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    DuBow Digest American Edition January 16, 2013 DuBow Digest American Edition January 16, 2013 Document Transcript

    • AN AMERICAN JEWISH – GERMAN INFORMATION & OPINION NEWSLETTER dubowdigest@optonline.netAMERICAN EDITIONJanuary 16, 2013NEO-NAZI REDUXIn my last newsletter I wrote about the attempts that were being made to outlaw theneo-Nazi NPD Party and the legal issues that might complicate such a move. Thusfar nothing has happened, however, before the corpse has even been laid to rest,another extreme right wing party has emerged to take its place.A report by DW notes, “As German politicians debate banning the extreme right-wing NPD, a new right-wing party has crept onto the political scene. The Rightappears ready to take over political leadership of the far-right.Founded in May, "Die Rechte" - or The Right - chose a name that reflects itsprogram and was likely deliberately chosen as an analogy to the left-wing party "DieLinken" - or The Left. In its political program, The Right claims it fully adheres to theGerman constitution and aims for democracy and stronger citizens participation.The program, however, also calls for the "preservation of the German identity,"which is defined as a "core concern" for the party. The program calls for theabrogation of "tolerance permits granted to foreigners permanently living inGermany.""The program is an amalgamation of various right-wing political ideas, based on theDeutsche Volksunion," Bernd Wagner, an expert on right-wing extremism at theCentre for Democratic Culture in Berlin, told Deutsche Welle.Its no coincidence. Since The Right sees itself as the successor of the "DeutscheVolksunion" (German Peoples Union, DVU), a right-wing extremist party thatmerged with the Nationaldemokratische Partei Deutschlands (National DemocraticParty of Germany, NPD) in 2011.One of The Rights founding members and current chairman is Christian Worch, aformer high-ranking member of the DVU. 1
    • The Right has adopted large swathes of the DVUs political program. "But, in fact,everything from ultra-militancy to moderate criticism of the democratic order fitsunder this umbrella. We need to wait and what direction the party takes internally,"Wagner said.On its website, The Right positions itself as "less radical than the NPD," but "moreradical than the REPs" (Die Republikaner, the Republicans, a right-wing partyfounded in the 1980s) and the "Pro-movements" (right-wing citizens movementsthat recently made headlines for their aggressive stance against Muslims).But, "in the foreseeable future," The Right does not see much common ground withthese groups, according to its program.This underlines that The Right aims to be more than just another alternative on theof the right-wing fringe of the political spectrum. Instead, the party sees itself as acatch-all for everyone to the right of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), themajor German center-right party led by Chancellor Angela Merkel.The ongoing political debate of a possible ban of the NPD likely played its part inconvincing The Right members to form a political party."That was probably one of Christian Worchs main political considerations. After all,hes a Neo-Nazi political veteran and he probably senses an opportunity to increasehis political strength," Hajo Funke, an expert on right-wing extremism and anti-Semitism who teaches at the Free University in Berlin, told DW.There’s more to the story but I think you get the idea. If, indeed, the NPD is outlawedthere are other neo-Nazis primed to come up with new organizations that would bespecifically designed not to fall under legal ban. No matter what, there are neo-Nazis, though small in number, alive and well in Germany who are dedicated tocarrying out their vicious right wing, extremist programs. There would be more of aproblem if they were able to grow. However, the current government and, indeed,most Germans are very opposed to such groups knowing full well what theirexpansion would do to Germany. They’ve already seen that movie.BUT ON THE OTHER HAND…Getting rid of the NPD is a great idea. Who needs neo-Nazis, especially inGermany? However, as always, there is another side to the story and one thatshould be considered.Lucian Kim, an American born, Berlin based, Eurasian independent journalist writingin The New York Times, observed, “The chances are slim that the ConstitutionalCourt will back the ban and rule that the N.P.D. threatens Germany’s democracy. 2
