DuBow Digest American Edition December 20, 2013

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An American Jewish - German Opinion Newsletter

An American Jewish - German Opinion Newsletter

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  • 1. AN AMERICAN JEWISH – GERMAN INFORMATION & OPINION NEWSLETTER dubowdigest@optonline.net AMERICAN EDITION December 20, 2013 IN THIS EDITION A NEW GOVERNMENT: FINALLY! – The Grand Coalition is in place BANNING THE NEO-NAZIS: GOOD OR BAD? – You decide. MEIN KAMPF: THE DISPUTE – To print or not to print? SINTI & ROMA TREATY – Finally recognized (sort of). SUBMARINES – NOW DESTROYERS – Israel & Germany make the deal. NAZIS, JEWS & THE ZOO – A Holocaust issue GERMAN HATE MAIL – Guess who gets it. AN INTERESTING BOOK – About Berlin Dear Friends: With the end of year coming up as well as the fact that I'm about to take a short vacation, I decided to send this edition to you earlier than usual. As you will read below, Germany finally has its new government ready to be installed. With Angela Merkel serving her third term as Chancellor, I do not think there will be any dramatic changes in policy regarding either the "Jewish issues" or Israel. In my opinion, having her in that position is about as good as it gets. Of course, the problems of ant-Semitism and neo-Nazism domestically remain and will continue to be dealt with. 1
  • 2. How and what Germany will do vis a vis Iran given the "agreement" the EU and the U.S. have with the Iranians, remains to be seen. We should keep in mind that Germany and Iran have diplomatic relations and there is a certain amount of commerce between the two countries. So, what role Germany can play is an open question. Thus far, as with many issues these days, Germany relies heavily on the EU to play the lead role. So much for Germany. I will close with a personal story. While I busy myself mostly with great national and international matters in writing this newsletter, as you might guess, I have considerable interest also in what happens in my own hometown (as I hope we all do). I live in the Village of South Nyack, which is part of the Town of Orangetown, which, in turn, is part of Rockland County, New York. The chief executive of Orangetown is its Supervisor, sort of like a mayor. In November the incumbent ran for a second term (a very good guy). With over 12,000 votes cast and a lot of court cases that followed, he won by exactly two votes. It goes to show you, first, that every vote counts and second, how important personal involvement, even just to vote, is in a democratic society. Things like this make one appreciate our country and its democracy. To my Christian readers I want to wish you all a very Christmas and to all of you the very best for the coming New Year. On to the news… A NEW GOVERNMENT: FINALLY! It took five weeks of bargaining and haggling but Chancellor Merkel’s CDU/CSU group and the Social Democrats (SPD) finally signed on the dotted line so a government could be installed. However, the SPD leadership had agreed that it would not be final until its total countrywide membership had a chance to vote on it which took a few more weeks. The vote is now in and 76% of those that responded did so in the affirmative. Now all that remains is for the new government to be sworn in, the new Ministers to be appointed and then the “Grand Coalition” is finally in business. According to an earlier New York Timespiece, ―The 185-page[coalition agreement] document calls for establishing a national minimum wage — a first for the country — as well as increased pensions for some recipients and early retirement eligibility for others. It would offer dual citizenship to Turks and other foreigners who are born and raised in Germany, and it promises a new law by next summer to revitalize plans for renewable energy. More broadly, though, it reaffirms Germany’s current course in Europe, much criticized by southern Europeans as burdening them with austerity. And the plans for improving Germany’s ailing infrastructure seemed likely to fall far short of the extra 7 billion euros, or $9.5 billion, a year in spending that a commission of government experts said was needed. 2
  • 3. Ms. Merkel, who has moved her Christian Democrats considerably to the center over her eight years in office, agreed to the concessions because ―she saw that she really had no alternative to the grand coalition‖ with the Social Democrats…‖ Wolfgang Schäuble, 71, the current finance minister, is considered virtually certain to keep that job, so it is likely that a Social Democrat would run the Foreign Ministry; speculation centered on Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who was the foreign minister in Ms. Merkel’s first grand coalition government from 2005 to 2009. As far as foreign policy is concerned, DW reported, ―German foreign policy is largely determined by the chancellor, meaning that, even in a new coalition, it will be marked by continuity. The foreign minister will have to try to put his own stamp on the job. …German foreign policy will continue much as it