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Du bow digest american edition october 26, 2010

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Du bow digest american edition october 26, 2010 Du bow digest american edition october 26, 2010 Document Transcript

  • AN AMERICAN JEWISH – GERMAN INFORMATION & OPINION NEWSLETTER dubowdigest@optonline.net AMERICAN EDITION October 26, 2010 Dear Friends: In going over all the news from Germany, things seem relatively quiet in the Federal Republic these days. There are no big elections any time soon and no major catastrophes descending at the moment. There is a lot of talk about implementing tougher EU budgetary rules and a study is about to be released shortly proving that Germany’s Foreign Office was much more involved in the Holocaust during World War II than previously thought. The Green Party seems to be gaining strength so that it may become one of the major parties rather than a political addendum and there have been demonstrations against the destroying of the old Stuttgart train station and replacing it with a new underground structure. However, all that does not seem to be raising the political temperature very much so I’d have to say things are relatively peaceful. However, that is not to say that nothing is happening. So, let’s get on with the news… IN THIS EDITION FASCISM RISING – Hungary not Germany – but enough to worry about. RISE IN XENOPHOBIC SENTIMENT – This time it’s Germany INTEGRATION – Germany’s leading domestic problem. A GERMAN MIDDLEMAN – Behind the scenes diplomacy from Germany’s CIA. 1
  • THE HITLER EXHIBITION – First time in Germany. Good idea? Bad idea? ANOTHER EXHIBITION: ANTI-SEMITISM IN EAST GERMANY – Yes! They had it also. AJC, THE BUNDESWEHR & ISRAEL – The Germany Army visits Israel FASCISM RISING I don’t normally write about Hungary. I’ve never been there and know very little about it. However, when Germany’s leading magazine Der Spiegel publishes a story entitled, Europe's Capital of Anti-Semitism: Budapest Experiences A New Wave of Hate it got my attention. It has been pointed out to me that the article has “mostly impressionistic, lacking even "biased" data”. That may be the case. Even so, when Der Spiegel gives something 4 pages, it’s worth considering. According to the story “Budapest survived fascism and communism and blossomed after the fall of the Iron Curtain. Now the Hungarian capital is experiencing a rebirth of anti-Semitism. The far-right Jobbik party is part of the government and Jews are being openly intimidated. (Editor’s Note: Jobbik is part of the Hungarian parliament but not part of the ruling government). Neo-fascist thugs attacked Roma families, killing six people in a series of murders. The right-wing populists of the Fidesz Party won a two-thirds majority in the parliament, while the anti-Semitic Jobbik party captured 16.7 percent of the vote, making it the third-largest party in Hungary, next to the Socialists. Unknown vandals defiled the Holocaust Memorial with bloody pigs' feet. A new law granted the government direct or indirect control over about 80 percent of the media. The television channel Echo TV showed an image of Nobel laureate and Auschwitz survivor Imre Kertész together with a voiceover about rats. Civil servants can now be fired without cause. Krisztina Morvai, a member of the European Parliament for Jobbik, suggested that "liberal-Bolshevik Zionists" should start thinking about "where to flee and where to hide." ” Gábor Vona, the chairman of Jobbik,… shortly before the swearing-in ceremony, the radical right-wing politician threw off his jacket to reveal a vest reminiscent of the uniforms of the Arrow Cross Party. Germany's Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung described it as "sort of a Nazi outfit." ”All of this is happening in a country that belongs to the European Union and NATO…” ”Things won't get that bad -- at least that was what Jewish intellectual Gaspar Miklos Tamas, 61, used to think. But he changed his mind one day last year, when a group of men in black uniforms and riding boots appeared outside his 2
  • house in downtown Budapest, shouting "Heil Hitler, Professor Tamas, how are you?” The above are only snippets of a short four part story. You should read the whole thing. It concludes with, “The country's most famous writer has not lived in Hungary for years. Imre Kertesz, 80, an Auschwitz survivor and author of "Fateless," grew up in Budapest. Kertesz now lives in the German capital. "Why? It's very simple. Because for a Jewish writer, life is better in Berlin than in Budapest." I guarantee that a full reading of the story will make your blood run cold. Bad times bring out the worst in people and some of it is beginning to surface – and Hungary isn’t the only place. Start worrying – then read it by clicking here. http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/0,1518,722880,00.html RISE IN XENOPHOBIC SENTIMENT Germany is not Hungary but the Federal Republic