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Du Bow Digest American Edition august 14, 2011(3)

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A newsletter on American Jewish - German relations

A newsletter on American Jewish - German relations

Published in News & Politics , Spiritual
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  • 1. AMERI CAN EDITIONAugust 26, 2011Dear Friends:If you can rip yourself away from watching the ups and downs of the stock market fora few moments there are some things going on out there in terms of German –American Jewish relations that may not be of such immediate importance but,nonetheless, are of notable consequence for the future of the Jewish people.At the moment Germans are also wrapped up in thinking about the world economy.However, they are mostly focused on whether their EU neighbors will bring down theEuro by continuing to be very deep in debt without the will to do anything about it.Supporting and bailing out the poor relatives is no fun.A small damper on Germany’s current good economic situation came about recentlywhen the energy giant E. ON Corporation announced the layoff of 11,000 workers.In addition the German stock market is not immune from the recent devastation ofthe American market or, for that matter, those of the other Euro countries.To Germans, like most Americans, but to even a greater degree, the month ofAugust means “Urlaub” (vacation). Given that most Germans get 6 weeks ofvacation a year, August means that much of the country is “away”. Telephone callsare not answered and e-mails not opened. Even so, life goes on.BTW, there is a new German Ambassador in Washington, Peter Amman. You canread about him by clicking here.http://www.germany.info/Vertretung/usa/en/01__Embassy/Washington/02/01/Amb__Ammon__CV.htmlOn to the news…IN THIS EDITIONTHE WALL: 50th ANNIVERSARY – The Berlin Wall was built 50 years ago. It stillexists in German minds.GEMANIZING ISLAM – Is there a way for Islam to become a genuine part ofGermany?GERMAN SENSITIVITY & A GOEBBEL’S PHRASE – Has German sensitivity toWorld War II disappeared? Hardly!THE PALESTINIANS, THE UN & GERMANY – In the statehood scramble Germanymay (“may” that is) play an important role. 1
  • 2. SIX AMBASSADORS SPEAK UP – Israel’s friends put it on the line.BAN THE RIGHT? HOW ABOUT THE LEFT? – The desire to ban extreme politicalparties seems to be “in” this year.COLOGNE’S JEWISH PAST – A new museum. A different view of Jews inGermany.BAMBOOZLED! – Hey! Neo-Nazis! Be careful what you purchase – Or, don’t washwhat you buy!THE WALL: 50th ANNIVERSARYAugust 13th marked the 50th anniversary of the building of the Berlin Wall.The New York Times reported, “The Berlin Walls construction 50 years ago must bea constant reminder to citizens today to stand up for freedom and democracy, thecitys mayor said Saturday as a united Germany commemorated the bitteranniversary.Seeing Berlin divided by the wall tore apart the country as well as separating thecitys streets, neighbors and families, Mayor Klaus Wowereit said at a televisedceremony."It is our shared responsibility to keep the memory alive and to pass it on to thecoming generations as a reminder to stand up for freedom and democracy to ensurethat such injustice may never happen again," Wowereit said.The country was then divided for 28 years. Hundreds of east Germans werearrested while trying to flee to democratic Western Germany and at least 136 werekilled trying to cross the wall.”Peter Schneider, a noted German writer also writing in the NY Times stated, “It willtake a generation before the “wall in the mind” is overcome, but the process is underway. It is not merely about Westerners bringing Easterners into the fold; there is alsowhat I call the “Easternization” of the West going on.Consider the career of Angela Merkel, a scientist from the East who became our firstfemale chancellor. She did so not just by mastering the Western political structure,but in part by surreptitiously replanting left-wing, “Eastern” values — like socialjustice — in the garden of her party, the conservative Christian Democrats, andelevating their importance among the country as a whole. 2
