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vast majority of Germans think about during a normal day. Frankly, it’s not Jews or Israel. They, like most people elsewhere, have the economy, their jobs, the lousy weather and whether their kids will grow and be able to get a decent education or a decent job on their minds. Jews are not at the top of the list. However, rarely does a day go by when the media does not have some sort of a story dealing with the subjects DuBow Digest covers. Some great sage once said, “In Germany, Jews is news”. The German media is no different than our own. Negative or sensational stories are usually the featured ones. It is difficult to read anything positive except in the back pages where “human interest” stuff is featured. Negativity reigns supreme. However, that is not to say that the German Jewish community, the Israeli Embassy, AJC and others are not trying to combat that sort of thing. They are! I’m proud to say that my own agency does a pretty damn good job. However, it’s a tough slog. I hope you will understand the reality of the situation and for that reason I decided to devote two paragraphs to it. Sometime in the future I’ll give you more details about what’s being done. Now, on to the news… IN THIS EDITION TIME TO MOVE ON – The chairperson of the Central Council of Jews in Germany decides to call it quits in favor of someone younger. THE NPD AND THE KIDS – The neo-Nazis get the right to distribute their poison near the schools. HOLOCAUST DENIER DOES HIS TIME – If you deny the Holocaust you should keep your mouth shut or you get a sentence to spend time at “sleep away camp”. GERMANY & THE MUSLIMS – Anti-Muslim fever sweeps Europe. Germany is no exception. ANTI-NAZI HUMAN CHAIN – The people of Dresden rise up against the neoNazis. A GERMAN MILITARY MONUMENT – The Bundeswehr, today’s German Army, is not the Wehrmacht. Aren’t they entitled to memorialize their dead? My answer is “Yes”.
END OF A FRIENDSHIP – Political allies become competing lobbyists. THIS & THAT – The leftovers.
TIME TO MOVE ON Charlotte Knobloch, the 77 year old elected head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany (Zentralrat) has announced that she will not stand for re-election in November and is moving aside so a younger person can take her place. Frau Knobloch, the chair of the Munich Jewish community will, in all likelihood, be the last Zentralrat head to have been born in the time of the Holocaust. She has served honorably in the post but with 80% of the Jewish community in Germany having immigrated from the former Soviet Union, it has become obvious that the time had come for her to move on. It is not clear now nine months from the time Frau Knobloch is to leave office who her replacement will be. Dieter Graumann, a 60 year old Israeli born Vice Chair of the Zentralrat is seen as a possible successor but his election is not at all assured. The Russian born majority, especially the younger people, obviously will have a major voice in the selection. One of the most vocal leaders of this group is none other that Sergey Lagodinsky, who worked for AJC Berlin as Program Director for quite some time. For his bio click here http://www.gppi.net/about/team/sergey_lagodinsky/ The Local notes, “Knobloch’s position at the top of Germany’s leading Jewish organisation had been brought into question of late amid suggestions there was dissatisfaction and infighting at the top of the council. Various media reported she was under pressure from other council members not to run again for president. But she said in her statement that the board of directors and executive council had expressed their “full and unconditional confidence” in her and that there had been a “consensus” that she would see out her full term until November. Her colleagues had recognised “with understanding and respect” that she
wanted to make way for a generational change. The turmoil in the ranks of German Jewry is not only caused by age differences. The focus of younger people is not so much on the Holocaust but rather on the problems that face the community today such economic issues and maintaining a Jewish community that includes those that are secular as well as those who are more religious in their orienatation. Perhaps the biggest problem is holding on to those whose children will drift into the general German community and wind up having no Jewish identity at all (Sound familiar?). My guess is that the next 9 months will be full of genuine political in-fighting. The “new” agenda of the German Jewish community will begin to emerge during the battle that has already begun. Since the future of German Jewry depends to a large extent on the outcome we will be following it very closely. A more complete story from JTA can be accessed by clicking here. http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,,5227285,00.html THE NPD AND THE KIDS The NPD, the largest neo-Nazi party in Germany has recently won a victory and will now be allowed to distribute CDs outside schools with interviews and music by party members because authorities have no legal grounds to stop them. As The Local reports, “The Federal Department for Media Harmful to Young Persons said the disc merely contained political opinions, daily Süddeutsche Zeitung reported. The department therefore found no basis on which to ban the disc, the report quoted director Elke Monsen-Engberding as saying. The NPD is Germany's leading far-right party. It promotes an anti-immigrant agenda and is considered by the country's domestic intelligence agency to be a threat to the constitution.” Obviously this sort of a ruling is very disturbing. Having the NPD distributing their stuff is bad enough in itself. Having the right to dsitribute it outside schools to children is, in my opinion, 100 times worse. However, the NPD is a legal party and are careful about staying within legal boundries. So, Germany’s free speech rules allow this sort of thing. I, am sure, like you (and them), we are all on the horns of a dilemma. Germany’s democarcy must accord their citizens the right of free speech – even if it is utilized by neo-Nazis. This story reminds me a little of my Chicago days when a group of neo-Nazis wanted to have a march in Skokie. They finally won the right in court. It made almost everyone unhappy but the decision was correct. To have a democracy you have to put up with such things.
