Du bow digest american edition june 3,2012


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An American Jewish - German Information & Opinion Newsletter

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Du bow digest american edition june 3,2012

  1. 1. AN AMERICAN JEWISH – GERMAN INFORMATION & OPINION NEWSLETTER 10 Voorhis Point, South Nyack, NY (845)353-1945 dubowdigest@optonline.netAMERICAN EDITIONJune 3, 2012Dear Friends:Im back!I spent 12 days in Germany, most of them staffing the 32nd annual exchangeprogram jointly sponsored by AJC and the Konrad Adenauer Foundation. We startedin Berlin, visited Erfurt, the Buchenwald Memorial, made a stop in Weimar and thenheaded back to Berlin. All this in 5 1/2 days! The AJC group was wonderful and theprogram that Ingrid Garwels of the Foundation worked out for us was perfect.While there was much talk about the Euro zone and the possible unraveling of theEU, I did not feel any negative vibes about the German economy which seems torolling along quite well. There is not much sympathy for bailing out Greece or anyother Euro country. However, the rest of the world seems to be saying that onlyGermany and Chancellor Merkel can save the EU. The Washington Post has anarticle on the subject. Click here to read it.http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/merkel-is-target-of-calls-for-drastic-measures-by-germany-to-save-euro-zone/2012/06/02/gJQAN6hM9U_story.htmlWe had a meeting with Rabbi Walter Homolka, the Executive Director of theAbraham Geiger College at Potsdam University. The Geiger College, part of theReform Movement has been grinding out rabbis for pulpits in Germany and otherEuropean countries. How many of you knew that? Yes! A rabbinical seminary inGermany! Rabbi Homolka is not one to sit on his successes. He is now in theprocess of arranging to train Conservative rabbis as well. Berlin alone has someeleven synagogues. Jewish life may not be at a pre-World War II level as yet but itcertainly seems alive and well. DW featured a pictorial on the subject. Click here toopen it. http://www.dw.de/dw/0,,1432,00.htmlWhere did all this strength emanate from? The Russians! No one knows exactnumbers but somewhere between 200,000 and 250,000 Russian Jews came to 1
  2. 2. Germany after the Berlin Wall fell. The organized Jewish community in Germanyruns under Orthodox rules (Halacha) so not all had Jewish mothers or, at least,could not provide the authorities with sufficient documentation proving they werehalachically Jewish. Many, therefore, are not "official members". At the momentthere are 103,000 that are “official”. However, since the immigration has all butstopped and there are more deaths than births, the number of Jews in Germany isdecreasing rather than increasing.AJC in Berlin (Ramer Institute) is doing its diplomatic outreach and advocacy workvery well. With some more professional help (They’re short staffed) they could do alot more. However, one thing they seem expert at is getting the German schoolsystems to incorporate their tolerance building programs, Hands Across the Campus& Hands for Kids into the public school curricula. AJC in German schools! Howabout that?While in Erfurt we presented the Thuringia Minister President (Governor) ChristineLieberknecht with program packages provided to us by Berlin AJC Director DeidreBerger. By the next day Mr. Wachmeister of the Thuringian Institute for TeacherTraining had already received them and was very positive about theirimplementation in their schools.I wish I could say that Germans totally supported Israel and understood all theproblems it is faced with. However, that’s not the case. Israel is still frequently seenas an “aggressor” in this very pacifistic nation. I don’t think the Germans haveparticular love for the Palestinians but they are seen as oppressed by a muchstronger foe and, therefore, are on the receiving end of a lot of sympathy.Interestingly, both the Chancellor and her government are strong supporters of Israel(with exceptions for some policies such as the “Settlements”). The voting public is atbest – conflicted. It’s hard to categorize the media. Sometimes they’re supportiveand sometimes not. In the recent flap over the Günter Grass poem which accusedIsrael of planning to wipe out Iran with nuclear missiles, the media, in general,strongly criticized Grass. Mostly, however, media support for Israel is hard to comeby.Even if the public is not 100% pro-Israel, the sale of the six German built submarinesto Israel which form its second strike capability, went through without much grousing.And, Germany is paying for part of them. Subs are more important than goodfeeling.Though the German election is more than a year away, there is a lot of talk andthinking about what the fall of 2013 will bring. Most of the “smart money” is on a“Grand Coalition” between the two largest parties, the Chancellor’s CDU and theSPD Social Democrats. It just doesn’t look (at the moment) that either side hasenough strength to put together a coalition that would exclude the other. GrandCoalitions produce a certain amount of gridlock (see Washington) but, at this very 2
