AN AMERICAN JEWISH – GERMAN INFORMATION & OPINION
April 27, 2014
IN THIS EDITION
GERMANY & THE JEWS – A very important article on the German view.
GERMANY & RUSSIA – Tough language by a noted German politician.
GERMANY UNIFIED? – On Russia seemingly not.
GERMANY: A GIANT SWITZERLAND? – Is that what they want to be?
TEACHING THE HOLOCAUST IN GERMANY – An incisive loo.
LOOTED ART UPDATE – Is a Lost Art Center the answer?
THE CENTURY MARK – A great lady athlete reaches 100.
I hope you all had a great Passover and/or Easter.
Enjoying the holiday and following the German media, I found that if it were not for the
Ukraine situation there would hardly be anything to write about. How come? Well,
Germany is only one country away from Ukraine (it’s on the eastern side of Poland) and
the Germany economy is heavily wrapped up in what its relationship with Russia is and
will be. It’s heavy on the German mind and maybe its pocketbook
The further sanctions Pres. Obama wants to impose on Russia will be toothless without
EU involvement (read Germany). Though Chancellor Merkel continues her tough talk
about them ( http://www.thelocal.de/20140425/merkel-voices-great-concern-on-ukraine-
to-putin ) business interests and parts of the populace are far less enthusiastic. Read
You have to have a genuine sense of humor to appreciate an anti-Nazi organization that
wears Nazi style uniforms with black/red armbands that sport an apple in the middle
instead of a swastika. The Apple Front explains itself at:
Chancellor Merkel is due in Washington this coming week to talk about sanctions and
the NSA phone hacking scandal. If she brings her phone along it will give our NSA
spooks a chance to recalibrate their listening equipment to hack in on what sort of
groceries she’s ordering and who she’s betting on in the World Cup Soccer Tournament
Enough! Let’s get on with the news…
GERMANY & THE JEWS
In trying in my own way to bridge the gap between American Jews and Germans I
publish two different newsletters. My American Edition (this one) is mostly for
Americans about Germany and the Germany Edition is about the Jewish community
(and, of course, Israel) for readers primarily in Germany.
Occasionally, I come across an article I believe to be of genuine critical importance and
so I include it in both editions. The following is one of them.
What follows is copied from the Germany Edition:
GERMANY & THE JEWS: A MUST READ
As I see it, the prime reason for my publishing a "Germany Edition “of DuBow Digest is
to provide some insight into the thinking of Jews in the U.S. and Israel on issues that
might have some interest and connection to my readers (mostly) in Germany. I usually
add a little commentary to each piece I excerpt in order to help in its understanding and
to give you my own thoughts on the covered subject.
Knowing full well that most readers will not click on the provided links in order to read
the writer's entire article, I try to capture the essence of what the writer has to say in a
length that I hope will not be too long. It is not always easy to do that in a very truncated
version. However, I try to make each article as concise and to the point as possible.
Occasionally I come across a piece that I believe to be so important that it calls for total
inclusion. Such a piece is "What Germany Owes the Jews" which appeared in The
Times of Israel. In my opinion it captures the thoughts and emotions of many Jews in
the U.S. and Israel.
I would be very interested in your thoughts which, if you wish, can be sent to me at
WHAT GERMANY OWES THE JEWS
This time next year, Israel and Germany will be gearing up to mark the 50th anniversary
of the establishment of diplomatic ties — a spectacularly sensitive relationship between
the nation whose leadership set about annihilating the Jews and the nation-state whose
revival, tragically, came too late to save six million of them.
The conventional wisdom is that the Israel-Germany “special relationship” remains both
firm and delicate, marked by Germany’s extraordinary commitment to Israel’s well-
being, as a consequence of that eternally unpayable historical debt owed by the
Germans to the Jews.