is… The chancellor, Angela Merkel, will make sure of that, as will the nature of the grand coalition between Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) and the Social Democrats (SPD), with its need for compromise. And, in fact, the working group on foreign and security policy which has been drawing up guidelines for the future coalition has produced its results promptly and without much public argument. As far as foreign policy is concerned, the motto is "continuity" - even if that doesn't exclude some new ideas. The few points of disagreement are in the realm of security policy - for example, the purchase of armed drones for the military or the demand for a more restrictive policy on arms exports. The draft praises the good relations between Germany and its partners and allies, especially its neighbors France and Poland. The USA has a particularly predominant role as "the backbone of our security and freedom." But that doesn't include the freedom to snoop, and so the new coalition expects the US government to win back lost trust and respect German privacy in the future. But still, the most important future project is the free trade agreement between the EU and the US. The two sides in the future coalition agree in defining Germany's relationship with Russia as "a partnership for modernization," but it admits that the two countries have "different conceptions" of what that means. The draft says that Russia needs to uphold legal and democratic standards in its treatment of civil society, minorities and the opposition. China and India are seen as "strategic partners," with whom economic cooperation should be intensified. Africa should receive German support so that it can eventually solve its own problems. The countries of the Maghreb in North Africa should be able to count on Germany as what the draft calls a "transformation partner," especially if there is evidence of "a positive development towards democracy and pluralism in society." I think the above should give you a good idea of how Germany will conduct its foreign policy. The word “unchanged” fits it best. Focus will continue to be on strengthening the EU which is its cornerstone. They’ll have to get over the flap with the U.S. about NSA spying. They will and so will we. We’re just too important to each other. 3
  • 4. The new Foreign Minister is not so new. As noted above, Frank-Walter Steinmeier was Foreign Minister from 2005 – 2009 the last time there was a grand coalition. He is well known and has served recently as chairman of the SPD's parliamentary group in the Bundestag. A good choice. BANNING THE NEO-NAZIS: GOOD OR BAD? Over the last couple of years I have been reporting that there was a lot of discussion about whether the neo-Nazi NPD Party should be legally outlawed. Now the German States have banded together and are trying to do it by starting a legal action in the Federal Constitutional Court. Spiegel On-Line recently reported, ―The states argue that the NPD espouses a racist, violent ideology similar to that of Hitler's Nazi party and that it wants to overthrow the democratic order through militant action. "The ideology and the whole NPD party is xenophobic, inhuman, anti-Semitic and antidemocratic," said the interior minister of the state of Rhineland-Palatinate, Roger Lewentz of the center-left Social Democrats. …Germany, mindful of abuses during the Nazi period, has high legal hurdles for outlawing political parties. The last party to be banned was the West German KPD communist party -- in 1956. Many politicians remain skeptical that the court will rule against the NPD and are concerned that if it doesn't, the party would enjoy a repeat of the boost it got in 2003 when the last attempt to shut it down failed. At the time, the Constitutional Court threw out the motion because some of the testimony was from government informants who held high positions in the party. That prejudiced the case, the court argued. The new motion doesn't rely on informant testimony and has a better chance. But in a sign of how big the doubts are, Chancellor Angela Merkel's government and the Bundestag lower house of parliament declined to sign up to the motion. The Constitutional Court has already made clear that mere similarity to the Nazi party won't suffice for a ban of the NPD. The key is to prove the NPD is working to destroy democracy through violence. But it may be difficult to prove that it constitutes a real threat, given its small size with just 5,400 members, and its weak national support of just 1.3 percent of the vote in September's general election. The court case looks like anything but a sure winner. In fact, some who are deeply opposed to the NPD think that a successful case would lead to complacency and that the NPD under a different guise would be just as active if not more so. 4
