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German, Jewish, American Jewish

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American edition september 13, 2010 American edition september 13, 2010 Document Transcript

  • AN AMERICAN JEWISH – GERMAN INFORMATION & OPINION NEWSLETTER dubowdigest@optonline.net AMERICAN EDITION September 13, 2010 Dear Friends: First, an apology. I was in a rush to get the last edition out so there were a few typos, words left out, etc. Sloppy! Sloppy! I promise better editing in the future. However, I wasn’t a star pupil in grade school English. I haven’t changed. Happy New Year (5771) once again. Yom Kippur is almost upon so to my observant readers I wish you an easy fast. To my non-Jewish and non-observant readers – find some other venue to atone for your sins. From our perspective, things in Germany have been relatively quiet in the last couple of weeks with the exception of the Thilo Sarrazin flap (see below). However, as usual there is enough to write about so let’s get on with it… IN THIS ISSUE THE INTEGRATION ISSUE WITH A JEWISH TWIST – Thilo Sarrazin publishes a book that causes an uproar over immigration and a Jewish gene. WHY SAY IT IN THE FIRST PLACE? – What is behind anti-Semitic statements from a high EU official – and why did he say what he did in the first place? NEW RABBIS & A NEW SYNAGOGUE IN GERMANY – A big step forward in German Jewish life. MARCHES & DEMONSTRATIONS – Neo-Nazis and counter demonstrations. Should we worry? RAID ON NEO-NAZI ORGANIZATION – The Government takes on a “biggie”. THE DIGITAL RECONSTRUCTION OF SYNAGOGUES – You can’t bring back the originals. How about second best? 1
  • THE INTEGRATION ISSUE WITH A JEWISH TWIST Much like the questions of the building of the mosque near Ground Zero and the burning of the Korans that grabbed all the headlines in the U.S. recently, the publication of a book by a member of the Bundesbank Board (like our Fed). Thilo Sarrazin, 65, "Deutschland schafft sich ab" (Germany does away with itself) – in which he argues Muslim immigrants are undermining German society, refusing to integrate and sponging off the state – was the prime German media attention getter in the last few weeks. In his book, Sarrazin writes, "I don't want my grandchildren and great- grandchildren to live in a mostly Muslim country where Turkish and Arabic are widely spoken, women wear headscarves and the day's rhythm is determined by the call of the muezzin." He rejects accusations of stirring up divisions in Germany, home to at least four million Muslims, the bulk of them of Turkish origin. It is also home to an estimated 280,000 Arabs. To make things worse, according to Sarrazin, "all Jews share the same gene" and Muslim immigrants are making Germany "dumber." He adds, "The intellectual potential of society is shrinking rapidly and immigration is not the appropriate answer. Those coming in from Islamic countries are posing a threat to the European cultural model." While I could not find out exactly what Mr. Sarrazin meant by his Jewish gene comment other than “Jews are different”, the mere fact that he assigned some sort of racial composition to all Jews is racist, stupid and deeply offensive to many in Germany (especially the Jews) where this kind of Nazi racial profiling is absolutely taboo. The calls for his scalp came from almost everyone in a responsible position. According to Haaretz, “German President Christian Wulff has increased pressure on the Bundesbank to dismiss its contentious board member Thilo Sarrazin, arguing that the central bank needed to limit damage to Germany's reputation. Sarrazin has divided Germany with criticism of the country's large Muslim community, and outspoken remarks asserting that Jews have a particular genetic makeup, sparking calls from politicians that the central bank should fire him. In a later article The Local.de noted, “Nearly two-thirds of Germans disagree with controversial central banker Thilo Sarrazin’s claim that rampant immigration is making Germany “dumber,” a poll released Friday has found. (Ed. Note: One third agreed). A poll published by the news magazine Focus reported that 63 percent of respondents disagreed and 31 percent agreed with the proposition – a key claim in Sarrazin’s anti-immigration arguments that have sparked furious debate this week. 2
  • Chancellor Angela Merkel, meanwhile, told the Turkish newspaper Hürriyet in an interview published Friday that Sarrazin’s claims were “absurd.” “They serve to divide. Whole groups in our community feel injured by this,” she said. Merkel also said that integration was the most important issue of our time. “We have to discuss it realistically and must not arouse antipathy and ill-will. That hinders integration instead of advancing it.” While problems still existed, most Turks, who belong to the country's largest immigrant group, were well-integrated, she said”. In a late development Mr. Sarrazin finally resigned removing the legal difficulty that might have arisen in trying to fire him. One would think that Sarrazin might be a member of one of the extreme right wing or neo-Nazi parties. Wrong! He is actually an active member of the Social Democrats (SPD), the more liberal of the two large parties and there is a move afoot to boot him out of the party. No surprise