    • Only two parties — West Germany’s Communist Party and the immediate successorto the Nazi Party — have ever been banned, both more than 50 years ago.And if the N.P.D. survives, it could emerge stronger than before.Founded in 1964, the N.P.D. was a fringe party in West Germany. After Germanreunification in 1990, it experienced a brief revival in the former East Germanyamong the young, disgruntled and unemployed. Today, it has about 6,000 membersand holds seats in just two state assemblies. The N.P.D. represents about 1 percentof the electorate nationwide and has no hope of getting into Parliament.Mainstream politicians already tried to ban the party for undermining the GermanConstitution a decade ago. The case fell apart before the Constitutional Court after itbecame clear that government informants had infiltrated the N.P.D.’s leadership,making it impossible to distinguish the party’s true intentions from the state’s effortsto forbid it. Renewed pressure for a ban followed the discovery last year of amurderous neo-Nazi terrorist cell with connections to N.P.D. members.As Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger pointed out in a recentnewspaper interview, it’s not enough to prove that the N.P.D. criticizes Germany’sconstitutional order. In order to be banned, the party would have to be actively andaggressively fighting it.It’s ridiculous to argue that a party as tiny and unpopular as the N.P.D. couldsomehow threaten Germany’s robust democracy. The fact that nobody can predicthow the Constitutional Court will rule is the best indication of the independence andintegrity of democratic institutions here.Even if the court rules in favor of the Bundesrat, the N.P.D. could appeal to theEuropean Court of Human Rights to argue that a ban violates Germans’ freedom toassembly — only raising its profile in the process.In the unlikely event of a ban, there would be little practical benefit. N.P.D. memberscould join other far-right groups, such as the new anti-immigrant party called DieRechte, or “The Right.” Others might go underground.With a national election approaching next fall, the effort to stub out the N.P.D. reeksof politics. Chancellor Angela Merkel may have little choice but to throw hergovernment’s support behind the cause. After all, two-thirds of Germans are for aban.Far-right parties are a scourge of many European democracies. But trying to prohibitthem does nothing to uproot chauvinism or stop racist violence. It only creates theillusion that politicians are taking action. 3
    • My sainted mother always said, “Nothing’s easy!” and making a decision about theNPD fits that category. Perhaps it’s better if Germany, like the U.S. just learns to livewith the evil it already knows (NPD) than driving it underground or making it adopt anew name with a slightly smarter, less extreme public face. Maybe it is all politics.One thing is for certain. If the Constitutional Court rules against the NPD beingoutlawed we shouldn’t consider that a victory for the Nazis. If that is their ruling I amsure that it will be because they wish to take a pro-democracy stand and not onetaking sides with the neo-Nazis.SPORTING CLUBSIn the normal course of events I wouldn’t even think about sporting clubs inGermany. However, I came across an article in The Local indicating that, “As NewYear resolutions lead many to join German sports or community clubs over thecoming weeks, one official has warned that many need to do more to protectthemselves from infiltration by neo-Nazis.Any student of 1920’s – 19330’s German history knows that that during that periodthe Nazis formed and joined various kinds of clubs which were the precursors ofsuch organizations as the Luftwaffe, the SS, etc.The article continued, “"Sports have long had difficulty [taking action] because theyhave been regarded as non political," said Winfriede Schreiber, head of theBrandenburg state intelligence service.But she said sports clubs were increasingly recognizing the danger. "More andmore, the associations realize that that they must profess their dedication todemocracy," she said.The kick-boxing scene in the Lausitz region has a bad reputation for having manyneo-Nazi members, despite many successful anti-fascist initiatives in the area."Neo-Nazis do not exist in a vacuum. They have families, go to school, developcareers, play sport or are in the volunteer fire brigades," said Schreiber."Many neo-Nazis are in no way uneducated these days, and can be successful intheir careers. Civil society now has the problem of how to deal with them. In smallplaces this is sometimes particularly difficult. The boys are the sons of people, orbrothers. And often enough it is pure chance where someone ends up - in the firebrigade or the Nazis."She said neo-Nazis were using sports groups to reach young people and eitherinfluence their thinking, or recruit them to their gangs. They attended club meetingsand sports events wearing neo-Nazi T-shirts or showing off their tattoos - and then 4