The reality, however, is that while Germany has proved willing to some extent to bolster
Israel’s defense militarily and diplomatically, much of its political and diplomatic
leadership is as witheringly and ignorantly critical of Israel as the rest of the willfully
blind European consensus. The only real difference is that German politicians and
diplomats don’t generally make public their ill-informed critiques and their facile
conclusions. In deference to that special relationship, they don’t put themselves openly
at odds with the Jewish state.
German politicians and diplomats will tell you that they are worried about the bilateral
relationship. The policymaking elite is dependably empathetic to Israel, they’ll say. But
there’s a deepening and disquieting disconnect with the German public, which
increasingly views Israel solely and without nuance as a brutal oppressor, building
relentlessly on Palestinian land, insistently maintaining its rule over the poor
Palestinians, whose only crime is to seek independence.
The fact is, however, that much of the policymaking elite feels pretty much the same,
and unforgivably has not taken the trouble to look any deeper.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s refusal to commit himself to ending settlement
expansion in areas that Israel does not envisage retaining under any conceivable
permanent accord is spectacularly wrongheaded for Israel and spectacularly damaging
for Israel’s international standing. But the German leadership, of all people, owes it to
itself and to Israel to examine the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with the modicum of greater
sophistication and seriousness necessary to recognize that Netanyahu’s settlement
policies are not the only obstacle, and not even the central one, to Israeli-Palestinian
peace. And a modicum of clear-sighted investigation is really all that’s required.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas did not jump at the offer made by
Netanyahu’s predecessor Ehud Olmert in 2008 that would have seen the removal of
most settlements and would have met just about all of the Palestinians’ ostensible
demands of Israel. He did not so much as negotiate with Netanyahu for the first nine
months of the 10-month settlement freeze the prime minister reluctantly approved in
November 2009. He demanded the release of vicious, in many cases mass-murdering
terror convicts as the first stage of a negotiating process in recent months — not as the
final consummating stage of a successful partnership to statehood — and welcomed
home these killers as heroes, while channeling international funds to pay salaries to
their fellow terrorists still in Israel’s jails. Critically, Abbas has done next to nothing to
confront what is actually the core obstacle preventing meaningful Israeli-Palestinian
progress and compromise — the narrative almost universally believed by his public that
the Jews do not exist as a people, but only as a religion, and thus have no sovereign
These and the other grim realities so complicating peace efforts are obvious to anyone
with the will to open their eyes. Recognizing them is central to the goal of improving the
lot of Israelis and Palestinians. German policymakers, more than any others on the
world stage, because of their particular moral obligation to ensuring the secure future of
the Jewish state, have the highest imperative of all to educate themselves and
consequently to advance effective policies.
And yet, when you scratch the surface and get past the smiles and the formalities, it
becomes rapidly clear that the German elites’ thinking on Israel and the Palestinians is
stuck entirely on the mantra that Israel must “end the occupation,” with no serious
internalization of the complexities on the ground. Those same policymakers are ruefully
starting to acknowledge that their lusty embrace of the Arab Spring as harboring the
imminent flourishing of democracy throughout the Middle East may have been
somewhat premature and exaggerated. But that nascent reassessment has not
extended to any remote reflection that perhaps, just perhaps, Israel might not be merely
stubborn, obdurate and paranoid in its reluctance to place all its faith in Abbas and the
Palestinians. It has not occurred to many key players in Berlin that Israel might actually
have cause to fear that extremists would take over territory it relinquishes, that other
dangerous forces in the region might rise to more effectively threaten an Israel reduced
to the pre-1967 lines (from which it was existentially threatened in its first 20 years of
statehood), and that most of the West Bank Palestinians themselves might not be
genuinely interested in co-existence.
To be sure, the toxic mix of naiveté and condescension at the heart of German
policymaking is not limited to inadequate expertise and wishful thinking on the Israeli-
Palestinian conflict alone.
Many Germans in high places seem to maintain a blinkered faith in and fealty to the UN
despite the fact that this organization’s noble goals have long since been subverted,
and despite its proven, abiding incapacity to protect innocent lives in conflict zones
worldwide, with the 150,000 victims of Bashar Assad’s slaughter only the latest stain.