  • 3. It is fitting that Mrs. Merkel should be doing her political gardening in Berlin. Beforethe wall fell, it was nearly the only place where one could still feel the divisionbetween East and West. In the 20 years since, it has become the best place towatch that division disappear.”From a Jewish perspective the Wall made a tremendous difference. Likewise, itsdisappearance. When it went up the small Jewish communities in East Germany(DDR) were totally removed from those in the West. (FRG). Neither grew very muchat all, however, those in the West did have connections with Israel and the othercountries in the West. The tiny number of Jews in the DDR remained pretty muchisolated.The disappearance of the Wall and the DDR as well changed things dramatically.The West Berlin Jewish community swallowed up that in the East. Once Jewsstarted arriving in Germany (early 1990’s) some of the minute communities in theEast gained new members and survive to this day. The larger communities in theWest have grown larger yet. The total number of Jews in Germany (overall) hasgrown from 28,000 in 1989 when the Wall came down to probably over 200,000today. Estimates as high as 250,000 are heard today. The disappearance of the Walltotally changed and re-energized Jewish life in Germany.GEMANIZING ISLAMNo, I haven’t got it backwards. There is indeed an effort afoot to get Islamic leadersin Germany to better understand the country in which they live and to incorporatewhat they learn into their teaching and preaching in the Federal Republic’s mosques..James Angelos writing in The Wall Street Journal (reprinted in Terminal X, an Arabwebsite), notes, “Having given birth to the Protestant Reformation and the currentpope, Germany is now at the fore of a broad effort to foster a European theologicaltradition for a relative newcomer: Islam.In a brightly lit university classroom in this small northwestern German city(Osnabrueck), some 30 German mosque leaders are participating in a government-backed course in inter-religious understanding. The experiment, one of many acrossthe Continent, covers subjects ranging from the Reformation to the Germanconstitution.Much of the resurgent popularity of Europes far right in recent years has beenfueled by populist fears that the rise of immigration in Europe—particularly in Muslimcommunities that remain connected to their native languages and cultures—iswashing away European or national cultural identities. 3
  • 4. Even in the political mainstream, there is a growing thought that laissez-faire effortsto absorb Muslim populations into European society have gone awry—with troublingpolitical, socioeconomic and security consequences. In a now-famous speech lastfall, German Chancellor Angela Merkel declared that multiculturalism in Germanyhad "utterly failed." French President Nicolas Sarkozy and U.K. Prime Minister DavidCameron have since echoed her remarks.By tutoring local mosque leaders within national university systems, Europeangovernments are increasingly trying to conform the practice of the faith with a senseof their national identities and post-Enlightenment values and traditions, or whatsome have taken to calling "Euro-Islam.Germanys government is granting five of its public universities up to €4 million ($5.7million) each to develop Islamic theology programs. The Osnabrück experiment, thefirst German university course of its kind, has gained a great deal of attention.During a recent class, news cameras and reporters circled the students, mendressed neatly in suit jackets and a single row of head-scarved women.Among the seminars revelations for Selman Yavuz, who leads a small Muslimcongregation in western Germany, was that according to a Roman Catholic doctrine,the church holds Muslims in "esteem." "Many of us didnt know that they believesuch good things about us," said Mr. Yavuz, 32 years old. "It changes your thinking."In Germany, the program is widely regarded as a paradigm-shifting if belatedacknowledgment that Islam is now a permanent part of German life.Yet even as the government supports such initiatives, Germanys ruling classdebates whether Islam "belongs in Germany," a conversation that began whenGerman President Christian Wulff made the assertion that it does during a speechcommemorating the 20th anniversary of German reunification."We see this as a first step for the structural integration of Islam in Germany," saidErol Pürlü, a spokesman for the Coordination Council of Muslims in Germany, anumbrella organization for several Islamic groups.But broader acceptance of the university programs by Germanys Muslims—whohave roots in different countries and varying religious interpretations—is by nomeans certain.One challenge is that nearly 90% of the nations imams come from abroad,particularly Turkey, and many promote an Islam that is "oriented to Turkey," saidRauf Ceylan, professor of religious sciences at the University of Osnabrück, andtherefore "disturb the integration process." 4