  3. 3. difficult time in Europe perhaps a government of “national unity” is what is needed. AGrand Coalition is just that.Let’s get on with the news…IN THIS EDITIONDANIEL GAEDE – The Buchenwald Education Director writes on Comparisons andHidden Intentions.THE PRESIDENT VISITS ISRAEL – Not Obama but German Pres. Gauck. A littledissonance arises.BAD AROLSEN – A gigantic trove of information about a very bad time.SALAFISM IN GERMANY – An increase in extremism?STUDIES! STUDIES! MORE STUDIES! – Enough with the studies! How about someaction?MEIN KAMPF: REDUX – Do you know what’s in it? Two books rather than one?DANIEL GAEDEDaniel Gaede is the Head of the Dept. of Memorial Education at the BuchenwaldMemorial – better known to us as the Buchenwald Concentration Camp. I first cameto know Daniel probably 20 years ago when he guided an AJC tour group at theCamp. When you meet and talk to him you immediately know that he is a specialsort of individual. People who work at these sites where horrible things took placecome there (I guess) for various reasons. A way to make a living, enhancing acareer as a historian or (again I guess) serving in a capacity that will help othersunderstand the universal message of the results of evil. Daniel is definitely in thelatter category. To know him is to know a special person.Until my most recent visit to Buchenwald I had not seen Daniel for a few years. Werenewed our friendship. I was not surprised that Daniel was still at Buchenwald.Knowing a little of his history brought me to that conclusion. Some years ago, Danieland his brother were in Jerusalem (I think his brother was studying there thoughneither was Jewish). Riding on a bus that was attacked by a terrorist, Daniel’sbrother was killed and Daniel lost the sight in one eye. One would think that angerand hate would result – but not from Daniel. It only impelled him to seek andmaintain a career trying to explain the implications of evil acts for all humanity.Upon my return home, Daniel sent me a “think piece” he had written in 2009. It is 3
  4. 4. deep and requires that you read it more than once. Without comment you will find itbelow. I would love to have your thoughts on the matter he discusses.Comparisons and (hidden) intentionsWhat is the difference betweena grand piano and a violin?The grand piano burns longer.At the end of a guided tour at the memorial site of Buchenwald I said to theparticipants that the causes of all the crimes organized by the Nazis in the campwere based outside the fence: In the minds of so many who would agree with thepolicy of discrimination, exclusion, deportation and also killing of all people, who didnot fit into their picture of society. “You should tell that to Barack Obama and alsomention Guantanamo Bay”, one guest said loudly to me. How should I respond?Say, “You cannot compare this; Guantanamo is another story?” or “Yes, You areright; the US Americans are not better than the Nazis” or should I ask back “What doYou want with Your comparison?”The history of the place called “Buchenwald” is a little bit complicated for those whoprefer easy answers and therefore black and white stories without grey zones: Afterthe liberation of 21.000 survivors of the concentration camp in April 1945 (56.000out of 240.000 prisoners were killed between 1937 and 1945) and the takeover ofthe Soviets in Thuringia in August 1945 the camp site was used for internment ofGermans which were isolated there as Nazis or because of denunciations. Tillspring 1950 more than 28.000 persons had been kept there; more than 7.100 diedfrom the Soviet camp conditions. 7.100 out of 28.000 are more than 25 percent;56.000 out of 240.000 less than a quarter:“So look”, someone told me, “the Communists were worse than the Nazis; weren’tthey?”How to weigh human suffering? And what for? And are the two mentionedcomparisons really fuelled by compassion with the suffering of those who were inthat Soviet camp or still are at Guantanamo?We have a long, morally up heated debate on comparisons; which is not helpful atall, because too often it ends in the statement “You shall not compare”. Now, to endcomparisons includes the end of science as such, without looking for differencesand similarities uniqueness of historical events or of us as human beings cannot bedescribed - which is a matter of logic and not of emotion.The nearly pain causing statement “The grand piano burns longer” is onlyunderstandable if You think of a person freezing in a house without a runningheating system, but an old oven without coal or wood to use it. From thatperspective it makes sense to prefer the grand piano to the violin; it will be totally 4