  • 5. In any case it will take the Court a year or two to make its decision. During that time there will be much said publicly and written in the media. Whether the neo-Nazis gain strength or lose it is an open question. However, the much talked about court case is now a reality. We will just have to wait and see how it turns out. To read the full Spiegel On-Line article click here. http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/germany-launches-new-bid-to-outlaw-farright-npd-party-a-937008.html MEIN KAMPF: THE DISPUTE No! Nobody is disputing that Hitler wrote the thing or that, no matter where you go in the world, you can buy a copy. Frankly, no one Is arguing about it other than the Germans themselves – in this case whether it should be published and printed in Germany or not. Briefly, according to Spiegel On-Line, ―For years, historians in Munich have been working on an annotated edition of Adolf Hitler's book "Mein Kampf" to be released when the copyright expires in 2015. The state of Bavaria gave the green light in 2012 -but now they are trying to halt the project. Adolf Hitler's notorious ideological treatise "Mein Kampf" (My Struggle) is likely to remain out of print in Germany after Bavaria's state government said late Tuesday it intends to keep it from being published after the copyright expires in 2015. The move reverses an earlier decision by the state to support a new annotated German-language edition -- a project long promoted by historians. The Bavarian governor's chief of staff, Christine Haderthauer, told reporters that the state would file a criminal complaint against anyone who tried to publish the work, adding that it would be contradictory for Bavaria to allow circulation of the book while at the same time participating in thedrive to ban Germany's main far-right party, the National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD). For years, historians at the Munich Institute of Contemporary History have been working on an annotated version of the book, which would include explanations of where some of Hitler's ideas originated. The idea was to deflate some of the intrigue attached to a book that has long been all but verboten in Germany. As of last year, Bavaria's governing conservatives were behind the idea. "We have to deal with the book. It must be demystified," Bavarian Finance Minister Markus Söder told Cicero magazine in 2012. Their current about-face is bad news for the historians at the Munich Institute of Contemporary History. A spokesperson told reporters on Tuesday that they had yet to speak to anyone at the governor's office. The book was meant to be finished in time for the legally mandated expiration of the copyright in 2015, 70 years after Hitler's death. The copyright fell into the hands of the Bavarian state in 1945, when Bavaria took over the rights of the main Nazi party publishing house Eher-Verlag as part of the Allies' de-Nazification program. Fearing that 5
  • 6. the book could encourage neo-Nazis, Bavaria has not allowed "Mein Kampf" to be published in Germany since then. It’s probably hard for Americans to understand why, indeed, there is such a dispute over this issue. The fact that it exists 68 years after the War should give one a deeper understanding of how heavily, even today, the impact the Nazi time still rests on the psyche of the German people. Anyone interested in Jewish – German relations should understand that fact when thinking about the pros and cons surrounding this matter. SINTI & ROMA TREATY During the Nazi reign which culminated in the Holocaust, the Jews were not the only minority group destined for Auschwitz. The Sinti & Roma (known at times as Gypsies) suffered the same fate though in much fewer numbers than the Jews. The German admission of guilt regarding the Jews goes back to the period right after World War II. If has taken longer for anything to be done about the S & R. DW.DE recently reported, ―They are German citizens and have lived in Germany for centuries. But Sinti and Roma have been persecuted since the Nazi era and are still discriminated against. A new treaty aims to strengthen the minorities' rights. "We were here, before this country even existed", says Daniel Strauss, who is from the southwestern German state of Baden-Württemberg. He is familiar with the feeling of being rejected. He is the chairman of the German National Association of Sinti and Roma. Together with State Premier Winfried Kretschmann he has signed an official state treaty designed to herald a new era for the minority group. The treaty, which has the standing of an international law accord, forms the basis of a relationship at eye level, which the Sinti and Roma have been waiting for 18 years. Strauss called it a historic event "after years of mistrust and fear." Kretschmann emphasized that "this is our common country." The treaty recognizes the culture of Sinti and Roma as part of the last 600 years of German culture. As a minority group, they should have the right to promote their culture and language. Similar regulations have been put in place in other parts of Germany, for minorities such as the Friesians, the Danish, and the Sorbs. In 2012, the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein enshrined the protection of Sinti and Roma in the state constitution. But the new treaty not only deals with the past, says Daniel Strauss. "It is important that we recognize anti-gypsy sentiment as a problem in German society." Political scientist Markus End has been researching this phenomenon for many years. He realizes that anti-gypsy sentiment is "racism against people who have been labeled "gypsies." According to End's findings, a German ethnologist would still write about "gypsy skulls" from the Nazi era in 1969. 6