there! Interestingly, if he was a neo-Nazi of some sort no one would have paid attention to the book. Meanwhile, the book is in its fourth printing and will sell hundreds of thousands of copies. What has been accomplished by the media frenzy that accompanied its publication? Some think it that it raises the important question of how Germany can and should go about trying to further integrate its immigrants and make them better citizens. Maybe so! We’ll have to see what sort of follow up actions the government takes after the heat caused by the book subsides. Will there be a genuine national debate on immigration? Without question, it is important that there be one. Twenty percent of those living in Germany were born outside the Federal Republic (including 80% or more of its Jews). Many Germans do not see it is as an “immigration country”. That view, of course, flies in the face of reality. So a discussion of national cultures, their importance to immigrants and how this nation that is basically new to immigration handles it is, indeed, a necessity. For Jews there is another set of questions – those dealing with racism and anti- Semitism. “The left-wing daily Die Tageszeitung wondered if there was a silver lining to the Sarrazin affair: a reminder that racism did not always come in the form people expected. “The Sarrazin case is a healthy shock for Germany. It is high time to rid ourselves of the illusion that racist convictions always arrive in bomber jackets and combat boots. As we see, they can also thrive splendidly in bankers’ suits and on executive floors.” 3
  • Unlike other opponents of Islam, Sarrazin was claiming not just the existence of a ‘clash of cultures’ but of cultural and social differences based on genetic differences. And it was this racial theory that was most disturbing for Germany, it wrote. “What should we do when, 65 years after the ban of Mein Kampf a racial theory tract once again rises to be a bestseller?” Well said! I think we’ll leave it there with the hope that Germany understands this last point and deals with it in the same way that immigration should be dealt with – by a national discussion. WHY SAY IT IN THE FIRST PLACE? According to Mail.Online (UK) The EU's trade chief has been forced to apologize for blaming Jews and the 'Jewish lobby' in Washington for blocking Middle East peace as the embarrassed EU head office quickly distanced itself from his comments. Karel De Gucht, 56, said he did not mean to stigmatize Jewish people and stressed in a statement that "anti-Semitism has no place in today's world." The (original) remarks in a radio interview came (when) he maintained that Israel frustrates U.S.-led peace efforts and warned not to "underestimate the Jewish lobby on Capitol Hill." "That is the best organized lobby that exists there," the former Belgian foreign minister said in the interview with the Dutch-speaking VRT radio network. "Don't underestimate the opinion ... of the average Jew outside of Israel," he said. "There is, indeed, a belief, I can hardly describe it differently, among most Jews that they are right. So it is not easy to have a rational discussion with a moderate Jew about what is happening in the Middle East. It is a very emotional issue." In a separate statement, Catherine Ashton, the EU foreign affairs chief, expressed confidence De Gucht 'did not intend any offence'. According to The Wall Street Journal, “Mr. De Gucht issued a statement on Friday afternoon. It said: “I gave an interview yesterday to the Flemish radio. I was also asked about the Middle East peace talks. I gave my personal point of view. I regret that the comments that I made have been interpreted in a sense 4
  • that I did not intend. I did not mean in any possible way to cause offense or stigmatize the Jewish Community. I want to make clear that anti-Semitism has no place in today’s world and is fundamentally against our European values.” I believe that Mr. De Gucht did not mean to “cause offense or stigmatize the Jewish Community”. However, not for one second do I believe that he does not harbor deep anti-Semitic thoughts and feelings. Why do people, especially, high placed officials say such things? I feel it’s because they believe them. De Gucht is probably smart enough (if he wants to keep his job) not to openly want to be seen as an anti-Semite. It would probably mean the end of his current career. But the kind of public utterances he made certainly sheds light on his inner thought processes. By the way, the immediate defense of De Gucht by Lady Ashton adds a little a little insight to what I think her feelings toward Jews, certainly Israel, might be. The whole matter is very depressing. NEW RABBIS & A NEW SYNAGOGUE IN GERMANY The Local.de recently reported, “Judaism is making a comeback in Germany 65 years after the Holocaust, thanks largely to immigration from the former Soviet Union, as shown by this week’s ordination of two rabbis in the eastern city of Leipzig. The Orthodox ordination of the men originally from Uzbekistan and Lithuania was Germany's second since 1945, underscoring the growth of the city's Jewish community that 20 years ago numbered only 30. More than 300 German and foreign Jewish leaders attended the ceremony in a brightly colored 19th century synagogue that somehow managed to survive the 1938 "Kristallnacht" Nazi pogrom. "Judaism is alive and well in Germany," said World Jewish Congress president Ronald Lauder, whose foundation supports Jewish communities, rabbinic schools and the Berlin Orthodox seminary from which the two new rabbis graduated. Germany counted more than 530,000 Jews in 1933, when Hitler came to power. In 1939, at the start of World War II, only 200,000 remained as many had emigrated to escape Nazi violence. Just a few thousand survived the war. Today numbers are back to more than 100,000 since the 1990s decision to make it easier for Jews from the former Soviet Union to move to Germany and to obtain citizenship. 5