is also undergoing a rise in xenophobic attitudes including some dealing with the Jews. Dear Spiegel recently reported, “A new study has revealed that far-right attitudes are deeply rooted in German society. One-third of Germans would send foreigners home if there weren't enough jobs, while one-sixth think Jews have too much influence. "Germany is in serious danger of being overrun by foreigners." It's a sentence one would expect to find on an election poster for Germany's far-right NPD party. As it happens, it's a view that is held by over one-third of the German population -- a new survey has revealed that 35.6 percent of Germans agree with the statement. Additionally, more than 30 percent think that "foreigners come to take advantage of the welfare state" and that when jobs are scarce foreigners should be sent "back to their own country." More than one-tenth would like a "Führer" -- the survey deliberately used the German word for "leader" that is associated with Adolf Hitler -- who would govern the country "with a firm hand" for the benefit of all. These are some of the findings of a new study on right-wing attitudes that was presented on Wednesday in Berlin by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, a think tank linked to the center-left Social Democrats. A quarter of Germans agreed with statements that included xenophobic content. "We've detected a rise in decidedly anti-democratic and racist attitudes in 2010," said the researchers, describing the results of their survey of 2,500 randomly selected people. Given that socio-economic factors such as satisfaction with the democratic system or one's personal economic situation are often put forward as possible 3
  • explanations for people holding extreme right-wing views, the researchers also asked respondents about their level of satisfaction with the political system, as well as about their personal situations. The answers painted a bleak picture: More than 90 percent of respondents felt it was useless to become involved in politics and 39.1 percent said they did not feel "safe and comfortable" in their immediate surroundings. 4
  • Nonetheless, over 90 percent of respondents in both the east and west of Germany believed in the idea of democracy. When they were asked about democracy as it is anchored in the German constitution, however, the level of support fell to 73.6 percent. Additionally, only 46.1 percent said they liked the way that democracy functioned in Germany. There is, of course, more to the story - none of it good. It is obviously important for us to understand that Europe in not the United States and that political thoughts and behaviors across the Atlantic do not develop in the American mold. That is not to say that we are immune to xenophobia and extremism here. The anti-Islamic fever that has grown since 9/11 is just the tip of our own iceberg. Let the economic situation get worse or have the recovery touch only a portion of Americans and we'll see more of it. The focus of hostility may not be on the Jews at this moment in history, however, we should always remember (and I believe this to be true), we’re next! INTEGRATION The major political issue in Germany as I have been reporting revolves around the integration of mostly Turkish and Arabic residents. Recently the leader of the CSU, (the Bavarian sister party of Chancellor Merkel’s CDU), Bavarian Minister President Horst Seehofer said in a speech that the concept of multiculturalism ahs completely failed. Following that, the chancellor allied herself (sort of) with Seehofer’s statement by noting (according to The Local) “While warning against "immigration that weighs down on our social system," Merkel said she wanted to see the immigration of highly-specialized experts to continue, backing Labour Minister Ursula von der Leyen. But Merkel said immigrants had to understand the German legal system and speak the language. The multicultural approach had failed, she told the meeting of the youth wing of her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in Potsdam. Yet she referred to Federal President Christian Wulff’s speech where he said that Islam was a valid part of Germany, saying, “Those who ignore the fact that 2,500 Imams conduct their worship in mosques are kidding themselves,” she said. Merkel’s straddling of the immigration and integration topics mirrored splits within her party. Jewish leaders in Germany meanwhile warned that German society and democracy were under threat from extremists. A recent expert study should prompt the government to act against anti- democratic ideas, the secretary general of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Stephan Kramer, told the Rheinpfalz am Sonntag weekly. 5
