DuBow Digest American Edition June 30, 2014

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An American Jewish - German Information & Opinion Newsletter

An American Jewish - German Information & Opinion Newsletter

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  • 1. 1 AN AMERICAN JEWISH – GERMAN INFORMATION & OPINION NEWSLETTER dubowdigest@optonline.net AMERICAN EDITION June 2014 IN THIS EDITION D-DAY & GERMANY: SOME THOUGHTS – Time may not heal but it certainly changes things. GERMAN FOREIGN POLICY – Trying to figure it out. LOOTED ART: A BIGGER FISH – A list of another treasure trove found. THE CHANGE IN PENSION THINKING – Responsibility has made its mark. AIN’T NOTHING SECRET ANYMORE – Everyone’s hacking everyone else’s phone calls. EXTREMISM IN GERMANY – A report. A CHINK IN HER ARMOR? – Merkel fatigue? Dear Friends: Before we get down to business I promised my first AJC Berlin Assistant Ari (you might have known her as Wendy) Campbell Kloke, who has returned to Berlin with her husband Richard to start up a Berlin tour agency, that I would mention her new endeavor. Click here http://beettours.com and you’ll see what she’s up to. At least for the moment, most things in Germany are “on hold” while the World Cup Soccer Tournament is underway. The World Cup is “the” sporting event every four years. It’s the Super Bowl magnified a few times. As I write this, Germany is getting ready to play the U.S. in a match which might determine who goes on to the round of 16 and who goes home.
  • 2. 2 While everyone there is focused on the TV, Chancellor Merkel made a speech lauding the achievements of her government in a most positive way. Frankly, given Germany’s strong economy and high standard of living, she, legitimately, has a lot to crow about. However, if you read through this edition of the newsletter to the last article you will see that not everything politically is peaches and cream. You can read about the Merkel speech by clicking here. http://www.dw.de/ignoring-opposition-outcry-chancellor-angela- merkel-praises-germanys-policies/a-17735347 I want to wish everyone a wonderful Fourth of July. It’s our “national day”. Whatever our problems, we’re very lucky to be here and to be Americans. P.S. Go Yanks! Beat Germany! On to the news… D-DAY & GERMANY: SOME THOUGHTS By the time you get this the celebration around D-Day will have long gone by. However, I thought I should include this important item about the 2014 commemoration. I’m old enough to remember D-Day (though I was only 12 at the time) and the animosity almost everyone in the U.S. felt toward Germany and the Nazis during World War II. It is still deeply etched in my mind though it’s now 70 years later. But times have changed. According to Nicole Glass writing in This Week in Germany… World leaders stood in solidarity on Friday as they marked the 70th anniversary of the Normandy landings (D-Day) on the western coast of France - the largest seaborne invasion in history and a turning point in the Second World War. Both German Chancellor Angela Merkel and US President Barack Obama were among the attendees at the ceremony. This is only the second time a German leader participated in the commemoration in Normandy, which makes it all the more significant. Ten years ago, former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder joined world leaders in marking the 60th anniversary of D-Day. His attendance ultimately became a symbol of how far Germany has come since the war. "The French receive you as a brother," French President Jacques Chirac told Schröder on that day. In a speech delivered at a memorial site in Caen, Schröder emphasized the good that came out of the Allied invasion - both for the Allies and Germans. While France was liberated from German occupation, Germans were liberated from Nazi tyranny, he said. Today, Chancellor Merkel attended the historic commemoration, together with President Obama and other world leaders. Unlike the Schröder visit - which was the first of its kind - the presence of a German chancellor is now almost expected, and shows the advanced level of cooperation and trust between former wartime enemies. The memory of D-Day no longer just unites the Western Allies - it unites leaders around the globe in their effort for reconciliation and building a better future. This was exactly the aspect of