  • 5. With German consent, the Turkish government began sending imams to Germany inthe 1980s, a decision fueled by concern that more conservative forms of Islamicteaching forbidden in Turkey were taking hold among Europes Turkish diaspora.Today, some 900 mosques, about one-third of the total in Germany, are led byTurkish-state employees. These imams, Mr. Ceylan said, have trouble relating to anew generation of German Muslims because they often know little about Germansociety when they arrive for periods of up to five years and speak little German.Thats worrisome to German officials because it cedes much of the German-language Islamic discourse in the country to more hard-line preachers.Fundamentalist imams in Germany have had success appealing to youngerMuslims, posting German-language sermons on You Tube and in rap music withmessages specifically meant to appeal to youth.You need progressive imams that are young and eloquent like the radicals," Mr.Ceylan said. "But look at YouTube, and who is present?" he added. "The radicalsare present, and not the progressive imams."If nothing else, you must consider this program fascinating and, if at all successful,tremendously valuable. I noticed on the Internet that quite a few Arabic websiteshave reprinted it. Of course, it has tremendous implications for the future of Islam. Iwonder whether there’s some sort of American version that could be shaped andapplied here. It would be very worthwhile.GERMAN SENSITIVITY & A GOEBBEL’S PHRASEMy good friend and former colleague Rabbi A. James Rudin asked me recentlywhether I thought World War II and the Holocaust were slowly ebbing out of theGerman consciousness and sub-consciousness. It came up in a conversation wehad about Germany’s relations with the poorer Euro nations and the possibility thatthe Germans were fed up supporting (almost by themselves) deficit countries andthinking about deserting themI said that I thought there was dissatisfaction with the support but that the wounds ofWW II had not fully healed nor would they soon. Germany wants a unified Europeand if there is a lessening of the feeling of their responsibility it is only skin deep. Thedisaster for them of WW II is still close to the surface. As far as I can see, they haveno desire to go it alone. Two disastrous defeats in 27 years put them on the road toEuro-unity. I doubt that they will be willing to take a detour any time soon.An example of how sensitive Germany still is about their horrendous 20th Centurycame up in the news a couple of weeks ago. Heiner Geissler (Spiegel On-Line) “Aveteran German politician has got himself into hot water by repeating a phrase 5
  • 6. attributed to Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels -- "Do you want total war?"Heiner Geissler, 81, the mediator in a bitter dispute over the reconstruction of themain railway station for the city of Stuttgart, uttered the words last Friday during anarbitration meeting between supporters and opponents of the project.He said he was trying to emphasize the need for a settlement. But mediacommentators have heaped criticism on him for using a phrase that sums up thefanaticism of Nazi Germany. The controversy shows how sensitive references to thewar remain in German politics."Even if Geissler is an old man, even if he enjoys being in the limelight -- borrowingphrases from Goebbels isnt acceptable," Frank Wahlig, a correspondent forinfluential public broadcaster ARD, said in a commentary. "He is of no use any moreas a mediator for anything -- he should be enjoying his retirement and long walks.Far away from spotlights and any microphone."Goebbels put the question on Feb. 18, 1943 to an audience of Nazi faithful inBerlins Sportpalast hall after the German armys defeat at Stalingrad, widely seenas the turning point of the war. It was an attempt to exhort the nation to even greatersacrifices. The answer from the audience was a frenetic "Ja!"I think the above story gives you the flavor of what lies below in the collectiveGerman mind. Even stronger is denial of the Holocaust. That is a criminal offensewith jail time a likely result. Some sensitivities just don’t go away.THE PALESTINIANS, THE UN & GERMANYThe general media is full of news and views regarding the upcoming UN meeting inSeptember and the Palestinian plan to unilaterally seek statehood there. What we donot read much about is the role the EU might play.A piece recently appeared in Spiegel On-Line by Juliane von Mittelstaedt andChristoph Schult. In part it said, “So