These Germans are similarly misguided, too, as regards the threat posed by Iran. They
regard attaining a deal with Tehran on its nuclear program, any deal, as a vital goal,
believing that the international community must strengthen the “moderate” President
Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif against the regime
“hardliners” — determinedly ignoring the fact that Rouhani was handpicked by the
supreme hardliner himself, Ali Khamenei, and ignoring Rouhani’s self-acknowledged
history of misleading the West for years about the progress of the nuclear program.
They think Israel is being unrealistic in demanding that Iran be stripped of any nuclear
weapons-building capability, including any enrichment capacity, since they have
concluded that Tehran will never surrender to such terms. Israel, in their view, is acting
in bad faith, and doesn’t really want to see a deal. (The smarter approach for all those
who want to see Iran’s weapons drive thwarted, and that ought emphatically to include
Germany and the rest of a Europe that is gradually coming within Iranian missile range,
would be to use every ounce of political and economic leverage to ensure that Iran is
forced to agree to precisely the terms demanded by Israel. Seventeen countries around
the world smoothly receive fuel for their peaceful nuclear energy programs from
legitimate nuclear powers; it does not require dazzling analytical skills to recognize,
therefore, that the Iranians insist upon their own enrichment facilities because their
goals extend beyond the peaceful use of nuclear technology.
BTW, the article was written by David Horovitz is the founding editor of The Times of
Israel. He previously edited The Jerusalem Post (2004-2011) and The Jerusalem
Report (1998-2004). He is the author of "Still Life with Bombers" (2004) and "A Little
Too Close to God" (2000), and co-author of "Shalom Friend: The Life and Legacy of
Yitzhak Rabin (1996).
GERMANY & RUSSIA
Last month I ran an article and commented on Chancellor Merkel’s tough stance on
Russia’s invasion and taking over of the Crimea. Shortly thereafter, she was joined with
more tough language coming from Germany’s Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble.
Schäuble is a very senior Christian Democrat and when he talks people listen.
Christian Reiermann writing in Spiegel On-Line noted, “German Finance Minister
Wolfgang Schäuble said he saw parallels between Vladimir Putin's annexation of
Crimea and Adolf Hitler's land grab of Sudetenland.
Schäuble said Russia's actions in Ukraine remind him of the expansionism of Nazi
Germany. "Hitler already adopted such methods in Sudetenland," Schäuble said at a
public event at the Finance Ministry in Berlin on Monday morning. "That's something
that we all know from history." Schäuble's comments were directed at the justification
provided by the Russians for annexing Crimea. Russian officials claim ethnic Russian
residents of the peninsula are threatened by Ukraine. The Nazis argued similarly in the
1938 that "ethnic Germans" in peripheral regions of what was then Czechoslovakia
The finance minister made the comments while speaking to 50 school children from
Berlin participating in a government-organized EU Project Day. Schäuble answered
children's' questions about European unity and the euro crisis. He made his remarks
after a student asked if the Ukraine crisis could potentially intensify the euro zone's
problems. Schäuble said the most important thing was to prevent Ukraine from
becoming insolvent. He said if the government in Kiev were no longer able to pay its
security forces, "then of course some armed bands would seek to take power." That, he
warned, could serve as a pretext for a Russian intervention. "The Russians would then
say they can't accept that, that they are threatening our Russian population. Now we
have to protect them, and that is our reason for invading."
Obviously, these are very tough words. Equating Putin and Hitler is about as strong a
denunciation in Germany that any politician can make about almost anybody. It is pretty
obvious that Minister Schäuble was putting down a marker not only for his own party
and for Germany but for the rest of the EU as well.