  • 3. 3 D-Day that Chancellor Merkel harnessed when she spoke today with Russian President Vladimir Putin about the situation in Ukraine. I think Ms. Glass got it right by noting, “…the presence of a German chancellor is now almost expected, and shows the advanced level of cooperation and trust between former wartime enemies”. When one thinks about it, that is a sea change from where we were in our relations with Germany even five or ten years ago. Their commitment to democracy, though we may not agree with all their policies, has earned them an equal place with the other Western democracies. Obviously, all is not forgiven or forgotten. The enormity of the crime of the Holocaust cannot be expunged from memory – ours or theirs. However, their progress in less than a century is truly great and, to my way of thinking, genuine. When I measure them against some other “friends of the Jewish people” they come off pretty damn well. GERMAN FOREIGN POLICY I think it’s difficult to identify German foreign policy. In fact, to quote the King from The King and I, “It’s a puzzlement”. The people and the leaders seem to be going in opposite directions and the actual policy can’t seem to make up its mind. Melinda Crane writing in DW (Deutsche Welle) opines, “While Germans remain skeptical of a greater political role, the foreign minister delivers on the promise of a new diplomacy, one which moves out of the comfort zone into the middle of things,” Germany is delivering on its promise of a new foreign policy with greater verve than even its friends expected. When President Joachim Gauck called on Germany to play a bigger role in international affairs in his speech at the Munich Security Conference, foreign observers acknowledged that his words were timely, if not long overdue, but asked who would follow up, and how? Were similar messages from the defense and foreign ministers coordinated with the chancellery to ensure follow-up sufficiently coherent to represent a real shift in policy? To both questions, the answer, so far, is yes. Gauck urged his country to step out “earlier, more decisively and more substantially" on the world stage. Frank Walter Steinmeier has been stepping out indeed: on the Maidan and in Odessa, from Tallin to Chisinau, he is on the spot and on the line. After four years of "sleepwalking", Germany's foreign ministry is adeptly wielding the complex and sensitive tool of diplomacy. This new diplomacy disturbs many Germans. A new study conducted for the Ministry itself with the Körber Foundation shows a full 60 percent of those surveyed do not want to see Germany take on more responsibility in foreign affairs. A majority professes support for diplomatic efforts but is clearly skeptical about the pitfalls of engagement and prefers a foreign policy guided not by interests but by normative considerations – human rights, humanitarian aid, climate and environment.
  • 4. 4 Foreign Minister Steinmeier is pushing with courage and commitment to deescalate the Ukraine crisis. And the outside world is taking note. US Secretary of State John Kerry has praised his leadership while The New York Times editorial board recently remarked that Germany seems to be the European country Mr. Putin cares about most. …diplomacy is slow and non-linear, its results not always perceptible to outsiders. Often they amount merely to warding off a worse scenario than the crisis already raging. This is exactly what Chancellor Merkel admonished last week when she rejected criticism that Steinmeier's shuttle diplomacy was an exercise in futility and insisted that she and the foreign minister were working hand in hand. In fact, her own diplomatic dexterity was on display at a recent mini-summit with French President Francois Hollande, when the two leaders declared they would hold Moscow accountable should upcoming presidential elections in Ukraine fail. Given its position in the middle of Europe and the fact that it does not have a sizeable military, perhaps it can only do so much. Being that it is bound up in the EU it cannot truly have an independent foreign policy. As far as this newsletter is concerned, whether Germany will stand firm or not in the nuclear negotiations going on with Iran is a major question. Germany, along with most of the other nations involved, does a great deal of business with Iran. Corporations across the international spectrum are pushing and lobbying for more. Iran is a major oil producer and a prospective EU customer. The Chancellor has said more than once that Iran will not have a nuclear weapon. Does that mean that almost having one or just having the equipment and know-how to produce one quickly are tantamount to having one – or not? How about the Israeli – Palestinian matter? The EU made an announcement that it will deal with a new Palestinian government made up with technocrats. Does it make a difference that half the ministers will have been appointed by Hamas, an organization that both the EU and the U.S. term as terrorist? So, to me there are a lot of unanswered questions about where German foreign policy is headed. Does the fact that Germany is so tightly tied to Russian energy sources undercut its possible assertiveness and, perhaps, move it more closely to Vladimir Putin and the Russians? It’s easy to say “We’ll be more assertive”. It’s harder to adopt that policy when realpolitik spells out a less proactive role. LOOTED ART: A BIGGER FISH When the art collection of the late dealer Hildebrandt Gurlitt came to light in the possession of his son, many (most?) thought that, perhaps, the greatest collection of art looted from Jews during the Nazi time had been located. As it turns out, Gurlitt was
