AN AMERICAN JEWISH – GERMAN INFORMATION & OPINION
November 9, 2010
The election is over leaving some of us happy and others a lot less happy. The
German press covered it in detail with most observers parroting what
was said in the American media and thinking that the changes will not
affect German – American relations all that much. I agree with them.
However, the recent move by the Fed angered the German Finance
Ministry. (DW-World) “German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble
accused the US Federal Reserve of breaching international consensus.
By buying additional US government bonds, he said, the Fed was
creating problems for other economies. Click here to read about it.
I am sending this newsletter a few days early because we should
remember that today, Nov. 9th
, is the 72nd
anniversary of Kristallnacht. I
prepared a little piece for The Journal News which covers New York’s
north suburbs on the meaning of this date. It was printed on Nov. 6. You
can access it by clicking here.
With the memory of that sad day in mind, let’s get on with the news…
IN THIS EDITION
ON THE CASE – The German Criminal Police do their thing with a neo-
Nazi radio station.
JEWISH LIFE IN GERMANY: A GRAPHIC LOOK – A brief video
DIPLOMATIC COMPLICITY IN THE HOLOCAUST – More on the role of
the German Foreign Office in the murder of the Jews in World War II
LITTLE CREDIT – The economy’s better. No pat on the back for the
A PRO-ISRAEL RALLY – A rarity these days in Germany
FUNDING THE JEWISH SEMINARIES IN GERMANY: A BOO-BOO –
The Interior Ministry makes a mess – then tries to clean it up
A WOMAN RABBI – The first to be ordained in Germany since WW II.
INTEGRATION: THE GERMAN APPROACH – They’re working on it.
ON THE CASE
The German criminal police are certainly on the case when it comes to
right wing extremists. DW-World reported, “German authorities have
arrested 21 people suspected of running an Internet radio station
broadcasting far-right extremist music and views. Police raided homes
across Germany, seizing computers and weapons.
The head of Germany's federal criminal police force said that
prosecutors are investigating a group alleged to be responsible for
"Resistance Radio," a neo-Nazi Internet broadcaster. It is an offence in
Germany to display or promote Nazi symbols and ideologies.
Twenty-two households were raided across Germany on Wednesday, most in
the western states of Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine-Westphalia.
The station had been under investigation since October 2009. It was
broadcasting over the internet and played music from German and international
skinhead bands, which included racist and neo-Nazi content.
There has been an increase in neo-Nazi groups using music and websites to try
get their messages across to young people and recruit them to their cause.
"Recently the right-wing extremist scene has shown a clear tendency towards
modernization in their use of strategies for advertising and mobilization," said
Joerg Ziercke, head of Germany's federal criminal police force.
What shocked me was the sophistication of the radio station. As I understand it, it
was on an American based computer accessed by secret passwords using false
names. It seems as if the German police know how to deal with it but, frankly, it’s
frightening. Gone are the days of open air rallies and soap box oration. I’m not
sure I like this new world.
JEWISH LIFE IN GERMANY: A GRAPHIC LOOK
I haven’t tried previously to enclose a video in one of my newsletters. However,
Deutsch Welle included one on their website dealing with Jewish life in Germany
so I thought I’d give it a try. Two people are featured, a Jewish woman who fled
the Holocaust and has returned to Germany and a Latvian Jewish immigrant.
Their differences in outlook are very interesting. However, both agree that
without the Russians there would be no Jewish life in Germany. .
The piece runs a little less than 5 minutes and is far from perfect. However, it
does give you a sense of Jewish life in Germany. Try it by clicking here.
DIPLOMATIC COMPLICITY IN THE HOLOCAUST
In my last newsletter I made brief mention that a report dealing with the
complicity of the personnel of the German Foreign Office in the Holocaust was
about to be released. I noted that it was “Not much of a surprise”. Anyone who
has even read a little about Germany under the spell of Hitler and the Nazis
would know that almost every facet of the German population was in some way
connected to the extermination of the Jews or, at least, knew something not very
good was happening to them. If we had a dictatorial government and a group of
people began to disappear, I think we’d figure out that something evil was afoot.
The assumption I make above goes double in spades for a bureaucracy that was
an integral part of the German government from 1933 to 1945. How could it have
been otherwise no matter what the defenders of the Foreign Office for that period
said? Somehow it became “common knowledge” that the diplomatic service was
“clean’ or, at least “cleaner” than other government agencies. In this case what
was generally believed turned out to be false.
The British newspaper Guardian recently printed, “Leading members of
Germany's foreign ministry were deeply involved in the Holocaust, according to
an official report published yesterday which blew apart decades of diplomats'
denial they had played an important role in the mass murder of European Jews.
Senior officials were willing participants in the Nazi campaign rather than
representing a focus of opposition to the Third Reich, visiting Dachau
concentration camp for training before the second world war, helping to organise
the killing of Jews during the conflict and protecting convicted war criminals from
travelling to countries where they might be arrested after the war”.