Not so fast! Not everyone is solid behind the Schäuble and Merkel position. Ralf
Neukirch writing in the same Spiegel On-Line opined, “Should the West chart a course
of confrontation with Russia following Moscow's annexation of Crimea? Many prominent
Germans aren't so sure. Sympathy for Russia is alive and well in the country.
Is it acceptable for a person to be sympathetic towards or have an understanding for
Russia's actions in Crimea? Are Moscow's claims justifiable? Did the West provoke
Russian President Vladimir Putin? For weeks, this debate has dominated the public
discussion in Germany like no other. Generally, foreign policy remains a niche topic for
experts. Russia has proven to be the exception.
Nothing, it seems, is as polarizing as the question of whether Moscow's annexation of
Crimea was a justifiable reaction to NATO's expansion into Eastern Europe or if it was
acting in violation of international law, thus making any sympathy for the move
Those expressing understanding for Russia's move are clearly dominating the Internet
forums and talk shows. One former German chancellor, Helmut Schmidt, even declared
that the situation in Ukraine is dangerous "because the West has gotten so terribly
worked up about it." The question of whether Putin's actions were legitimate didn't even
seem to interest him. "I find it entirely understandable," he said. Another former
chancellor, Gerhard Schröder, admitted that he himself hadn't always respected
The long line of general forgiveness extends from Philipp Missfelder, the foreign affairs
spokesman for the parliamentary group of Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives, to
German feminist intellectual leader Alice Schwarzer, from the left-wing to middle-class
households and even deep into the conservative camp. Armin Laschet, who heads
Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party in the populous state of North Rhine-
Westphalia, has even warned against anti-Putin populism. Be they people who simply
romanticize Russia, those with a penchant for realpolitik, those nostalgic for the Soviet
Union or just armchair leftists, there are so many people seemingly sympathetic to the
annexation that many are scratching their heads and asking if Germany is a country of
The soft-heartedness for Russia's iron hand has many origins -- some historic, some
current, some idealistic and others material. The most obvious are the interests of
business, because companies want to continue trading with Russia and therefore
oppose sanctions. Other influencing factors include fears of a new cold or even hot war,
historic ties to Russia and anti-American sentiment that is widespread in Germany.
There's also no doubt a romantic idealization in Germany of the land of Tolstoy and
Dostoyevsky. And it's not as if Germans are familiar with any Ukrainian writers.
In the states that were part of East Germany, one encounters a bond with the former
occupying power that at times borders on Stockholm syndrome. Gregor Gysi, the head
of the Left Party and former head of the successor party to East Germany's communists
which preceded the Left Party, is a strong articulator of this sentiment. He argues that
Germany and its allies aren't behaving any differently and that criticism of Russia's
actions is hypocritical. The Russians' belief in military answers is "the same thinking that
has and continues to predominate in the West -- just think of Yugoslavia, Afghanistan,
Iraq and Libya," he says.
It is difficult to imagine that SPD éminence grise Klaus von Dohnanyi would question the
inviolability of European borders. Dohnanyi is a conservative Social Democrat and
enjoys widespread respect among CDU politicians as well. He is the personification of
Germany's political center.
… he believes that the West must show Russia respect.
Dohnanyi's understanding for Russia is one side of his worldview. The other is his
criticism of the United States. "The Americans often don't have a sense for diplomacy
and for Europe's geopolitical problems," he says. The longer one listens to him, the
greater the impression becomes that the Americans are the problem and not the
I excerpted more of this article than I had planned to. However, the question of where
Germany stands on the question of Russia and the linked question of its position on the
U.S. are of prime importance to world peace and will have dramatic implications for all
the players we normally write about in this newsletter. As the picture becomes clearer (if
it does) we’ll be reporting on it for you. Stay tuned!
GERMANY: A GIANT SWITZERLAND?