  • 5. 5 “small potatoes” compared to Adolf Weinmüller. DW reports, “In addition to notorious art dealer Hildebrandt Gurlitt, numerous other Nazi dealers attempted to wash their hands of unethical acquisitions, even though a large portion of the art transactions conducted in the run-up to and during World War II involved works misappropriated from Jewish collectors. As one of four buyers for the planned Führermuseum in Linz - which was to hold a grand collection of Nazi-looted art but was never fully realized., Gurlitt had good contacts among the Nazi authorities. But his colleague in Munich, fellow art dealer Adolf Weinmüller, greatly surpassed him, establishing a monopoly over auctions involving looted art. The catalogue of Weinmüller's auction house was recently published online as part of the Lost Art database. Weinmüller joined the Nazi party early on, in 1931. At that time, he was still developing his career as an art dealer, according to Meike Hopp from the Central Institute for Art History. "Adolf Weinmüller had an art dealership in Munich from 1921, but we don't know much about the time between 1921 and 1933," she said. Hopp wrote her dissertation about Weinmüller and was instrumental in the recent publication of his business documents. "Starting in 1933, his career boomed because he became chair of the federal association of art and antiquities dealers," Hopp explained. "After that, he had a great deal of influence on the elimination of Jewish art dealers because, as a state-approved appraiser, he refused to give Jewish businesses licenses to hold auctions." That meant that Adolf Weinmüller had an overview of which auction houses would be losing their licenses and was thus able to profit unscrupulously from the "Aryanization" of the art sector. By late 1938 - after the Germany-wide Kristallnacht pogroms in November of that year - all 628 Jewish-run art and antiquity dealers had been put out of business and their inventories plundered. Founded in 1936, Adolf Weinmüller's auction house became the most prosperous in the business. One of his best customers was high-ranking Nazi official Martin Bormann, who was commissioned with purchasing valuable old paintings for Hitler's personal collection. Insider privileges Within a short time, the auctioneer managed to create a monopoly on the German art scene, according to Uwe Hartmann, director of the provenance research unit at Germany's Federal Office for Central Services and Unresolved Property Issues.
  • 6. 6 "In some cities, the artworks seized from Jewish owners after 1938 were auctioned by his house, nearly without exception." In summer 1941, Weinmüller started traveling regularly to Prague together with Hans Posse, director of the planned Führermuseum in Linz. "He was allowed to go to the Gestapo headquarters and select paintings and furniture that had been confiscated from Jewish collectors and art dealers," explained Meike Hopp. "That clearly indicates that a large portion of the objects he dealt with were supposedly looted." Unimaginable dimensions By 1944, Adolf Weinmüller had amassed an impressive collection. In Vienna he took over the "Aryanization" of the Jewish gallery Kunsthaus Kende and opened a branch of his own there. After the war, the so-called Monuments Men sent by the Allied forces recovered 34,500 works in his auction houses. In contrast, Gurlitt was a small fish, says Meike Hopp, pointing out that the Allies' list of Hildebrandt Gurllit's inventory took up three pages, but Weinmüller's filled an entire binder. "It's hard to even imagine the dimension of the works that were in his inventory in 1945," she said. "And that's what he built his post-war business on." The publication of Weinmüller's documents from 1936-1943 reveal the extent of his massive collection: 51 auctions were recorded in 93 catalogues, which were recently made available to the public on the Lost Art website. The documents include the deliverer, the sale price and exact details of each work that came under Weinmüller's hammer. There's one exception, explained Meike Hopp: "For us it was clear that we didn't want to publish the names of the buyers online, in order to avoid any form of defamation or slander." Corpse-free cellar In researching Weinmüller's past for her dissertation, Meike Hopp stumbled upon incriminating evidence, but his business documents appeared to have been destroyed. In 2009, with support from the federal government and the Neumeister auction house, her research was expanded into a bigger project. The coincidental discovery of Weinmüller's auction documents in a steel air conditioning cabinet in March 2013 was all the more valuable, says Kathrin Stoll, director of the Neumeister auction house. "There were bundles that were tied together. And then you could see the name of the consignor: 'Gestapo.' Then you get goose bumps." It may be an expression of the democratic responsibility felt by the post-war generation: Kathrin Stoll, whose father, Rudolf Neumeister, bought Weinmüller's debt-ridden auction house in 1958, quickly cleared it with her family that she wanted to make these dramatic documents available to the researchers and the public.