far only one European country, Germany, hasspoken out publicly against the UN initiative. “Under no circumstances" do "unilateralrecognitions" contribute to bringing about a two-state solution, German ChancellorAngela Merkel said in April. Other European countries, like France, have signaledtheir approval.Once again, the European Union appears to be divided on a key foreign policy issue-- now, of all times, when the Europeans are playing a more important role than everbefore. The United States is practically out of the picture as a middleman. With apresidential election looming, Obama will be unwilling to hazard a confrontation withIsrael. "The Americans cant do it alone. We also need the Europeans," Israeli Prime 6
  • 7. Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Catherine Ashton, the EUs high representativefor foreign affairs.Ashton is now working on two arbitration efforts aimed at avoiding a conflict in theUN. The first is a joint statement by the Middle East quartet, consisting of the EU,the United States, Russia and the UN, which could serve as a starting point fornegotiations. She cleverly cites UN Resolution 181 from 1947, which calls for thecreation of a Jewish and an Arab state. If the Palestinians agreed, this could beportrayed as the recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, thereby eliminating animportant obstacle on the path to negotiations.But if the linguistic acrobatics are ineffective, an EU resolution could stop thePalestinian petition at the last minute. Instead of explicit recognition, this resolutionwould certify that the Palestinians had fulfilled all the requirements to form anindependent state.It is becoming clearer that the Palestinians will either go to the Security Councilwhere the U.S. (and Germany’s?) veto will defeat them or, possibly go directly to theGeneral Assembly where they will have their status upgraded and settle for the sortof resolution that Lady Ashton is working on. As noted in an earlier edition, EU unityis of utmost importance to Germany. Therefore, if the final resolution has justenough about direct negotiations in it the Germans would probably vote for it alongwith the rest of the EU nations. My guess is that’s where we’re headed if Pres.Obama is unable to get the Palestinians to totally back off the UN strategy and goback to the bargaining table.The entire article is interesting. Click here to read it.http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,778128,00.htmlSIX AMBASSADORS SPEAK UPWhile it appears that much of the German diplomatic and political elite are less thaneven lukewarm about Chancellor Merkel’s announced position in opposition to aPalestinian unilateral declaration of statehood; there are at least six former GermanAmbassadors to Israel that support her position.Some months ago 32 former diplomats signed an open (and published) letter to theChancellor demanding that she support the declaration. A few weeks ago JTAreported, “Several former German ambassadors to Israel applauded ChancellorAngela Merkels refusal to endorse the unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state atthe United Nations in September.Addressing Merkel in a letter Tuesday, the six former ambassadors to Israel lashedout at 32 other retired German ambassadors and consuls who in an open letter inJuly had demanded that Merkel support the unilateral declaration. 7
  • 8. The six envoys accused their colleagues of ignoring threats to Israels existence andurged Merkel to stay the course."Just as you have made it clear to [Palestinian Authority President] Mahmoud Abbasin Berlin that unilateral steps will not help, we ask that you represent this positionassertively within the European Union," their letter read in part."The recognition of a Palestinian state is in our opinion only possible if it goes handin hand with an explicit recognition and guarantee of the existence of the Jewishstate."The open letter was released jointly by Jochen Feilcke, head of the Berlin-Potsdambranch of the German-Israel Society, and Lea Rosh, head of the Foundation for theEstablishment of a Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. Signing were retiredGerman ambassadors to Israel Klaus Schutz, Niels Hansen, Wilhelm Haas, FranzBertele, Theodor Wallau and Rudolf Dressler.In explaining the letter, Feilke and Rosh suggested that the "five percent of retiredliving German ambassadors" who had accused Merkel and Foreign Minister GuidoWesterwelle in their letter of "violating human rights" were themselves guilty of agross injustice."Parts