Once again I am going to include a piece that I had originally put together for my
Germany Edition. I thought it important for my German readers to see how an important
American journalist viewed Germany in its dealings over the Russian - Ukraine
situation. In thinking about it I concluded that it would also be instructive for my
American readers read it as well. So, again, what appears below is copied from my
While there is no particular Jewish component to this story, I thought it might be useful
for you, my readers in Germany, to see how the New York Times Bureau Chief sees
how both the NSA and Ukraine situation as they particularly affect Germany. Since the
Times is the most widely read newspaper in the U.S. this article, I am sure, will have a
major impact on the way at least some Americans will view Germany at this time of
Alison Smale writes, "If there are two qualities prized by modern Germans, they surely
are Ruhe (peace and quiet) and Ordnung (order).
So the past few months have been profoundly unsettling. First, the United States — the
very power that helped Germany to its feet after 1945 and instilled democracy in the
ruins of Hitler’s Reich — was found to be a less than transparent ally. The National
Security Agency, riding roughshod over concepts of privacy and individual freedom
treasured by Germans, had collected huge amounts of electronic data from ordinary
citizens and had even spied on the chancellor, Angela Merkel.
Even as anti-Americanism surged, however, the Germans faced a second, more
profound shock: The crisis over Ukraine proved that Russia, the giant to the east that
Germans know so well from centuries of doing business and waging war, was no longer
playing by what Berlin considered the established rules of the 21st century.
By replacing the currency of modern diplomacy — global cooperation, a wariness about
using force, a shared trust and belief in agreements — with the swift, forced annexation
of Crimea, Russia threatened the very foundation of Germany’s modern power.
As mighty as its economy — the largest in Europe — may be, Germany does not, unlike
the United States, Britain and France (or Russia, for that matter), have the military clout
of a conventional power.
“If push comes to shove,” Ulrich Speck wrote in the weekly newspaper Die Zeit, Britain
and France “could defend themselves. Germany could not.”
“Germany needs a world order in which basic principles are respected by all key
players,” he added. “The attack on Ukraine is an attack on the very order that underpins
Germany’s freedom, security and prosperity.”
…hours of more conventional diplomacy in Geneva produced the first agreement
between Russia and Ukraine since protesters drove Ukraine’s pro-Russian president,
Viktor F. Yanukovych, from power in February.
Germans’ relief was audible. Finally, said Sabine Rau, a prominent commentator on the
country’s most watched state television channel, Mr. Putin was being rational and was
ready to talk.
The foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who has traveled and talked ceaselessly
since the Ukraine crisis erupted, weighed in from an Easter vacation in northern Italy to
caution that the Geneva talks were just “a first step, and many others must now follow.”
But, he emphasized, diplomacy at last had a chance. Germany was back on familiar
As Mr. Steinmeier acknowledged, if violence in Ukraine did not subside, the pressure on
the West to impose much tougher sanctions on Russia would rise.
But behind the scenes, diplomats say, there is a wariness to act, perhaps because of
strong German business ties to Russia — but also because of popular ambivalence.
While Mr. Putin, a former K.G.B. officer in Dresden, is unpopular here — 65 percent of
Germans view him as dangerous, according to a survey conducted this week by the
Allensbach Institute — 68 percent view Russia as a world power, up from 38 percent
when Russia intervened in Georgia in 2008.
Detailed questioning of 1,006 people polled by telephone on March 31 and April 1
showed that those from the former East Germany — but also young, educated
Germans in the west — supported negotiation over sanctions, and were inclined to think
Germany should steer clear of the whole imbroglio in Ukraine.
Nonetheless, the twin shocks from Washington and Moscow to the German political
elite are tangible, and will leave a trace.
Norbert Röttgen, the chairman of Parliament’s foreign affairs committee, argued in The
Financial Times last month that the only people who seemed not to realize that
Germany was at the center of the Ukraine crisis were “the Germans themselves.”
