobody wants to have fuss with Washington. "So (ministers) are fine with making political statements but they refrain from taking concrete action.”In January 2009, during Operation Cast Lead, the EU and Israel postponed upgrade talks due to the situation in Gaza. Maybe I shouldn’t have included this article. Frankly, I haven’t seen news of this upgraded relationship between Israel and the EU anywhere else in the press. And, given the past performance of Lady Ashton and the EU it’s almost too good to believe. However, it made The Guardian in the UK so it must have some credence. 12
Perhaps, the EU is coming to terms with Israel’s economic strength. Maybe they see, as many of us do, that the peace process isn’t going anywhere. “So why cut off our economic nose to spite our face”. I would have been happier if Y-Net News had left out the quote from the unnamed “senior EU diplomat”. What he said reeks of anti-Semitism and I fear that that sort of feeling is not an isolated matter in the EU diplomatic corp. I guess we’ll just have to accept the world (and the EU) as it is and hope that the EU – Israel relationship truly improves. However, at least for the time being – don’t hold your breath. ****************************************************************************************** See you next month DuBow Digest is written and published by Eugene DuBow who can be contacted by clicking here Both the American and Germany editions are posted at www.dubowdigest.typepad.com Click here to connect.
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