  • 7. There is more to the article which you can read by clicking here. http://www.dw.de/german-state-signs-historic-treaty-with-sinti-and-roma/a-17259769 All I can say is that it’s about time. The war ended almost 70 years ago. Let’s hope it doesn’t take another 70 for the S & R to be seen as full citizens. SUBMARINES – NOW DESTROYERS Back in April Israel received its fifth hi-tech submarine from Germany. The Jerusalem Post reported, “The submarine – called the INS Rahav – is the most expensive defense platform ever purchased by Israel. The vessel is set to undertake several long-range classified missions that are critical for Israel’s security. It was pretty clear that the Rahav would eventually carry nuclear weapons and act as a second strike deterrent to Iran. In the last few months news about Israel’s offshore natural gas installations has appeared in the media and the government, obviously, is beginning to think about how they might be safeguarded and, if necessary, defended. So, once again Israel has turned to Germany, its pre-eminent supplier of naval vessels, for assistance. Recently JP reported, ―Germany has agreed to sell Israel two destroyers in exchange for one billion euros, AFP reported on Saturday, citing a report in German daily Bild. According to the report, the torpedo-laden destroyers are intended to provide protection for Israel's natural gas installations. Bild reported that the head of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's National Security Council, Yossi Cohen, visited Berlin last week. A German government spokeswoman confirmed Cohen's visit, but declined to comment on the nature of his business in Berlin, according to AFP. Israeli Navy captain Ilan Lavi said in April that the new offshore gas resource offers Israel's enemies an obvious target that would require extra spending to protect. "We have to build an entire new defensive envelope," said Lavi, head of the navy's planning department. A senior naval commander, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that simply to patrol the area Israel needed four new ships and that it had already been in touch with eight or nine foreign firms. The discovery of large natural gas deposits in its offshore economic zone in 2009 came as a welcome surprise to Israel, transforming the energy security outlook of a country that used to rely heavily on imports. A burst of exploration followed, and by the end of 2013 18 new wells are expected to be drilled at a cost of $1.8 billion. 7
  • 8. Israel estimates there are about 950 billion cubic meters of gas beneath its waters, enough to leave plenty for exports. A successful attack could threaten export revenues and harm domestic energy supply. Haaretz added, ―Israel has previously bought six Dolphin submarines from Germany. The German government then agreed to cover a third of the cost of those purchases, as a way of expressing its commitment to Israel’s security. Berlin hasn’t yet responded to the current request, partly because the new government elected in September hasn’t yet been sworn in. Chancellor Angela Merkel will need to consult her new foreign and defense ministers before making a decision. This last paragraph is somewhat troubling. While the policies of the new government will not be far different from its predecessor, I just wonder whether the sale of the destroyers might be used as some sort of pressure on Israel to stop or lessen its east of the Green Line building program. Probably not, but one can never tell. No matter what, it’s interesting that Israel turns to Germany when defense and security issues need attending to. NAZIS, JEWS & THE ZOO It’s 80 years since the Nazis came to power in Germany. Following World War II and the Holocaust many German corporations and institutions “fessed up” about their Nazis links and their treatment of Jews. And the Zoo? Who would have thought that the Belin Zoo was guilty of anything? Well, it appears that it was and now has some internal cleaning up to do. Rabbi Levi Brackman writing in YNet News reported, ―More than 70 years after the Berlin Zoo forced Jewish shareholders out of its ranks, the institution is trying to come clean about its own dark chapter during the Nazi era. A Berlin historian is combing through thousands of names to identify members made to sell their shares back to the zoo at a loss under the Third Reich, and has begun tracking down their descendants ahead of publishing her findings. "Jews were very important for the zoo," said historian Monika Schmidt, who estimates up to a quarter of the zoo's 4,000 shareholders in the 1930s were Jewish. "But they were pushed out step by step by the zoo itself, before the Nazi state asked any institution to do those things," Schmidt told AFP. Zoo shareholders did not receive dividends, but their families enjoyed free entry and the prestige of supporting an important social institution. 8