  5. 5. different if someone has to carry the instruments up to the fifth floor or if a musician(violinist, pianist or drummer) is asked for his preference.Comparisons are essential tools in science as in daily life; we cannot live withoutthem. But we need to be clear about the intention of those who compare “appleswith peaches”. If - in the fields of history and social sciences - people compare withthe aim better to talk about the crimes of the others instead about ownresponsibilities, its time to interrupt and clarify what we stand for as educators inmemorial sites: Precisely dealing with proved facts to support a deeperunderstanding of the past with the aim to strengthen those who suffered or want toengage themselves for others in need - on the long run for a sustainable future onthis planet, since we don’t have a second one in spare.Daniel Gaede, 15.10.09THE PRESIDENT VISITS ISRAELTwo weeks ago German President Joachim Gauck made a visit to Israel. It wasimportant as Pres. Gauck, who is seen as a strong voice in Germany, is the sort ofperson many Germans look up to on those questions dealing with moral issues. Thevisit should have been totally upbeat and positive; one devoid of any criticisms – oneither side. However, it didn’t quite work out that way.According to JTA, “German President Joachim Gauck raised the issue of Israelisettlements during his official visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority.Speaking with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on May 30, Gauck askedthe Israeli leader to show readiness to make a compromise on settlementconstruction.In a statement issued May 30, the American Jewish Committees Berlin officeapplauded Gaucks "strong reaffirmation of German-Jewish relations" but also urgedhim to affirm his commitment to protecting Israels security, in light of "anincreasingly negative climate toward Israel" in Germany.Recent polls have shown a decline in popular support for Israel among Germancitizens, noted Berlin AJC director Deidre Berger.During his stay, Gauck met with his Israeli counterpart, Shimon Peres, whom hethanked for the “immeasurable generosity of the gift of trust” that Israel has grantedto the Federal Republic of Germany. In discussions with Israeli Foreign MinisterAvigdor Liebermann, Gauck again criticized Israels settlement policy.The trip included a visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem and toa German-funded girls school in the West Bank village of Burin. 5
  6. 6. Reinhold Robbe, president of the German-Israel Society, who accompanied Gauckon the visit, said in a statement that the president had made his friendship with andsupport for Israel clear during the visit. "It is not mere lip service, but an importantdriving force for the president."The AJC statement got somewhat more into detail when it noted, ““The timing ofPresident Gauck’s visit is of particular importance, given the threat to Israel of Iran’ssecret nuclear program“ said [Deidre] Berger. “We urge President Gauck to clarifythat his statements do not indicate a shift by the German government in its positionon Israel. We are concerned the comments, without reaffirming the position of theGerman Chancellor, will have a further negative impact in Germany on support forIsrael.”Upon receiving AJC’s “Light Unto the Nations” award in 2011, Chancellor Merkelpledged that the award would be a daily reminder for Germany to do everythingpossible to help “the people in Israel to live in a secure Jewish state, with secureborders and freedom.”Gauck said during his visit that he hopes Israel and an independent Palestinianstate will coexist peacefully in recognized borders. However, in discussions withForeign Minister Avigdor Liebermann, Gauck criticized Israeli settlement policy.Following his trip to Israel, he plans to visit Palestinian officials in Ramallah.“It is important to avoid conflation of the Mideast conflict with German-Israeli andGerman-Jewish relations,” said Berger. “There has never been a more criticalmoment for German support for Israel, given the enormous political unrest in theMideast, and we hope this important first visit by President Gauck will strengthen theGerman-Israeli partnership.”A further discussion of the AJC statement was carried by the Jerusalem Post. Toread it click here. http://www.jpost.com/DiplomacyAndPolitics/Article.aspx?id=272283In summary, I think it can be said that Pres. Gauck’s visit to Israel was important andwas generally seen in a positive light. – but not by all including, perhaps, some in theChancellor’s Office,AJC and others did not feel that he showed a necessary deep understanding ofIsrael’s current plight. We certainly will be following his career and relationship withthe Jewish State as time goes on.BAD AROLSENBad Arolsen is more good than bad. First of all, it is, as John LeCarre’s novel titlespelled out – “A Small Town in Germany”. Though I’ve not been there it seems to be 6