Subsequent reaction suggested that ruhe and ordnung were perhaps too firmly
embedded in German political culture. People want to live, he said, in “a giant
Switzerland.” (End of Smale article)
The Alison Smale piece certainly casts Germany in a less than positive light. One might
say that it shows the Federal Republic as wishing that everyone should act as peaceful
adults when the national interests of Russia and the U.S. are seen by their leaders in a
different light. To think that Vladimir Putin will be satisfied without going further in
Ukraine and that the U.S. is about to give up its perceived need for intelligence is to
have one’s head in the sand.
Dealing with the U.S. will certainly be easier than with the Russians. Eventually some
sort of a deal about intelligence gathering can and will be worked out. Obviously, this
problem is not of the same importance as the one the Western world has with Mr. Putin.
Things would have to deteriorate dramatically before any sort of a shooting war could
begin. The battlefield of today is economics and sanctions. More muscular sanctions
than the ones so far proposed would require the EU to participate perhaps causing its
members a high degree of pain. I think it’s a legitimate question as to how far Germany
would be able to go before all the rationales kick in about Eastern Ukraine really being
Of course; a takeover of Eastern Ukraine by the Russians would not stop them there.
So, perhaps it’s time for Germany to start asking itself about how far it would be willing
to go on imposing sanctions or would becoming a “Giant Switzerland” be its answer to
Time will tell!
TEACHING THE HOLOCAUST IN GERMANY
During my 2 ½ years living and working for AJC in Germany, we hosted many American
Jewish individuals and groups. Invariably, the question arose about how the Holocaust
was being taught in the schools or even, if it was, indeed, being taught? From what I
could gather from my German sources the answer was that every student received
some education on the subject and the quality depended on the teacher. However, I
was a little unsure about my answer because I myself had no experience in German
classrooms. The question has remained with me since that time.
Recently, Haaretz published a very informative article focusing on the work of Israeli
professor Gideon Greif who has been lecturing to German students for the last 13 years
and Aya Zarfati, a 32-year-old Israeli woman. Ms. Zarfati has been living in Germany for
the past few years as she studies for her master’s degree. She works as a guide at
three sites that are related to the Holocaust and for Yad Vashem’s International School
for Holocaust Studies which has a special desk devoted solely to German-speaking
countries — Germany, Austria and Switzerland. At the School Dr. Noa Mkayton, the
school’s director, has already taught in-service courses and workshops to 3,500
German-speaking teachers who traveled to Jerusalem to learn new ways of teaching
the Holocaust in Germany.
Prof. Grief notes, “German teenagers are showing more and more interest in the
Holocaust — the opposite of the situation we feared in the past. They are studying the
Holocaust above and beyond. Their teachers devote a great deal of time to the subject.
They go to Auschwitz on study trips and devote more time to the topic than the
Aya Zarfati has guided many pupils. “They come with a great deal of knowledge,” she
says. “Holocaust studies in Germany are just as thorough as they are in Israel, if not
more so. For example, here you will never encounter a German class that does not
know about Kristallnacht. Almost every school in Germany where I have worked has a
project related to the Holocaust. The topic of the Holocaust appears in almost all areas
“Particularly in Berlin, every fourth pupil comes from a non-German background,” Zarfati
says. When one seeks to answer the question of what the Germans learn about the
Holocaust in 2014, one must first ask: Who are the Germans? “It changes their
perspective on history,” she says, referring to pupils from immigrant families who study
the Holocaust. “If you give these pupils the feeling that the place where they come from
and their history are also important, they will usually be outstanding in the way they
participate in the lectures and the tours, and in the questions they ask.”
Dr. Mkayton says, ““In classes where 90 percent of the pupils are the children of
immigrants, there is liable to be a feeling of distance from the subject, and not only
because the children are four or five generations away from the Holocaust,” she says.
“The pupils might say, ‘This is not our story.’ In many cases, that comes from the way
the subject is taught in class.”