  • 9. Their exclusion is just one example of how Jews were pushed out of public life in 1930s Germany and stripped of their assets. "Today, the zoo is just a zoo, with animals to watch," said Schmidt, with the Center for Research on Anti-Semitism in Berlin. "But in former times, the zoo was a very important meeting place for the city." In 1938, Jewish shareholders were forced to sell their shares back to the zoo for less than their value, according to Schmidt. The zoo, in turn, re-sold the stocks to "Aryanize" the institution. Now, Schmidt is poring over names in a post-war recreation of a shareholders' log, and will compare them to residence and restitution records in an attempt to identify former Jewish patrons. Commissioned by the zoo, she plans to publish the names and biographies in a book next year. The zoo's actions pale in comparison to other atrocities committed in Hitler's Germany, but historians say there is value in documenting them. "It's very important to see that this discrimination and these Nazi crimes were not only done by some people, but in all parts of society," said Johannes Tuchel, a professor of political science at the Free University of Berlin. The zoo's undertaking is what Tuchel calls a "third wave" of research that started around the 2000s in Germany. After some Nazi war crimes were prosecuted and reparations paid out, attention turned to returning confiscated artwork, and how public institutions treated Jews during the Third Reich. "The Department of Justice, the Foreign Office in Germany, and so on, gave jobs to researchers and said 'OK, tell us a story, what happened in our institution in the Nazi period'," Tuchel said. "New generations are coming and want to know what happened." The zoo's Nazi-era past received little public attention until 2000, when retired New York sociology professor Werner Cohn wrote in asking about his father's shares. He published the response online, including a letter from a zoo lawyer stating there was "neither force, nor compulsion" in the transfer of shares from Jews to non-Jews. This garnered attention from German media and prompted a first zoo-commissioned study by Schmidt, which revealed the stock sales, removal of Jewish board members, and the barring of Jewish visitors from the zoo starting in 1939. In 2011, the zoo installed a commemorative plaque for Jewish shareholders. 9
  • 10. Now, they want to do more. "It is important to make the decision to continue to engage with this topic, to not forget what is possible," said zoo spokeswoman Claudia Bienek, noting the particular importance of documenting the lives of former Jewish shareholders in a book. Bienek said reparation payments are not being considered. One might think that delving into the Zoo’s history is not of great importance. They’d be wrong. Not only is it important to memorialize those who were wronged but it vital to show what happens to even the most distant kinds of institutions when a Nazi-like government comes to power and exerts its influence without even specifically ordering normal citizens to undertake certain acts. Even today anti-Semitism is available as a scapegoating tool to be used in order to influence a population. The more light shed on this sort of, perhaps, peripheral ant-Semitism the better. GERMAN HATE MAIL Donald Snyder writing in The Jewish Daily Forward recently reported on a study of German anti-Semitic Hate mail. He noted, ―Over the course of a decade, the letters poured into the Central Council of Jews in Germany like a river. Many would view the stream of vitriol, sent to German Jewry’s central communal organization between 2002 and 2012, as little more than raw sewage. But Monika Schwarz-Friesel, a professor of linguistics at the Technical University of Berlin, saw it as raw data. Together with Jehuda Reinharz, the American historian and former president of Brandeis University, Schwarz-Friesel has recently published a study of these letters. And their findings reaffirm one of the enduring, if still surprising truths about antiSemitism in Germany and elsewhere. More than 60% of the hate mail came from well-educated Germans, including university professors, according to their study, ―The Language of Hostility Towards Jews in the 21st Century,‖ released earlier this year. Only 3% came from right-wing extremists. The researchers know this partly from analyzing the language of the letter writers — but also because many of the authors of the emails in their sample gave their names, addresses and professions. ―We checked some of them, [and] the information [was] valid,‖ said Schwarz-Friesel in an email to the Forward. She and her research partner were amazed that the writers were so brazen. ―I don’t think they would have identified themselves 20 or 30 years ago,‖ said Reinharz. ―We found that there is hardly any difference in the semantics of highly educated antiSemites and vulgar extremists and neo-Nazis,‖ said Schwarz-Friezel. ―The difference lies only in style and formal rhetoric, but the concepts are the same.‖ This is not exactly new. Schwarz-Friesel pointed out that many Nazis were highly educated, too. 10