  • 7. 7 "We didn't want to hesitate a day longer because we knew that every day heirs or descendants of dispossessed Jewish families may die," said Stoll. We knew we had to go public very quickly - unlike the Gurlitt case, which was kept secret for two years." Uwe Hartmann holds Kathrin Stoll in high regard for her approach. "She makes it clear that dealing with this issue differently is perhaps a generational issue. She described it fairly visually when she said, 'I don't want any corpses in my cellar!'" A few more facts. As Julia Voss reports in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, “The art dealer Adolf Weinmüller lived from 1886 until 1958 in Bavaria. Like Gurlitt, he made his most significant professional leap under National Socialism, and like Gurlitt he was also active in art dealing after 1945. Previously, he was known mainly to professionals. When Meike Hopp made public her dissertation “Art Dealing under National Socialism: Adolf Weinmüller in Munich and Vienna” in 2012, it was the first publication that dealt with him. Until only a few months ago, even his appearance was unknown. A photograph has since surfaced that shows an old man with glasses at an auction, discreet, dignified. With the discoveries of the Gurlitt and now the Weinmueller information, the looted art matter seems to have new life. My guess is that there will be other findings elsewhere and the legal attempts to restore some of the stolen works of art will continue for years to come. Sometimes justice takes a long time to be served. The two recent findings have speeded up the process immeasurably. No sooner had I finished writing the above than it was announced in The Times of Israel that, “Israel and Germany have agreed to conduct joint research in museums in both countries aimed at determining the original ownership of Jewish-owned art looted by Nazis, officials said. Under an agreement signed Sunday by Israeli Culture Ministry Director General Orly Froman and German Culture Minister Monika Gruetters, art experts from the two countries will undergo training and coordinate the formation of joint data bases. Read the entire article by clicking here http://www.timesofisrael.com/israel-germany-to- cooperate-on-nazi-looted-art/ THE CHANGE IN PENSION THINKING Back in 1997 the then journalist Deidre Berger (in her pre-AJC days) wrote in JTA about a dispute AJC and other Jewish organizations were having with the German government. The government was paying disability pensions to World War II veterans suspected of being war criminals but refused pensions to Holocaust survivors living in former communist countries.
  • 8. 8 In fact, “the American Jewish Committee ran advertisements in U.S. newspapers featuring photographs of a Waffen SS veteran and a survivor of a Nazi ghetto in Eastern Europe with the headline: “Guess Which One Receives a War Victim’s Pension from the German Government?” It was strong stuff. The government finally relented About the government’s about-face Deidre wrote, “The [new] law was proposed by the Green Party, which led the fight in recent years to suspend disability benefits to war criminals and to begin paying pensions to Holocaust victims living in Eastern Europe. Germany has paid more than $54 billion in compensation to Holocaust survivors since World War II. However, those living in Soviet-bloc countries were unable to apply for compensation during the Cold War, and Communist East Germany refused to make any payments. Jewish organizations estimate that there are between 15,000 and 40,000 Holocaust survivors in Eastern Europe who have never received compensation. German officials are currently negotiating with the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany regarding compensation payments to Holocaust survivors in Eastern Europe. In August, the German government and officials of the Claims Conference announced the establishment of a joint commission to recommend a compromise. The commission is expected to make its proposals before the end of the year. The pensions were paid and many thought that would be the end of the German government’s willingness to adjust their thinking. That did not turn out to be the case. Only recently Y-Net News reported, “Germany's Parliament has unanimously approved a measure extending pension payments for thousands of elderly Jews who were forced to work for the Nazis in ghettos. The Jewish Claims Conference, which helped negotiate the deal with the government, said the new deal passed Thursday means some 40,000 Holocaust survivors will soon be able to receive benefits back-dated to 1997. That's the year Germany began recognizing work in ghettos as eligible for pension payments. Until now, recipients have only received payments backdated to four years from when they applied. During World War II, the Nazis made widespread use of Jews, primarily non-Germans, in ghettos as laborers in exchange for food or meager wages. The proposal was introduced by Labor Minister Andrea Nahles, who has promised payments would be made "swiftly and efficiently." The important point here other than the fact that many aged survivors would now receive enhanced pensions, is that the German government thinking over the years has changed. They have increasingly accepted more responsibility and have “put their money where their mouths are”.