She has been in schools where the Holocaust is taught as a national story of Germany
alone. “They want to convey the message: ‘We are responsible; we have learned our
lesson,’ so they teach the Holocaust as German history. But how will Muslim pupils who
come from immigrant backgrounds respond to that?” Mkayton asks. In an attempt to
make the topic more relevant to all the pupils with no connection to their ethnic origin or
age, Yad Vashem’s International School for Holocaust Studies has developed study kits
that offer “a global and transnational look at the Holocaust,” Mkayton says. The
curriculum includes lessons about people recognized as Righteous among the Nations
who were Muslim or complex and unique figures such as Gad Beck, a Jewish
underground fighter and gay man who lived in Berlin.
The article written by Ofer Aderet goes into some of the specific questions that arise
from students such as “Why did Hitler hate the Jews?” and whether the Nazis raped
Jewish women. The question of Jewish cooperation with the Nazis is also dealt with.
I believe that there are many and varied attempts to teach the Holocaust in Germany.
However, I continue to believe that the quality of the education, as always, is in the
hands of the individual teachers.
To get a good feel as to how thorough the attempts to reach German students is in this
day and age you should read the entire article which you can do by clicking on the
LOOTED ART UPDATE
For the last six months or so we have been reporting on the developments surrounding
an art treasure trove held by the elderly son of one of Hitler’s appointed art dealers. The
question of how many of the artworks had originally been owned by Jews and whether
they would be returned to the heirs of the long dead original owners had to be settled.
Finally, after much negotiation over the many legal problems restitution presented, a
solution has finally been agreed upon. The New York Times reported, “The German
government on Monday announced an agreement with Cornelius Gurlitt, the son of a
Nazi-era art dealer that would pave the way for the possible restitution of art wrongfully
taken from Jewish owners and held in his private collection for decades.
Lawyers for Mr. Gurlitt, representatives of the state of Bavaria, and the German federal
government agreed that a government-appointed team of international experts had one
year in which to investigate the works seized from Mr. Gurlitt’s Munich apartment in
The deal would take effect when the works, which are being held by Bavarian
authorities as part of a criminal investigation, are released. It applies to all art of
questionable provenance in Mr. Gurlitt’s collection, which has become known as the
Munich Art Trove. Authorities said Mr. Gurlitt can prove legal ownership of some of the
Reached after several weeks of negotiations, the agreement bypasses the 30-year
statute of limitations that applies to stolen property in Germany, and in doing so,
represents willingness by the German government to resolve outstanding claims related
to Nazi-looted art works.
The resolution comes months after the public first learned of the more than 1,280 works
— including those by major artists such as Picasso, Chagall and Gauguin — held by Mr.
Gurlitt. They were seized by Augsburg prosecutors as part of a tax evasion
investigation. When the German news media broke the story of their existence last
November, it triggered outrage around the world.
Responding to intense international criticism over how it had handled the art, the
German government appointed a task force to investigate their provenance with an aim
to return looted works to their rightful owners. But questions lingered over what would
happen to the collection once it was released to Mr. Gurlitt, if he is cleared of the tax
evasion charges. Legal experts also raised questions over whether the state had been
justified in confiscating the collection in the first place
Monika Grütters, Germany’s culture minister, has made addressing restitution issues a
priority since she came into office at the start of the year. She welcomed the agreement
with Mr. Gurlitt, saying it would pave the way for an independent center that is being
established to streamline and reinvigorate German efforts to handle restitution claims.
“Our experience gained through dealing with the Munich Art Trove will influence the new
Lost Art Center,” Ms. Grütters said. Mr. Gurlitt further agreed that images of the works in
question could be posted to the government’s database, which includes 458 pictures.
Of course, even with the agreement problems remain. Will those evaluating the claims
have enough time to gather all the necessary information to make fair and equitable
judgments? Will a time extension be necessary? I’m sure other questions and problems
will arise as the process moves forward. However, the German Culture Ministry with
Minister Grütters at its helm is pushing for the establishment of a Lost Art Center. That
will produce more of a result out of this particular incident than one could have
otherwise expected. If it comes to pass she deserves a lot of credit.