    • organise tournaments at which their scene meets, she suggested."The neo-Nazis pull in young people in this way and alienate them from democracy.They use normal life to push their movement," she said.It’s hard to know how important this development is. However, when the “head ofthe Brandenburg state intelligence service” starts talking about it, it is something tobe concerned about. There has been right wing extremist activity in Brandenburgpreviously and so I hope that the federal government intelligence and securitypeople become involved as well.GERMAN FOREIGN POLICYAcademic discussions of the direction of foreign policy may make good reading forpolitical science wonks but frequently have little meaning for those who are trying toimplement everyday hard-nosed political dealing in the very difficult theater offoreign affairs. However, agreed upon foreign policy is not without meaning as itdoes give the implementers some general direction to follow when trying to do theirjob.I must say that the guiding principles of German foreign policy have not been clearto me. Now, DW has published a piece that clarifies them and indicates that theymay be in for a change. The article deals with the Arab Spring and policy in theMiddle East generally. To get an overall picture you should read the entire piecewhich you can do by clicking here. http://www.dw.de/germany-considers-a-shift-in-middle-east-policy/a-16467435More specifically and appropriate to our interests DW notes, “Christian DemocratRuprecht Polenz, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Bundestag …says the German government is currently guided by five policy objectives: economiccooperation, migration and refugee policy, combating international terrorism, gainingacceptance for Israel as a democratic Jewish state with secure borders so that it canlive in peace with its neighbors based on a two-state solution, and finally acommitment to modernization, democratization, the rule of law, and human rights.Germany also faces challenges when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.With its decision not to oppose the Palestinians motion for non-state membership ofthe UN, but rather to abstain from the vote, Germany sent a clear signal to Israel.Ruprecht Polenz says that Germany acted as it did because, in the resolution text,the Palestinians largely adhered to the premises set out by the Middle East Quartet.In particular, they agreed to recognize the state of Israel within the borders of 1967.In this respect, says Polenz, the motion could be seen as an opportunity to resolvethe conflict, and this was what the German government had acknowledged. "Youcannot vote against something if it is essentially something you agree with, albeit notidentically worded." 5
    • I have known Ruprecht Polenz for roughly 20 years. He is a man of principle. Hethoroughly believes that Israel’s security and its future as a democratic Jewish stateis wrapped up in the two state solution. We have had many a number of discussionsand he, like many Germans, feel that it is Israel that must do more to achieve thatgoal. I have argued that it is the Palestinians with their desire to rule over all of thearea including Israel that are the main roadblocks to peace and that they arestanding in the way of face to face negotiations. Agreement between us is not near.My purpose in printing this piece is twofold. First, to give you an opportunity to reada good article about German Middle East foreign policy in general and, second, togive you some insight into the way they look at Israel’s position vis a vis the twostate solution. I hope some clarity can therefore be gained.THE LATEST POLL NUMBERSI don’t think we need Nate Silver here to figure out who is ahead in the Germanpolitical polls. Given Germany’s parliamentary system all one has to do is to figureout which combination of parties can reach 50% plus one in Bundestag seats andyou will have the makeup of the next government to be installed in the fall.DW reports, “Berlin-based public opinion research institute Infratest dimap, forinstance, conducted its (pre-Christmas) last poll of the year this week, surveying1,008 representative German citizens about who they would currently give their voteto in the election.According to the survey, German Chancellor Angela Merkels Christian DemocraticUnion (CDU) party and its Bavarian sister party CSU could have a particularly merryChristmas: it managed to increase its popularity by one percentage point from thelast survey on December 6, bringing it to 40 percent. The rival Social Democraticparty (SPD) stands unchanged at 30 percent, while the Greens have yielded a littleto 13 percent. The Left party (Die Linkspartei) would also stand unchanged at 13percent if the election were to occur