  • 11. One of the research pair’s other main findings was that hatred for Israel has become the main vehicle for German anti-Semitism. More than 80% of the 14,000 emails focused on Israel as their central theme. Schwarz-Friesel and Reinharz say they strove hard to distinguish emails that were critical of Israel — even those that expressed anger toward it — from those that were anti-Semitic. ―Only those letters were classified as anti-Semitic that clearly [saw] German Jews as non-Germans and collectively abused German Jews to be responsible for crimes in Israel!‖ she explained. In the paper’s abstract, the researchers clarify further that ―Verbal anti-Semitism is based on 1. Collective discrimination; 2. Fixation (by stereotypes) and 3. Devaluation of Jews.‖ Schwarz-Friesel said she also considered as anti-Semitic letters that analogized Jewish or Israeli behavior to that of the Nazis. Some 20% of residents in the country still harbor anti-Semitic attitudes, according to a 2012 study sponsored by the German government. That compares to the AntiDefamation League’s most recent survey of attitudes toward Jews in America in 2013, which found that 12% ―harbor deeply entrenched anti-Semitic attitudes.‖ Deidre Berger, the director of the American Jewish Committee’s office in Berlin, said that government resolutions and a pro-Israel foreign policy were not enough to combat the kind of prejudice reflected in the decade’s worth of emails to the Council of Jews in Germany. ―There needs to be greater public awareness of the scope of every-day anti-Semitism,‖ she said. ―German politicians, educators, government officials, police officers and civil society leaders need to highlight the urgency of the problem and initiate activities to counter anti-Semitism…. It is critical that students learn more about Jews, Judaism and Jewish history, as part of German history, as well as learning more about modern-day Israel.‖ It should come as no surprise to anybody who has read this newsletter in the last few years that there is abundant anti-Semitism in Germany – as there is throughout the rest of Europe. In my opinion anti-Semitism is a never ending virus that comes to the surface, recedes and then rises again. Eternal vigilance is necessary. More important than anti-Semitic attitudes alone is whether or not the attitudes work their way into government policy and law. That’s where the real trouble lies. Of course, the “public awareness” that Deidre has written about (above) is critical. However, as far as Germany is concerned, its government and especially Chancellor Merkel seem very aware of the dangers to both Jews and to Germany itself in letting anti-Semitism metastasize. For that we all should be thankful. 11
  • 12. AN INTERESTING BOOK Jews in Berlin Jews in Berlin“, by Andreas Nachama, Julius H. Schoeps, and Hermann Simon is about 750 years of Jewish life and culture in the German capital has been published in an updated 2013 version by Berlinica Publishing in America. The new edition contains a chapter of Jewish life after reunifciation; from immigration to the Jewish Museum and other cultural highlights, from the ressurection of synagogues to young Israelis opening up bars and restaurants. Jews in Berlin has been reviewed by Ira Wolfman for the Jewish Book Council. The review follows: The story of the Jewish people in the German capital is one of incredible achievement and recurrent horror. It also encompasses astonishing twists and turns.― And: „ All of the books’s multiple authors have personal connections to the city. The book offers well over 100 images – some in full color, including photos, paintings, postcards, and documents. They add immeasurably to its value. (...) Now Berlin is again a world cultural center, and appealing to Jews: Since the wall fell in November 1989, Jewish life in Berlin has experienced a veritable quantum leap. Israelis and Russian Jews are bringing energy to the tiny, damaged Berlin Jewish community. And, as the foreword’s author, Carol Kahn Strauss, points out, Berlin is now a major destination for AmericanJewish tour groups. Jews loved Berlin – a city that alternately freed and destroyed them.In carefully recounting this confounding tale, Jews in Berlin honors the complexity of an unfathomable relationship. Appendix, bibliography, index.― The book is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and selected bookstores. http://www.jewishbookcouncil.org/book/jews-in-berlin **************************************************************************************************** Happy New Year! See you in January DuBow Digest is written and published by Eugene DuBow who can be reached at edubow@optonline.net Both the American and Germany editions are posted at www.dubowdigest.typepad.com 12
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