HOLOCAUST DENIER DOES HIS TIME According to www.haaretz.com, Far-right activist Ernst Zundel will soon be released from prison after serving his five-year sentence for denying the Holocaust, a German prosecutor said … Mannheim prosecutor Andreas Grossmann said Zundel, 70, will be released on March 1 after receiving credit for time served ahead of his 2007 trial. Zundel was deported from Canada in 2005. He was convicted in February 2007 of 14 counts of inciting hatred for years of anti-Semitic activities, including contributing to a Web site devoted to denying the Holocaust - a crime in Germany. Prosecutors were able to bring charges in Germany because the Web site was accessible there. Zundel, who also has lived in Tennessee, and his supporters had argued he was exercising his right to free speech. I mention the Zundel case not because I think Zundel himself is so important – he’s not! However, I think we should understand how seriously Holocaust denial is taken in Germany. I’ve pointed out before that they just do not have the same laws we have about free speech. Their history indicates their necessity to have these restrictions. I’m a strong believer in the First Amendment but Germany is not the U.S. and, therefore, I fully understand where they’re coming from.
GERMANY & THE MUSLIMS All throughout Europe there is a growing tide of anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant feeling. According to Der Spiegel, “A small Muslim community in a western German town (Voelklingen) would like to build a minaret on its mosque. But the plan has triggered passionate opposition from locals, many of whom rely on rhetoric from the extreme right in railing against the ‘symbol of Islam's quest for power.’… A small mosque on the banks of the Saar River there has applied for a permit to build a small minaret on its roof -- triggering a wave of at-times vehement protest reminiscent of the fuss surrounding the November 2009 referendum in Switzerland to ban minarets in the country. "I am against the Islamification of our fatherland!" reads a message, posted by "Tommy" on the Web site of the local paper Saarbrücker Zeitung. "Islam is the greatest threat facing humanity," he adds. In a town meeting held on the subject in late January, a number of locals came out against the minaret plan. According to Berlin daily Die Tageszeitung, several expressed fears that Germany was being "infiltrated" by "the Turks." The debate in Völklingen is once again showing how quickly right-wing rhetoric can cross over into the mainstream when it comes to debates on Islam in
Europe. Local right-wing extremists -- two of whom are in the Völklingen city council -- have argued that minarets are "symbols of Turkish dominance." They point to a speech given by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in February 2008 in Cologne. In it, he said that "mosques are our barracks, minarets our bayonets, the domes our helmets and the believers are our soldiers." Of course, we are not without this sort of rhetoric in the U.S. and there certainly is a great deal of nativist feeling here in our own country. However, Europe, certainly including Germany, is much closer in miles to the Middle East and North Africa and so we must expect that this sort of hostility, especially in a time of severe economic distress will only grow and magnify. The most important matter for us is, what sort of politicians does it bring to the fore and what sort of issues other than anti-Islamism do they stoke up? Yes, I know it’s anti-Islamism and not anti-Semitism but Jewish history tells us that in most cases when there is group hate - “We’re next!” ANTI-NAZI HUMAN CHAIN According to The Local, Neo-Nazis have for years marked the bombing of Dresden to show that Germans were the victims as well as the instigators of brutality during World War II. The 1945 bombing, which killed 25,000 people and destroyed most of the city, is widely considered to have been militarily unnecessary. This year about 10,000 anti-Nazi demonstrators formed a human chain through Dresden Saturday afternoon to block right-wing extremists gathered to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the allied bombing of the city. They far outnumbered the 1,300 neo-Nazis who marched – a figure well below expectations and well below the 6,000 who gathered last year. Dresden Mayor Helma Orosz, who took part in the human chain, told the crowd: “We stand against the attempt by old and young Nazis, to abuse this day of mourning.” The memorial day was for Dresden traditionally a “quiet day of mourning,” she said. But it had to be remembered, she said, “who had started that accursed war.” By forming the human chain, the city had “become a fortress against intolerance and stupidity,” she said. Saxony Premier Stanislaw Tillich also took part in the chain. As the two ends linked to form a ring, the bells of the old city’s churches rang. I might disagreee with The Local’s use of the word “unnecessary”. Yes, the war was coming to an end and it was clear that such bombing would kill many civilians. However, Dresden was a rail and manufacturing center, both important for the war effort. So, I will leave it up to the historians to decide whether the bombing was necessary or not. The important point for us, now amost 65 years