  • Let me try here to explain (to the degree that I can) why this issue is so heated and what the implications for the Jewish community are. Throughout Europe there is a strong reaction to the immigration of Islamic people. Much like our own problems with mosques and what is seen as Islamic terrorism, in Germany the issue of non-integration into German society is the one that seems most charged with emotion. The failure to learn the German language and, in some way, to lean on Islamic mores and not German law are major sticking points. In addition, many of the immigrants are poor and wind up on “social benefits” (we call it “welfare”) which is costly to the society. To make it worse, their children do not rise high academically and they maintain citizenship and close ties to the mother country. Many (most?) Germans do not see their country as multicultural. Germans look next door to France and see the problems the French are having with the Arab population that has come from northern Africa. The cookie topper is that they “look different”. The whole package is very frightening to many Germans and, in this era of economic problems and social dislocation, reasonable German politicians are concerned that the extreme right might have found an issue that has resonance for them with a broader spectrum of the German population. On the other hand, mainstream people on the right side of the political continuum can (and do) use the issue for their own political gain. As far as the German Jewish community is concerned, we shouldn’t forget that they are mostly immigrants themselves. Many receive social benefits. The immigration to Germany from the former Soviet Union has slowed appreciably. There are comparatively few (250,000) Jews in Germany and they are not at all “visible” and seem to integrate quickly. Given Germany’s sensitivity to Jews I do not believe there is a problem for them. However, any strong shift toward the right and away from democracy (which I do not see at the moment) is never good for Jews. “Eternal vigilance” is part of our DNA so we should always be on guard. A GERMAN MIDDLEMAN Those of you who regularly read DuBow Digest know that I’m intrigued by spy books and undercover stories even though I’d make a lousy spy – I talk too much. However, there is a real live undercover story you might be interested in. People who follow Israeli matters know that Hamas kidnapped an Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit in 2006. Since that time there have been negotiations between Israel and Hamas on some sort of a prisoner exchange – unsuccessful thus far. What (most) people don’t know is that the “middle man” who actually handles these “on the ground” negotiations is a German by the name of Gerhard Conrad. Conrad is 6
  • a member of the BND, the German version of the CIA and has been at this sort of task for quite a few years. Back in the 1990’s he was empowered by the UN to handle the Israeli – Hezbollah prisoner swaps. Back in 2008 Haaretz reported, “Conrad learned Arabic in Damascus as part of his intelligence training. In fact, he is among the very few Arabic speakers in the BND. That training destined him to serve in the agency's Middle East department. Among other missions, he was sent in 1998 to serve, under diplomatic cover, as the BND's official representative in Damascus, which role included responsibility for Lebanon. Consequently, he is well informed regarding developments in both countries, and has met several times with Hezbollah leaders, including the movement's secretary general, Hassan Nasrallah. Conrad's wife also works for the BND and the couple worked together in Damascus.” A German source who knows him well said that Conrad speaks several languages, knows Hezbollah and the Arab world well, and possesses integrity, an iron patience and diplomatic and organizational skills - all the qualities that allowed him not to despair of mediating a deal whose odds appeared impossible. l think that its significant that Germany is playing this “middle” role. Every country should be doing something to help warring nations talk to each other and in this case, the Germans and Mr. Conrad (if that’s his real name) are playing an important role. Let’s all hope Gilad Shalit comes home soon. THE HITLER EXHIBITION The showing of the Nazi flag and pictures of Hitler have been strictly forbidden for the last 65 years. According to JTA, “Now the German Historical Museum has dedicated an exhibit to the fascination Hitler held for the “Volk,” the ordinary German citizen. It marks the first time a German museum has ventured into such territory, and the curators say they have taken great care to avoid glorifying the man behind the Third Reich, which in Germany would not only be distasteful but illegal. Controversial though it is for some, the exhibit has been welcomed by the Central Council of Jews in Germany. The council's secretary general, Stephan Kramer, said he thought the timing was right, given today’s political climate. “Especially the lower-middle classes are susceptible to wanting to be led,” he said, and politicians are “instrumentalizing their fears. ”Kramer said the exhibition "is dealing seriously with the issue, and I don't think there is a danger of any form of glorification." 7