this Sunday.The Free Democratic party (FDP) and the Pirate party (Piratenpartei) do not have asmuch to celebrate, as they have not managed to get themselves out of their slump.According to the Infratest survey, the FDP would grab four percent of the vote, thePirates only three percent. Neither party would clear the five-percent hurdleto secure seats in the German parliament.Although two other research institutes - Forsa and Insa - registered the FDP thisweek at five percent, it is little comfort to the free-market liberal party, which iscurrently in a governing coalition with the CDU. For FDP party leader Philipp Rösler,that means using the holidays to gear up for the traditional meeting on the Feast ofthe Epiphany - January 6 - in Stuttgart. There, delegates will expect Rösler to leadthe party out of their muck in the electoral year. The FDP will be put to its first test as 6
    • early as January 20, when Lower Saxony holds state elections. Things will get toughfor Rösler if the FDP does not do well in that vote.Given the weak state of the FDP at the moment, it is unlikely the CDU wouldcontinue in coalition with the party after next falls election. And a CDU gaining inforce could also give a possible SPD-Greens coalition a run for its money.So politicians are wrapping up this year with in various moods. For GermanChancellor Angela Merkel, the holidays mean a few days of rest and relaxation -something she can use before things pick up in 2013 for the election.So, as you can see there is not much change in the standings. The CDU and theFDP, even if the FDP gets 5% enough to be admitted to the Bundestag, do notenough to continue the current government setup. The SPD and the Greens, thecurrent opposition, also can’t make the 50% plus one to take over. Therefore, a“Grand Coalition” of the SPD and The CDU or a long shot possibility of the CDU andthe Greens remain the best possibilities. Things don’t seem to change radically inGerman politics. Now that the candidates for Chancellor are known I would doubtseriously that the numbers will change unless something radical happens – always apossibility. I’ll keep you up to date.GERMAN-JEWISH CULTURAL HERITAGEIn my last edition I ran a piece about Germany’s attempt to save German-Jewishculture. One of my most dedicated readers and a guy who knows a lot aboutGermany wrote to me asking, “What are the organizers looking for? Is it documentsand objects brought by German Jews to their new homes in the 1930s and 1940salone, or are they also looking for something having to do with the distinct GermanJewish communities that existed in various places – but particularly in the US – wellbefore then? How are they reaching out?I really did not have an answer. While one never knows about emotional andpsychological reasons, it is now clear to me that Deutsche Welle (DW) UteSchaeffer DW’s editor-in-chief for regionalized content is the person behind theproject which, frankly, is grander than I imagined. It is entitled, “Traces of German-Jewish Heritage”.In an introduction to the project Fr. Schaeffer writes:”Starting in 1933, our country marginalized, abused, banished and destroyed Jewishculture and Jewish lives. Millions of people became victims of the National Socialistracial ideology. Around 400,000 Jews left Germany in order to escape the Naziterror and its machinery of extermination. 7
    • At the hands of the National Socialists, German society lost authors, artists,directors, philosophers and leading researchers. The majority never returned. They took with them their experiences, traditional German habits, their customs andtastes. Some more than others.Like the protagonists in our multimedia project "Traces of German-Jewish Heritage."DW reporters traveled to 10 different countries around the world in search of thestories of German-Jewish émigrés. When did they arrive? What did they bring? Howdid they influence the culture in their new home countries? And how does (their)Jewish life look today?The project reflects our mandate and the journalistic values of Deutsche Welle. Wewant to show Germany as a modern and open country, but also as a society whichrecognizes and knows the value of its cultural and historical roots. It is a societywhich at the same time recognizes its unique responsibility in relation to Judaism, asociety in which the majority stands against assaults and hostilities which have attimes occurred in the more recent past.With the support of the Moses Mendelssohn Center and the Federal Foreign Office,DW has successfully documented this unique aspect through extensive research. Itis a small cultural history with an array of engaging protagonists.Now for the best part. You can actually see it all by clicking here. It’s