  • 9. 9 ‘Nuff said! AIN’T NOTHING SECRET ANYMORE In the last six or eight months the U.S. has been pretty badly beaten up for spying in Germany – on Germans. It was revealed that our NSA (National Security Agency) even tapped the private cell phone of Chancellor Angela Merkel. The media (German and American) played this up to such a degree that the average German’s perception of the U.S. dropped precipitously. The American-haters had a field day and the NSA took it on the chin. Where was the German security agency (BND) in all this? Lying low I guess. It now comes out that the relationship between the NSA and the BND is extremely deep. The BND is not supposed to spy on their own nationals. Do they? Or do they let the NSA do it and then quietly and off the record receive the data? Recently Spiegel On-Line ran a story which noted, “Cooperation between Germany's foreign intelligence service, the BND, and America's NSA is deeper than previously believed. German agents appear to have crossed into constitutionally questionable territory. In a particularly sensitive case called Wharpdrive, “The NSA, apparently, did not perform the highly sensitive operation on its own. All signs indicate that the agency had help from Germany's Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), the country's foreign intelligence agency. The code name Wharpdrive appears in a paper drafted in preparation for a BND delegation's visit to NSA headquarters in Fort Meade, and which instructs NSA leaders to "thank the BND for their assistance with the trilateral program." It also makes clear that the German agency plays a leadership role in the Wharpdrive program, with the NSA providing only technical assistance. Germany's collaboration with US intelligence, which Berlin officials agreed to in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, is opaque and convoluted: opaque because the German parliament and public are unable to review most of what is delivered to the United States; convoluted because there are questions about its legality. German intelligence agencies, for their part, consider their cooperation with the NSA to be indispensable -- for counter-terrorism efforts, for the fight against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and for the battle against organized crime. According to a classified paper created by the government in response to a query from the opposition, the BND does not keep official statistics on the amount of telephone, email and text message metadata that is shuttled to American agencies” From what I have printed above, you should be able to get the idea that spying, especially electronic spying, on a massive level is happening both in Germany and the U.S. It’s probably happening everywhere. There is no doubt that privacy is a thing of the past. There is no such thing as confidential information. If you know it – they know it!
  • 10. 10 You should read the whole story. It will frighten you. Click here to read it. http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/the-german-bnd-and-american-nsa- cooperate-more-closely-than-thought-a-975445.html EXTREMISM IN GERMANY Given the dramatic rise in anti-Semitism is European countries such as France where the extreme right wing party of the LePens scored a victory in the recent Euro elections, it should not surprise us that extremist activity in Germany is also on the increase. Recently Germany’s domestic intelligence service, which has the long drawn out name of The Federal Office of the Protection of the Constitution, published its annual report on extremism. A couple of weeks ago DW reported, “The German domestic intelligence agency has warned of a sharp rise in violence from right- and left-wing groups. A report also found growing numbers of Islamist extremists returning from terror training camps in Syria. Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere warned of an increase in violence linked to political and religious extremists in Germany. Presenting the annual domestic intelligence agency report on Wednesday in Berlin, de Maiziere said that though the numbers of right- and left-wing extremists in Germany had not grown, there was a notable increase in the brutality of actions by such groups. De Maiziere spoke of a deplorable trend toward physical violence on both sides of the political spectrum. Right-wing extremists mostly target foreigners in Germany. However, they now opt for physical aggression more often than in the past, when they often resorted to verbal attacks. De Maiziere spoke of an increase in attacks on foreigners in Germany by over 20 percent compared to the year before: 473 such cases were recorded in 2013. Left-wing radicals, on the other hand, go on record not for xenophobic attacks, but for assaulting police officers or security personnel. "We cannot accept this rise in violence, and do everything to combat it," he said. The report published by the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution shows that the number of members of right- and left-wing groups had remained unchanged compared to 2012, at 9,600 and 27,000 individuals, respectively. The agency did record, however, a significant rise in young people joining radical religious groups, such as Islamist Salafists. The report links this rise also to the deteriorating situation in Syria, warning that up to