  • The two new Orthodox rabbis are among the arrivals: Shlomo Afanasev was born 29 years ago in Tashkent and Moshe Baumel, 22, is from Vilnius. In another event symbolic of Judaism's return to Germany, President Christian Wulff inaugurated on Friday a new synagogue in the western city of Mainz, on the very site where Nazis destroyed the previous one more than 70 years ago. Wulff spoke of "a small miracle." The "revival of Jewish life in Germany is continuing" thanks to the new synagogue, he said. "That's a blessing for our country, a blessing for Germany." I believe that the number of Jews mentioned in the article is incorrect or, at least in describing it, the description is incorrect. Most observers believe that there are somewhere between 200,000 and 250,000 Jews now residing in Germany. As in the U.S. not all Jews are connected to synagogues or the organized Jewish community. There are some 110,000 registered with the local Jewish communities. That’s up from 28,000 in 1989 when the Wall came down. Figure out the numbers. It’s a very big expansion. The lack of German speaking rabbis and, in general Jewish infrastructure, has been a real problem in trying to maintain Judaism in the large number of immigrants from the former Soviet Union. The ordination of rabbis in Germany is, without question, a big help. To read the entire The Local.de story click here. http://www.thelocal.de/national/20100903-29585.html MARCHES & DEMONSTRATIONS According to The Local.de “At least 160 people were arrested or held by police in Dortmund on (Sept. 4) as up to 15,000 people tried to block a neo-Nazi rally in the city to mark the anniversary of the start of the Second World War. The Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe granted an application for the neo-Nazi demonstration on Saturday morning after the court in Gelsenkirchen refused permission on Friday and the organizers appealed. Police had banned a proposed march after they arrested a 19-year-old man in the Aachen area, fearing he had been building an explosive device. The far right extremist, who is said to have connections to Dortmund, was found to have ammunition in his flat. After the Constitutional Court allowed the march to take place, the police restricted it to a car park. Around 1,000 neo-Nazis turned up to the rally, which drew around 15 times as many people in largely peaceful opposition. Police had their hands full with around 500 of the far-right group who, on arriving in Dortmund, raced off the train and started marching towards the city centre 6
  • rather than to the car park where the rally was being held. Fighting broke out as the police stopped them and redirected them to the car park, where around 460 others were waiting. Further violence broke out as the police broke up a sit-down blockade of around 1,000 anti-fascist demonstrators. One police officer was seriously hurt during the day and at least 160 people – mostly counter demonstrators – were either arrested or taken into preventative custody. Meanwhile in Berlin, according to the Jerusalem Post, “Pro-Israeli organizations, Jewish community leaders and a representative of the Iranian opposition in Germany assembled in the heart of downtown Berlin’s bustling shopping district on Saturday to protest against an Iranian backed al-Quds Day march. Jochen Feilcke, the head of German-Israeli Friendship Society in Berlin and Potsdam, criticized the “glorification of the Islamic Republic of Iran” by the al- Quds participants. “Once again, the participation of neo-Nazis and other sympathizers of the mullah regime is expected and their goal is clear: Expressions of solidarity with the Palestinians will be used as agitation against Israel, the only free democracy in the Middle East,” Feilcke said. The al-Quds demonstration has been an annual event in Berlin since 1996 and advocates the destruction of the Jewish state. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini established al- Quds Day in 1979 and it is now marked in the Islamic Republic and throughout the Arab world by calling for the abolition of Israel. “These are people who only accept veiled woman, punish homosexuals, persecute political opponents and want to live according to Shari’a,” Maya Zehden, a spokeswoman for the Berlin Jewish community, said of the al-Quds Day protesters. The “forces hostile to democracy, like radical leftists and rightist as well as religious fundamentalists, are marching with one goal: The destruction of Israel,” Zehden said. “The people who call themselves peace activists” have aligned themselves with the anti-Israeli extremists, she said. “Jewish institutions are receiving more threats in the meantime from... people from the Middle East [German Muslims] than from right-wing extremists,” Zehden said, addressing rising Islamic anti- Semitism in Germany. 7