great!http://www.dw.de/top-stories/german-jewish-cultural-heritage/s-31805Bravo Ms. Schaeffer and your entire crew!BERLIN & JEWISH SITES & A NEW KIND OF SYNAGOGUESince I’m on the subject of culture and places to visit, I’m going to assume that manyof you have never visited Berlin and, even if you have, my guess is that there are anumber of sites that you haven’t seen.If my assumptions are correct you should read a recent JTA article by Toby Axelrodentitled, “Berlin Offers More Than Holocaust History.” which you can do by clickinghere. http://www.jta.org/news/article/2012/12/21/3115166/for-jewish-tourists-berlin-offers-more-than-holocaust-historyToby spells out all the Holocaust related things to see but adds a little more spice atthe end particularly about some of the new Jewish institutions that have developed.Berlin has become a place has become a city of artistic experimentation. Jewish 8
    • artists, musicians, etc., especially many from Israel, have flocked there to work andrub shoulders with others like themselves. It has become a fascinating environment..The thing that grabbed me was mention of Ohel HaChidush Jewish RenewalCongregation. If you want to read about this “do it yourself” kind of synagogue clickhere. Not only will you not be disappointed but you may want to participate next timeyou’re in Berlin. Ohel HaChidushGERMAN TEXTBOOKS & ISRAELUnder the heading “Israel Gets Bad Rap in German Textbooks”, DW notes in anarticle, “Little room is given for Israeli history in German textbooks and, when it ismentioned, the image presented of the Middle-Eastern state tends to beunbalanced. A new commission is calling for change.It will soon be 68 years since the end of the Second World War and the end of theNational Socialist regime in Germany.To this day, the handling of this dark chapter in history has been a difficult issue,especially with regards to the Holocaust and the Israeli state. The way in whichIsrael is presented to young people in Germany remains the subject of continualdebate.For that reason, the German-Israeli Textbook Commission was founded in 2010 bythe Georg Eckert Institute for International Textbook Research in Braunschweig."Arousing fear, developing trust - textbooks are a political issue," said Israel expertDirk Sadowski, one of the initiators of the project.Upon first inspection, the commission found that the textbooks from Germanpublishers - such as Klett, Westermann, Buchner and Cornelsen, who togetheraccount for almost the entire German textbook market - were lacking when it cameto accurate coverage of Israel.Around 500 history, geography and social studies textbooks currently in use inschools in the states of North-Rhine Westphalia, Bavaria, Berlin and Saxony, wereassessed."Many facets of Israeli reality were airbrushed out, especially regarding aspects ofcivil society," Sadowski said. Textbook authors tend to present Palestinians asvictims and Israelis as the perpetrators, he added.One clear example of that can be found in "Geschichte Real 3," published byCornelsen and currently used in high schools in North-Rhine Westphalia. 9
    • The very first image in the book depicts Israeli soldiers pointing weapons atunarmed people. The Israeli barricades were photographed from the ground up andlook menacing.The overall message is that of "Jewish terror," while the issue of Arab suicidebombers barely receives a mention and, when it does, the impression given is thatof "desperation.""Tendentious representations of history," Dirk Sadowski said, calling it "cheapshowmanship."The imbalanced selection of images, he said, is a trend that can be seen in manyGerman textbooks: "Israel usually comes out badly in the images."Such examples promote the concept of "the enemy" and foster prejudices, saycritics such as Julius Schoeps, the director of the Moses Mendelssohn Center forEuropean-Jewish Studies in Potsdam.There’s a bit more to the story but the sort of damage that has been done and cancontinue in the future is clear. The images that are filtered into the minds of youngchildren tend to stick with them through their entire lives. Look honestly into yourown mind and you will see negative images that you have carried with you evenbefore you entered kindergarten.In Germany we have a situation where there is lingering national guilt that emanatesfrom their Holocaust history. While the vast majorities of Germans, and certainly thegovernment, understand their responsibility to Israel and Jews, a resentful ofyoung people reaching maturity with negative images of Israel will seriouslycomplicate what should be a deep and meaningful relationship between Germansand Jews.I’m sure the Textbook Commission will do its job. Let’s hope that their findings aretaken seriously and that the needed revisions can come into being quickly. 10