  7. 7. the kind of picturesque community that you see in travel folders. However, it issomething more. It is an enormous depot of information about Holocaust victims.As Wikipedia points out, “Since 1946, Bad Arolsen has been headquarters to theInternational Tracing Service, an organization dedicated to finding missing civilians,typically lost to family and friends as a result of war or political unrest during WorldWar II. The institution is led and administered by the International Committee of theRed Cross and funded by the Federal Republic of Germany.A venue for millions of documents related to the Nazi-attempted extermination of theJewish people and others, the ITS holds vast archives of Nazi-related documents. InApril 2006, German justice minister Brigitte Zypries announced that Germany wouldcooperate with the United States and allow survivors and historians of the Holocaustaccess to 47 million pages of documents, although an eleven-nation accord had todecide unanimously that this was to be done. More than 12 Million of the documentshave now being digitally scanned and shared with research institutions around theworld. The archive fully opened when France, Italy and Greece ratified changes tothe access protocol. Information kept hidden from the public since its inception wasfinally open to the public in November 2007.Haaretz recently reported, “A U.S. university professor has been appointed directorof the International Tracing Services Holocaust-era archive in the German town ofBad Arolsen.The ITS said Wednesday its 11-member international commission had voted toname Rebecca Boehling, a professor at the University of Maryland BaltimoreCounty, to head the archive starting Jan. 1, 2013.Boehling is an expert on the Holocaust, World War II and the early postwar period inGermany.The ITS was established by Western Allies in the final days of World War II and runby the Red Cross to help uncover the fates of Holocaust victims and others whosuffered under the Nazi regime.In 2007, scholars and researchers were allowed access to the documents,beginning the archives transformation from a tracing service to a researchinstitution.While I do not know Prof. Boehling she seems to be the perfect person to guide theITS and the possibilities it has for Holocaust research. You can read her bio byclicking here. http://www.aicgs.org/expert/professor-rebecca-boehling/If that’s not enough, you can see her in person on You Tube as she interviews asubject dealing with a book she co-authored, Life and Loss in the Shadow of theHolocaust. Click here to see it. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nIPDIGXL0N4 7
  8. 8. SALAFISM IN GERMANYIn the last edition I wrote about the handing out of Korans throughout Germany. Ialso noted that these free editions mainly came with a political message fromextreme Islamists, the Salafists.An article on the DW website dealt with the subject of the rise of this sort ofextremism in Germany. It noted, “In the last two years, Germanys Federal Office forthe Protection of the Constitution [Ed. Note: Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz(BfV)] has noted "increasing travels in the direction of Afghanistan and Pakistan"from people who come from "milieus influenced by the Salafist ideology."Furthermore, "almost without exception, all of those connected with Germany thathave joined up with or supported violent jihadist movements, had prior contact withSalafists."Salafism is not a unified movement. Instead, it is an umbrella concept for a numberof branches of Sunni Islam."They propagate what they consider an original form of Islam, tracing it back to aGolden Age around 1,400 years ago, from which Muslims have gradually movedaway in the course of the centuries," said Raul Ceylan, an Islamic Studies professorin Osnabrück.Their goal is to recreate this original form of Islam, Ceylan explained, and they rejectall forms of subsequent religious or social "developments." Just a few radical groupswithin the movement advocate violent conflict, though.What is it that makes such extremist groups attractive to recruits?"For one thing, its the very close and sect-like communal life," said Ceylan. "Themore you enter this circle and integrate into its structures, the less contact with theoutside world youll have.""Its also the attractiveness of simplicity," Ceylan added, referring to the black andwhite picture that prevails among extremist groups of all non-Muslims beingcondemned to hell, while all believers will find paradise.Finally, Ceylan said, Salafist preachers give their followers a sense of being "thechosen ones."In the last few months, the Salafists have moved beyond basic propaganda. Lastyear, an association calling itself "Invitation to Paradise” tried to settle in the westernGerman city of Mönchengladbach. Months of protests by residents ultimatelyprevented that, and the group was forced to disband. 8