after the war ended, is that, first, there is still a “Nazi” movement in Germany and, second, that a large number of just plain citizens are willing to come out and participate in a massive counter demonstration. The former is disheartening, the latter encouraging. Incidentally, the debate among historians over the Dresden bombing continues to this day. (Why not? We’re still arguing over our own Civil War). The NY Times recently ran a piece that you can read by clicking here. http://ideas.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/02/15/the-dresden-debate-wont-die/?hp A GERMAN MILITARY MONUMENT When traveling through Germany one must be struck by the fact that most of the monuments one sees commemorates the bad things that have been done by Germans in Germany;s name. Given their 20th Century history, it is not surprising that there are few (if any) in memory of those killed in World War II. Some years ago, while visiting a refugee camp in Macedonia with an AJC group, we came across a Bundeswehr (Germany Army) hospital that was doing outstanding work with many displaced persons. Back in Berlin at a press conference I congratulated the military leaders for undertaking such a role. I was underwhelmed by the response. No one seemed to want to join in patting them on the back and I heard absolutely nothing from the Defense Ministry. It finally dawned on me that the German military was a “hush-hush” operation that had very little popularity in this overly pacifist country. I thought then (and think now) that it is not healthy for Germans to want to sweep under the rug the accomplishments of their military. When you should be proud you should show your pride – and they have a lot to be proud of. Yes, of course I know the history. No one wants a Wehrmacht. But today German soldiers in Afghanistan are shoulder to shoulder with American troops. This is the 21st Century, not the 20th. Finally, and not without difficulty, a monument dedicated to post World War II fallen German military personnel is planned and is being built in Berlin. Deutsche Welle notes, “The plans for a monument for German soldiers killed in service has been around for some time. The idea came to Defense Minister Franz-Josef Jung during a visit to Afghanistan in 2005. There, German soldiers had erected their own monument to their fallen comrades. Despite criticism from members of parliament, Jung has always been adamant that the memorial be placed near the headquarters of the Bundeswehr. While the location and the exact meaning of the monument have led to debate, the monument itself has been widely accepted. Munich-based architect Andreas Meck is the architect of the memorial and presented his plan in 2007. Construction officially began with a groundbreaking ceremony last November.”
My feeling is that it’s about time. END OF A FRIENDSHIP Admittedly, this piece is mostly for people who enjoy the ups and downs of relationships between German political leaders and, especially, those who paid attention to German politics when Gerhard Schröder was Chancellor and Joschka Fischer the Foreign Minister. Their time together ran from 1998 - 2005. They both left office when Angela Merkel became Chancellor and instead of becoming “elder statesmen”, both became well paid lobbyists. Schröder took the leap first – only a month after leaving office. Fischer taught and wrote for a while but, as my mother once said to me when I was lying around the house after college doing nothing, “Everyone has to make a living”. So Fischer took the plunge as well. So, now the two who cooperated for seven years running Germany find that they are on the opposing sides when it comes to which pipeline Germany should give backing to in order to get its natural gas from Russia. The story in Deutsche Welle has a subtitle of (no snickering now), “Who Has the Longer Pipeline?” While it is always fun to see former political colleagues duke it out there is a serious side to what they are involved in. It has to with from where Germany gets its natural gas. Needless to say, that sort of decision carries with it a great deal of political importance. In short, the Schröder pipeline would run directly from Russia to Germany. The Fischer pipeline Nabucco, which goes via a different route and includes Iran. I think you can see the importance of problem and the eventual solution. Obviously, the matter is complicated – too complicated for me to go into it all. I would suggest that you read the Der Spiegel article. The question for us is not which pipeline is best but, rather, what problems will arise no matter which choice is made. Read the article by clicking here. http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/0,1518,677853,00.html
THIS & THAT *You will remember that the “Arbeit Macht Frei” sign at Auschwitz was stolen, recovered cut into several pieces, and finally returned. The thieves were caught almost immediately. However, the theft was undertaken at the behest of a Swedish middleman allegedly working for a British Nazi-sympathizer. The middleman has been arrested. I imagine Interpol is now working to arrest the British underwriter of the whole scheme. Stay tuned! More to come!
*Germany's only Jewish Film Festival is in danger of closing down due to lack of funding, Read about it by clicking here. http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1148515.html *California is a strange State. It now has an Austrian actor as Governor. How about a German Prince? Well, Frederic Prinz von Anhalt, a titled German (who is also an American citizen) may be the next guy in the door. He also happens to be Zsa Zsa Gabor’s husband. Read all about it! http://www.thelocal.de/society/20100204-25009.html In the last edition I tried to point the importance of the resignation from politics by Oskar Lafontaine. I’m not 100% sure I did a good job. Dr. Manuela Glaab, Head of the Research Group on German Affairs at the Center for Applied Policy Research in Munich has done a lot better job than I did. Writing in the AICGS Advisor in an article entitled, The Left Party After Lafontaine’s Retreat From Leadership – What Comes Next? she, indeed, outdoes me. Click here to connect to it. http://www.aicgs.org/analysis/c/glaab021810.aspx
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