of the Palestinian leadership ignore the existence of Israel. Other parts of thePalestinian leadership openly advocate the destruction of Israel," Feilke and Roshwrote. "Apparently former top German diplomats are indifferent to this situation."The 32 diplomats had argued that Merkel should recognize a Palestinian state inorder to "end an unjust policy of occupation.""We will never be dissuaded from our recognition of our historical, Germanresponsibility for the existence of Israel," their letter read in part. "This makes it evenmore painful for us when the government of Israel ignores important basic commonprinciples shared by western civilization."Feilke and Rosh deserve great credit. Being willing to speak out against what seemslike an overwhelming political movement for Palestinian state recognition takes guts.And, the six former ambassadors willing to oppose many of their former colleaguestakes real courage.Israel is not without friends in Germany.BAN THE RIGHT? HOW ABOUT THE LEFT?Over the last several years I have written (more accurately “quoted”) a lot about theoutlawing of the NPD, the neo-Nazi party in Germany. Now, as reported by The 8
  • 9. Local, “A bitter dispute has erupted between the Christian Social Union, sister partyto the ruling Christian Democratic Union, and the Left party, after CSU GeneralSecretary Alexander Dobrindt called for an investigation into banning the leftists.The Left party leadership reacted angrily to Dobrindts statement on Sunday,accusing the CSU leader of "hate tirades."Dobrindt told Sundays Bild am Sonntag newspaper that Left party leader GesineLötzsch yearned for a path to communism, which is why the countrys domesticintelligence agency, the Verfassungsschutz, should observe the Left party moreclosely.Dobrindt was referring to an article by Lötzsch entitled "Paths to Communism,"published in the newspaper Junge Welt in January."On this basis, we should re-assess whether the Left should be banned or not," hesaid. Dobrindt also called on Berlin mayor Klaus Wowereit to declare that he wouldend the citys coalition government with the Left party if he is re-elected onSeptember 18.Left party chairman Klaus Ernst responded by saying that such statements led to "aclimate where right-wing extremists feel justified in attacking Left party offices inBerlin and elsewhere.""Whenever the CDU and the CSU are doing badly, some pitbull from the CSUcomes along and acts as a crusader against the Left," added Ernst. "Dobrindt wouldbe well-advised to limit his right-wing tendencies”.Bodo Ramelow, Left party leader in the state parliament of Thuringia, calledDobrindts announcement an "outrageous statement."He added that the call was particularly objectionable because Germanys InteriorMinister Hans-Peter Friedrich, also of the CSU, was currently doing everything hecould to prevent a ban on the far-right National Democratic Party.Ulrich Maurer, deputy parliamentary leader of the Left party, said the CSU generalsecretary "has apparently not noticed that the Cold War finished over 20 years ago.Thats a bit embarrassing."Of course, nothing will come of it and the Left Party (Die Linke) will continue onrepresenting the extreme left wing in the Bundestag. One would think that theleaders of the CSU would find more productive avenues to follow other than trying toget an authorized party banished. After all, last year for the first time the CSU had togo into coalition in Bavaria because they could not garner a majority all bythemselves. In addition, I think this kind of loose talk will make it more difficult tomove against the NPD which for better reasons might merit a trip to political oblivion. 9
  • 10. If you think Washington has it tough with two competing parties that refuse tocooperate, you should study the German system which has six and even the oneson the same side don’t always agree. Nothing’s easy!COLOGNE’S JEWISH PASTThere are many museums throughout Germany that memorialize once thrivingJewish communities. Many (most?) deal primarily with Jewish life right before theHolocaust and sometimes go back a hundred years or so. Not in Cologne.The Forward reported, “This city in western Germany is banking its future on itsJewish past.But at present, the investment is exacting a heavy price: $52 million, to be exact.Following a divisive decades-long battle, Cologne’s municipal government votedrecently to allocate that sum toward the construction of a new museum focused onthe city’s medieval Jewish quarter. Its centerpiece will be the product of a massiveexcavation project that began in 2007 in the middle of the city, on the square in frontof City Hall.For years the project had been dogged by opponents who said the country didn’tneed another monument dedicated to the Jewish past or complained about thedisruption that the project would create in Cologne, Germany’s fourth-largest city.But with Cologne’s decision to fund the museum, adding to the $18 million alreadyallocated by the state government of North Rhine Westphalia, the city has made adecisive choice: to embrace its Jewish past to attract future tourists.