  9. 9. On the other hand, an Internet platform launched in 2005 called "The True Religion”has expanded its activities. In recent weeks, its members made headlines bydistributing German translations of the Koran in various cities. There is often a singlecharismatic preacher behind such actions."There is no umbrella organization," explained Raul Ceylan. "They are simply localassociations that are networked with one another."Up until a few years ago the Islamic population of Germany was made up of Turkswho were very far from being Salafist and radical. Newer elements from elsewherehave become more vocal and at times violent in their demonstrations. I do not thinkit is as yet a major problem but it certainly is one that gets considerable publicity.The BfV seems to be on top of the situation.You can read more about it in a DW interview with a BfV expert on the matter byclicking here. http://www.dw.de/dw/article/0,,15937261_page_0,00.htmlSTUDIES! STUDIES! MORE STUDIES!JTA recently reported, “The European Union has launched a major study of anti-Semitism on the continent.The study, which aims to assess the problem and recommend solutions, is likely thefirst survey to ask Jews in nine EU member states about their perceptions andexperiences of anti-Semitism, hate speech, hate-motivated violence anddiscrimination.The United Kingdom-based Institute for Jewish Policy Research and Ipsos MORIhas been commissioned by the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights to conduct thestudy, which comes at a time of increasing concern among Jews in some Europeancountries, particularly as the intensifying economic crisis exacerbates age-old anti-Semitic sentiments."Anti-Semitism remains an issue of concern today, not only to Jews but to everyonein the EU," Iloannis Dimitrakopoulos, head of the EU agencys department ofequality and citizens rights, said in a statement May 25 announcing thecommencement of fieldwork. "The ways in which it manifests itself vary according totime and place, and it affects Jews living in the EU in different ways."According to the statement, the online survey will "investigate first-hand examples ofanti-Semitic harassment and violence, as well as the extent to which Jews feel safeand secure in Europe today, how they characterize anti-Semitism, and whether ornot they perceive it to be a growing threat. It will further explore how and whetherincidents are being reported, and levels of awareness among European Jews abouttheir legal rights." 9
  10. 10. For now, data will be collected in nine European Union member states -- Belgium,France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Romania, Sweden and the UnitedKingdom. Survey results are scheduled to be published in 2013.Jonathan Boyd, executive director of the Institute for Jewish Policy Research, said inthe statement that “It is clear to all observers of contemporary Jewish life thatanti-Semitism continues to be a major preoccupation and worry in Jewish communalcircles. If it is ever to be effectively tackled, it is essential to have shared, reliabledata."Believe me! I am not opposed to studies of anti-Semitism. They focus thinking on a“forever” kind of problem and, hopefully, get people and particularly decision andpolicy makers to think about its implications for their own nations and the lives oftheir citizens. I guess that since such an important institution as the EU isundertaking the study it will have genuine credence. However, we pretty much knowwhat the results will be. There will be substantial evidence of anti-Semitism. Jewswill think there is more of it than their non-Jewish neighbors. Perhaps, anti-Semitismfrom Arab and Islamic sources will come through more clearly. There will be more ofit the further east you go.The study will be published with the appropriate press releases and appropriatepublicity. Leaders will make all the appropriate noises of horror at the findings. A fewpolitical leaders (Hungary?) will make what they consider the appropriate rejectionsof the findings – and we will pretty much be back where we started.You are probably sick of reading my paralleling anti-Semitism and tuberculosis. Atthe risk of boring you, in my opinion anti-Semitism can be arrested but never cured.It can remain dormant but it never is fully eradicated. Given the propercircumstances it raises its ugly head when economic, political, religious or socialsituations arise and a political weapon is needed.I would be happier if the EU outlined a political implementation program to go alongwith the study. At the risk of appearing to be an enemy of “science” let’s forget doingthe study and work on an anti-anti-Semitism program that defends Jews and otherminorities.MEIN KAMPF: REDUXI have written previously (at least twice) about the proposed 2015 printing inGermany of Mein Kampf for the first time since 1945. I thought the issue was settledespecially since Hitler’s tome has been printed almost everywhere else and is easilydownloaded from the Internet. However, for the Germans to print it and then have itavailable in schools is more major than I thought.Much has been written about it on all sides of the issue and it has been mentioned 10