  • Germany is a country rife with public demonstrations. It’s a sign of their democracy and the fact that the Constitutional Court legally backs the right for groups, no matter how noxious to hold them is a genuine positive. It seems to me that whenever a neo-Nazi demonstration takes place a counter demonstration pops up. Another positive! However, when I hear that “Once again, the participation of neo-Nazis and other sympathizers of the mullah regime is expected and their goal is clear: Expressions of solidarity with the Palestinians will be used as agitation against Israel…” that bothers me. If, indeed, the neo- Nazis and the pro-Iranian, anti-Israel groups are joining together that is a concern. When anti-Semites (some posing as only being anti-Israel) join forces with neo-Nazis that is something that must be watched carefully. I’m sure the German homeland security people are on the case. We’ll continue to follow the situation. RAID ON NEO-NAZI ORGANIZATION Since I’m on the subject of neo-Nazis… DW-World.de recently reported, “German police raided the country's largest neo- Nazi group, which is suspected of disseminating propaganda to neo-Nazis in prison, where they are prone to abandoning their beliefs and the movement. Police across Germany raided the offices and apartments of known members of the Hilfsorganisation fuer nationale und politische Gefangene und deren Angehoerige (HNG), the country's largest and most influential neo-Nazi organization, on Tuesday morning. The raids took place in the five states of Rhineland-Palatinate, Baden- Wuerttemberg, North-Rhine Westphalia, Lower Saxony and Berlin. They were organized by the Interior Ministry as part of an ongoing examination of the legality of HNG and similar right-wing organizations. According to a statement issued by interior ministry official Klaus-Dieter Fritsche, the group's official objective is to support incarcerated neo-Nazi members and their families, in an effort to "strengthen and overcome the ideological struggles in the fragmented neo-Nazi scene." "We suspect that the actions of the HNG do not conform to our constitution and that they threaten the cohesion of society," Fritsche added. "Today's searches will show if these suspicions are confirmed." The HNG is a “support” organization for neo-Nazis in jail and those other prisoners that might be susceptible to their philosophy. While I’m not an expert on the German penal system, I imagine, like our own, prisons are hotbeds of all sorts of radical extremist philosophies and movements. Trying to cut off their 8
  • support from the outside is a worthy activity but I doubt seriously that anything serious will come of it. Prisons mostly empower anti-societal thinking and in Germany, in all likelihood, anti-Semitic feeling as well. At least, the government is trying to do something about it and, for that, they are entitled to a lot of credit. THE DIGITAL RECONSTRUCTION OF SYNAGOGUES Much of Jewish culture in Germany went up in flames on Kristallnacht in 1938. In years gone by there would have been very little that any one could do to try to recapture any part of it save interviewing people who had personal memories of the destroyed synagogues. Welcome to the world of 2010 and “Digital Reconstruction”. According to DW-World.de, we now have, “A project that gives virtual tours of synagogues destroyed by the Nazis digitally (that) recreates an otherwise lost part of German culture. But it was a contemporary form of anti-Semitism that got the exhibit off the ground. The project started after four neo-Nazis firebombed a synagogue in the northern German town of Luebeck on the eve of Passover in 1994, according to Mark Grellert, who has been creating virtual reconstructions of synagogues at Darmstadt Technical University since that firebombing both as a student and now professor in the architecture department. His idea was to virtually reconstruct some of the synagogues that were destroyed on Kristallnacht, or the Night of the Broken Glass, on November 10, 1938. That was one of the most heinous attacks against Jews, synagogues and Jewish businesses in German history. Their efforts culminated in an exhibition in Bonn in 2000. That exhibition has now come to the United States for the first time at the Holocaust Memorial Center Zekelman Family Campus in Farmington Hills, Michigan. The exhibit opened on August 29 and will run through the end of November. You cannot resurrect the destroyed synagogues but with digital reconstruction you can certainly come as close as possible. This project has more meaning than just an art form. Hopefully, it will eventually be an important part of the education of Germans (and others) as to the importance of pre-war Jewish culture in Germany. Read more about it by clicking here. http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,,5985820,00.html ******************************************************************************************** 9
  • DuBow Digest is written and published by Eugene DuBow who can be contacted at dubowdigest@optonline.net Both the American and Germany editions are also posted on line at www.dubowdigest.typepad.com 10