“A city like Cologne, you always have to think about what you can present to bringnew tourists,” said Cologne City Councilman Ralph Sterck, who voted in favor of theproject, which passed by a two-thirds majority in the 90-member council. “We areproud of what we have for history, so we want to show the world.”The museum, which plans to open in 2015, will offer a new way of looking atGerman Jewish history, said Georg Quander, Cologne’s deputy mayor for culturalaffairs. It was Quander who lobbied the City Council to provide the funding for theplanned museum.“History is always an exchange between several cultures,” he said. “I think it’s veryimportant to understand this. Maybe it’s more important than to separate them.” 10
  • 11. The massive project to unearth Cologne’s medieval Jewish quarter began four yearsago. The city had begun excavating its past decades ago, but until recently thefocus was on its Roman quarter. Archeologists working on the Roman quarteractually threw away Jewish material that they had unearthed.But in the late 1980s the calls began for excavating the Jewish quarter, and in the1990s some archeological work was done. For a long time, pedestrians could peerdown through a glass pyramid on a city square and see the medieval mikvah, orritual bath, that Cologne’s Jews had used hundreds of years ago.But the real work on the Jewish quarter did not begin until 2007. Archeologists earlyon uncovered evidence of a thriving merchants’ quarter where the Jews lived. Theyunearthed a synagogue that had been in use since the year 780 and the home of agoldsmith; both will be showcased in the new museum.At its peak in medieval times, the Jewish quarter housed about 1,000 people – thesize of a small German city. It was the oldest Jewish community in Europe north ofthe Alps, and often enjoyed special privileges – such as when the Roman emperorConstantine decreed in the year 321 that Jews could be elected to the city council.When Jews were targeted during the Crusades, Cologne officials often protected theJews by hiding them in fortresses and safe houses. In 1349, a pogrom in the midstof the Black Plague killed many of the city’s Jews.About 20,000 Jews lived in Cologne immediately before the Holocaust. About 40percent emigrated before they could be deported to concentration camps.In addition to focusing on Jewish history, the museum also will spotlight the ruins ofprevious city halls and of Cologne’s Roman years. Artifacts on display will rangefrom Roman bricks and pottery to a 1920s Seder plate found among the ashes fromWorld War II.There is very little I can add to the above. Cologne is a beautiful city with amonumental cathedral – one of the great sights of Europe. Now, not very far away, aJewish history museum will be highlighting an important part of the city’s history. Myguess is, like the Jewish Museum in Berlin it will become one of the great stoppingoff places for Jews and non-Jews alike. Congrats to Cologne!BAMBOOZLED!One last thing! Under the headline “Neo-Nazis Bamboozled by Tricky T-shirts”, TheLocal reported, “Germans who brought T-shirts bearing a skull and right-wing flagsback from a recent rock festival will soon find that the print has given way to amessage urging them to mend their ways. 11
  • 12. An association which seeks to help people break away from right-wing groupshanded out 250 of these "Trojan" T-shirts at a right-wing rock festival in easternGermany on Saturday.When the T-shirts are washed, the original print bearing the skull and motto"hardcore rebels" will be replaced by a new message, the Exit associationannounced on its internet site."What your T-shirt can do so can you – well help you break with right-wingextremism," the new message will read.Great idea! I’m getting T-shirts made up with “New York Times” printed on them. Afterwashing they’ll read “Read DuBow Digest”.**************************************************************************************************** 12
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