  11. 11. more than once that very few people (including me) have ever read it and do notknow what’s in it. In addition, many (me too) did not know it was actually two bookswritten at different times with the second only coming to light after World War II.Alex Joffe writing in Jewish Ideas Daily sorts a lot of it out and opines what theGermans should do about it. He writes, “Important literature cant be kept underwraps forever. A case in point is Mein Kampf. The German state of Bavaria, whichholds the German copyright, has blocked the books publication within Hitlershomeland; as recently as 2010, the state went to court to prevent an unauthorizedacademic edition. But in 2015, 70 years after the authors death, Bavarias copyrightwill expire. So, the state has announced plans to fund two new editions, the first inGerman since 1945, including critical commentary. The aim, say Bavarianauthorities, is to "demystify" Mein Kampf and make other editions "commerciallyunattractive."The recent announcement was welcomed by, among others, representatives ofGermanys Jews, who would prefer to see Mein Kampf remain under careful statecontrol.Like most classics, Mein Kampf is often cited but rarely read, especially by thosewho pass judgment on it; but the book deserves careful study. It was published intwo volumes in 1925 and 1926, after Hitler emerged from the Bavarian prison inwhich he wrote it after his failed 1923 Beer Hall Putsch. The work presents his lifestory, education, philosophy, and plans. Its structure is immensely clever, beginningwith a very modest snapshot of Hitlers family and early life. Through this deviceHitler poses as the German Everyman.The book then maps Hitlers struggles—as a child, artist, soldier, and revolutionary—onto the struggles of the German nation, whose corrupt leaders have failed itspure, if naïve, people. Hitlers life becomes Germanys life. "The Goddess of Fate,"Hitler addresses Germany, "clutched me in her hands and often threatened tosmash me; but the will grew stronger as the obstacles increased, and finally the willtriumphed." The purely literary merits of such declarations are few, but theemotional appeal to the German masses of 1925—or, Bavaria fears, 2012—isapparent.What is needed, the book explains, is to uplift and "nationalize the people." But as astruggling artist in Vienna, Hitler came to see the obstacles: His "eyes were openedto two perils, the names of which I scarcely knew hitherto and had no notionwhatsoever of their terrible significance for the existence of the German people":Marxism and Judaism. Even more fundamentally, social democracy, finance,capitalism and Communism, the press—all these corruptions stemmed from "the lifewhich the Jew lives as a parasite thriving on the substance of other nations andStates." The book, initially taut, then becomes baggier, suitable mostly for dipping inand out rather than reading through; but it remains saturated with a pure anti-Semitism that even the most episodic reader could not miss. 11
  12. 12. One of the books virtues, so to speak, is honesty. "The art of leadership," itexplains, "as displayed by really great popular leaders in all ages, consists inconsolidating the attention of the people against a single adversary and taking carethat nothing will split up that attention into sections." Hitler makes clear from thebeginning who that single adversary will be. No one who had persevered throughthe first 100 pages should have had any doubt about his beliefs or intentions; and noone reading it after Hitlers appointment as Chancellor of Germany on January 30,1933 should have doubted that the books racialized, anti-Semitic, anti-democraticprogram would become state policy.In his so-called ‘‘Second Book, written in 1928 but not published in his lifetime,Hitler laid out concisely his vision for a national socialist foreign policy, based not onindustry and trade but on the expansionist pursuit of Lebensraum. The Second Bookis a policy statement, not a personal one, and perhaps for that reason wasunavailable until 1961 (thanks to the discovery of a typescript among materialsseized by the U.S. government). Yet whereas credulous readers of Mein Kampfinsisted until 1939 that that book was not to be taken seriously, the Second Bookleaves no doubt of Hitlers aims.Joffe’s article is too long to completely reprint here. In the section where he adviseson how the book should be treated, especially in schools, is must reading. You canbring it up (and you should) by clicking here.http://www.jewishideasdaily.com/content/module/2012/5/22/main-feature/1/sending-mein-kampf-back-to-school/r&jtahome******************************************************************************************See you again at the end of the month. DuBow Digest is written and published by Eugene DuBow who can be contacted byclicking hereBoth the American and Germany editions are posted atwww.dubowdigest.typepad.comClick here to connect 12