THE CENTURY MARK
Reaching the age of 100 is an achievement for anyone. When that person has had to
flee her native land because of her religion, and thereby miss the possibility of winning
an Olympic medal, the century mark requires current day citizens of that land to take
note of that special person on a special day. They did!
Writing in Jewish Womens Archive, Gertrud Pfister, reported, “Margarethe “Gretel”
Bergmann was born on December 4, 1914 in Laupheim, a small town in upper Swabia
near Württenberg, where her parents’ families had lived since the 1870s, in comfortable
circumstances and respected by their neighbors. Judaism played no part in the lives of
this German-nationalistically inclined family.
With the Nazi ascent to power, Jewish life in Germany underwent a rapid and radical
change. In their desire to win the support of the new powers-that-be, sports associations
from April 1933 on eagerly implemented the “Aryan laws,” that excluded Jewish men
and women from their organizations. This proved a stimulus for Jewish sports
organizations, which the Nazis at first tolerated, in part because in the run-up to the
Olympic Games they wanted to show the world press and the IOC that Jewish
sportsmen and women enjoyed equal opportunities.
In 1933 Gretel Bergmann not only had to abandon her desire to study at the German
College for Gymnastics in Berlin, but also to forgo her membership in the Ulm Soccer
Association when this was “aryanised.” The Bergmanns soon realized that there was no
future for Jews in Germany. Edwin Bergmann therefore took advantage of a business
trip to London to register his daughter at the London Polytechnic, where she was
immediately accepted into the college’s sports teams. In June 1934 she became the
British high jump champion with a jump of 1.55 m.
In 1934 Gretel Bergmann had to return to Germany to participate in the preparations for
the 1936 Olympic Games, since a refusal to do so might have had negative results not
only for her family but also for Jewish sport organizations.
Gretel Bergmann was the only one among the Jewish athletes who continuously
improved her performance. At the Württenberg Championship in 1936 she reached 1.60
m. in the high jump, which was the German record attained by Elfriede Kaun. Since this
seemed to have won her entrance into the Olympic Games, she was surprised to learn
on July 16 that her performance did not qualify her for nomination to the German team.
Only two athletes were nominated for the women’s high jump, Kaun and Dora Ratjen.
The national-socialists thus forwent the advantage of a good chance to win a medal
only in order not to have to accept a Jew onto their team.
With no hope of any future in Germany, Gretel Bergmann decided to emigrate to the
United States. Shortly before her departure she happened to meet her fellow athlete,
Bruno Lambert, and the two fell in love (Ed. Note: and eventually married). In May 1937
Gretel Bergmann left Germany, determined “never to set foot on German soil again.”
Gretel Bergmann remained active in sport until the outbreak of World War II. In 1937
she won the U.S. Championship in high jump and shot put and in 1938 again won the
high jump championship.
For many years it seemed as if Bergmann and her fate had been forgotten. Only with
her entry into the Jewish Hall of Fame at the Wingate Institute in Israel in 1980 was
interest in her revived. In Germany she was awarded the Honorary Plaque of the Field
and Track Association and honorary membership in the Laupheim Gymnastics and
Sport Club. In 1995 she was entered into the Jewish Hall of Fame in New York and in
the same year a Berlin stadium was named for her. Other honors followed.
In 1999 Bergmann broke her oath never to visit Germany. Adam Opel AG Deutschland
awarded her the distinguished Georg von Opel Prize, which is given to persons who
have distinguished themselves in sport and its principles. At the same time, she visited
her native town, which renamed its municipal stadium after her. Gretel Bergmann thus
succeeded “putting an end to her long battle with anger”
It’s a great story. If you would like to “meet” Grete Bergmann and hear a little about her
100th birthday (via a Deutsche Welle video) click on the attached link.
See you again in May.
DuBow Digest is written and published by Eugene DuBow who can be contacted at
Both the American and Germany editions are posted at www.dubowdigest.typepad.com