  • 11. 11 100 people had returned to Germany after having spent time in terror training camps there. All in all I do not think the report denotes a totally calamitous situation. Certainly the increase in violence is something that is worrisome but the security people seem to have any enormous growth of extremist activity in check. Germany is not France. However, the fact that the report notes “up to a one hundred people” have been to terror training camps in Syria is frightening. These folks are not traveling to Syria for a vacation. Their future requires careful watching. A CHINK IN HER ARMOR? A Spiegel On-Line article recently noted, “For years, German Chancellor Angela Merkel was the strongest politician in the European Union. Lately, her hold on power has become weaker -- and one of the greatest challenges is coming from within her own government. [Sigmar] Gabriel [SPD], who is also Germany's economy minister, spoke to journalists during a tour of the Airbus facility in Toulouse. European policies have to be revisited, Gabriel said. "The focus on pure austerity policies [for which Merkel is best known] has failed," he claimed. The reporters couldn't believe their ears. Did he really just say that? Is Gabriel in the process of turning away from the highly touted Stability Pact after years of backing German Chancellor Angela Merkel's euro-crisis strategy? Is he trying to pick a fight with Europe's austerity queen? Gabriel's comment was just the latest indication that Merkel's solid hold on the reins of power in Europe may slowly be weakening. After years of being the de facto leader of Europe, largely a function of Germany's relatively good economic health even as the Continent's economy crumbled around it, Merkel is now losing traction on a number of issues. The assault on Merkel is coming from three flanks. First off, she is facing pressure from her rivals inside of Europe. The governments in Rome and Paris have long believed that Merkel is too dominant and that she is pushing Europe in the wrong direction. But now, the chancellor is also losing the support of countries that once favored her course. Indeed, when EU leaders gather in Brussels, there is one issue that unites them all, regardless of their party affiliation: They believe that Merkel is too powerful. Merkel's critics, secondly, will soon have an ally at the head of the European Commission. As the situation currently stands, it seems probable that Jean-Claude Juncker will become president of the EU's executive body. Officially, Merkel supports the center-right politician from Luxembourg. But when it comes to austerity in Europe and financial policy, Juncker is far to the left of the German chancellor.
  • 12. 12 Even worse for Merkel, she now faces a growing number of opponents within the EU. When the Dutch, for example, slipped into recession two years ago, they suddenly softened their focus on austerity. Internally, Gabriel says that he is not interested in starting a fight with Merkel. He instead sees himself as a liaison between the chancellor and all those countries for whom austerity is an unbearable burden. But of course, if Merkel's foreign policy aura dimmed, he wouldn't have any problems with that. Gabriel recently set up a working group in his Economy Ministry to develop a Europe strategy reflecting Social Democratic values. The focus, says one of the group members, is to find ways to promote growth in Europe. But it has also proven valuable in providing Gabriel with ammunition to counter Merkel. One slogan as already been established, insiders say: "The states cannot be allowed to save themselves to death." I don’t think anybody as yet thinks Chancellor Merkel is on the skids. However, when Der Spiegel prints such an article one must at least say that the 100% strong backing she has had in the past is not quite as muscular as it has been. It is true that she has been Germany’s leader for more than two terms and nothing lasts forever. However, there is no real sign that the current grand coalition between her CDU and Gabriel’s SPD is anything less than solid. The current term still has more than 3 years to run. There is no reason to think that it won’t last. But, as we move on, my guess is that there will be more discussion about the future and, perhaps, some softening of the Chancellor’s austerity stand. She’s a great politician so I’m sure she’s not just sitting on her hands just waiting for things to happen. We’ll keep you informed. To read the entire Spiegel on-Line article click here. http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/european-center-left-challenging-merkel- leadership-in-eu-a-976918.html See you in July. DuBow Digest is written and published by Eugene DuBow who can be contacted at dubowdigest@optonline.net Both the American and Germany editions are posted at www.dubowdigest.typepad.com