  • The exhibit opens only days after a new study by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation showed that some 10 percent of Germans still wish they had a Fuhrer to tell them what to do during these hard economic times. “My idea, my wish, is to explain these historical events so that people know the dangers which are caused by irrational mass movements,” curator Hans-Ulrich Thamer told JTA. The “fascination [with Hitler] was caused by very modern technical methods, with movies and microphones and so on,” Thamer said. “People at this time thought it was very modern.” Though it does not focus extensively on the genocide of the Jews, the exhibit “shows the persecution of German and European Jewry as one of the results of the rhetoric and ideology of the ‘Volksgemeinschaft,’ ” – the Nazi concept of a so-called Aryan racial community, Thamer added. A sign reading "Jews are unwelcome in our town" is one of the items on display. I agree with Stephan Kramer. Hitler and Nazism cannot be held under wraps forever. If there was ever a time for Germans to see how they willingly followed Hitler and thereby got themselves on the road to disaster and almost total destruction, the time is now with things being so unsettled in Germany and elsewhere throughout the world. Unfortunately, when times are tough and disorder seems to abound, both in Germany and almost everywhere else, especially in Europe, the move toward a power figure who can “fix” things emerges. It is a good thing that this exhibit shows what can happen to a society when that actually happens. I hope the lesson is clear and that many learn it after a trip to the German Historical Museum. ANOTHER EXHIBITION: ANTI-SEMITISM IN EAST GERMANY During my early visits in the early 1980’s to what was East Germany (GDR – German Democratic Republic) I was frequently told that there was no anti- Semitism in that communist country. Of course, there were barely any Jews – at least those that identified themselves as Jewish. Those that were identified were given what I would call “special treatment”. In the 1980’s the GDR was trying to make approaches to the U.S. in order to get “Most Favored Nation” tax status. Frankly, the Jewish community was so small I never even thought about anti- Semitism. It now comes out, through the good work of the Amadeu Antonio Foundation has done that even a country with a miniscule Jewish population there was plenty of this hateful virus. The Foundation has put together a traveling exhibition on the subject which (Deutsche Welle) “seeks to explain to visitors how persecution, some of it state-sponsored, remained a part of life for Jews in the GDR. Currently 8
  • showing in the Baltic seaside resort of Prora, on the island of Ruegen, the exhibition’s name - "We didn't have any of that" - refers to the taboo around the topic. Through its exhibits, the show demonstrates how anti-Semitic the GDR really was. There were anti-Jewish trials and communist party purges in the 1950s and the desecration of Jewish cemeteries. The government openly opposed Israel, even allowing Palestinian terror groups to train in East Germany. The information presented in the exhibition was collected by school children who interviewed local residents. The idea was that asking children to gather information that would come across as less accusatory and provide the young people a unique history lesson. If there is a moral or a lesson (or something) in this story it is that anti-Semitism (like tuberculosis) lies dormant but never totally disappears. It behooves us to never forget that. AJC, THE BUNDESWEHR & ISRAEL On a brighter note, my colleague Deidre Berger, AJC’s Berlin Director has initiated a program of bringing high German military officers to Israel for familiarity visits. In a press release AJC noted, “Germany is a key partner for Israel and Israel is a strategic ally for Germany,” said Deidre Berger, Director of AJC’s Berlin Ramer Institute for German-Jewish Relations. “We are delighted to contribute to deepening understanding of this critical relationship.” The German delegation is led by General Alois Bach, Director of the Army’s Center for Leadership in Koblenz, which prepared the trip in close cooperation with AJC’s Berlin and Jerusalem offices. The Israeli Embassy in Germany, German Embassy in Israel, and Israel Defense Forces are partners in the program. Kudos for Deidre! If there is one way to keep anti-Semitism at the lowest possible level it is through education. To educate high members of the German armed forces seems to me to be one of the most worthwhile projects any organization can undertake. ******************************************************************************************* See you again in November DuBow Digest is written and published by Eugene DuBow who can be contacted at edubow@optonline.net Both the American and Germany editions are also posted on line at www.dubowdigest.typepad.com. 9
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