Great credit goes to former Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer who, some years
ago, initiated the study. The current Foreign Minister, Guido Westerwelle, in
receiving the report said he was “shamed” by it.
DW-World.de printed an interview with U.S. historian Peter Hayes, a member of
the four man team that wrote the report. In it Hayes said in answer o the question
whether the Foreign Office was a criminal organization, “I wouldn't have put it
exactly as Professor Conze did. I would have said that the Foreign Office was a
part of a criminal regime rather than directly calling the Office a criminal
organization. But if you think it over carefully, it looks like a distinction without a
difference. If the organization in question is part of a criminal operation, if it is an
active part promoting the agenda of that operation, then, you know, in the end it's
a criminal organization”
Read the entire interview by clicking here. http://www.dw-
A personal note: Over the years I have worked with many members of the
German Foreign Service. I have found them to be honorable, informed and well
aware of the responsibilities they have. That goes for the top political appointees
as well. There is no doubt in my mind that this is a different time and I would
expect a very different performance in this new century –which we are getting.
Incidentally, if we’re looking for rotten performances in the 1930’s and 1940’s we
should probably look at our own State Dept. as well. While they did not help
arrange mass killings of Jews they didn’t help much either. Only trying to be fair!
As I have been reporting, Germany has been coming out of the worldwide
recession more quickly than almost any other Western country. One would think
that the poll numbers for the ruling CDU/CSU/FDP coalition would be
skyrocketing. They’re not! With all the internal strife over the question of
immigrant integration and deep concern about the Chancellor’s ability to lead
there is deep unrest and bad poll numbers. However, with the economy getting
back on track shouldn’t they get some sort of credit? They don’t!
The Local.de reports, “Nearly two thirds of Germans believe the country's
economic recovery owes more to global factors than the government's handling
of the financial crisis, a new poll suggests.
An Emnid survey taken for the Bild am Sonntag newspaper found that 63
percent pointed to "the world economy in general" as the main reason for
Germany's better-than-expected economic recovery.
Only 28 percent said that government policy was to thank for the situation. But
49 percent of supporters of the ruling Christian Democratic Union (CDU)
believed the current government's policies were responsible.
The people surveyed also gave much more credit to Germany's companies and
employees than the government. Some 54 percent credited the workers, while
50 percent credited the companies.
Only 22 percent gave any credit to the job market reforms known as 'Agenda
2010' introduced by former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder in the early part of the
decade. Among Schröder's Social Democratic Party supporters, however, 40
percent said his reforms were the main reason for today's success.
What’s the message here? First, I think the fact that since with only 49% of those
people who normally back the CDU (the Chancellor’s party) backing her at the
moment, there is trouble in the “base”. The next national election is three years
away but there are plenty of State elections in the meantime. The CDU leaders
have their work cut out for them if they are to remain in the ruling coalition.
Second, the Chancellor has been in office for 5 years. Perhaps there is Merkel
fatigue. No matter how good some politicians are (and she is good) a certain
weariness sets in after a while and, no matter what, people feel someone else
should take that spot.
Third, if the U.S. is to come out of its recession more fully in the next two years,
Pres. Obama shouldn’t count on a giant pat on the back from the electorate.
A PRO-ISRAEL RALLY
JTA reported that a pro-Israel rally was recently held in Frankfurt. In terms of
German rallies it is not what I would call a gigantic turnout. However, it was very
encouraging that the rally included several non-Jewish organizations. The story
noted, “The event in Frankfurt drew some 1,000 people representing Jewish and
interfaith groups under the banner, "Israel is not alone: As a friend of Israel, you
are not alone!" The main organizers were Christians on Israel's Side; the I like
Israel association, the German-Israel Society of Frankfurt and Honestly
Concerned, a media watchdog organization.
The rally comes in the midst of what some Israel supporters here have called
unprecedented criticism of Israel by the German government. In July, the
German parliament unanimously passed a motion blasting Israel's handling of
the interception of a Gaza-bound flotilla on May 31 in which nine Turkish
nationals were killed.
Germany traditionally has been a strong supporter of Israel, and the current
German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, has upheld that support. She initiated the
first Cabinet exchange with Israel in 2008.
Indeed, criticism by the Bundestag was “unprecedented” and, perhaps it is a too
fine a point to mention that the resolution was not a “government” resolution but
one passed in the legislature. Maybe that difference doesn’t make a difference
but it was not initiated by the Chancellor. That does make a difference.
FUNDING THE JEWISH SEMINARIES IN GERMANY: A BOO-BOO
The German Interior Ministry through which funds for rabbinical seminaries are
funneled made a pretty bad “boo-boo” last week – and then had to backtrack.
Haaretz first reported, “In a week that has seen German headlines dominated by
the theme of Muslim integration, a split has also emerged between the
government and the country's Orthodox Jews.
Behind the dispute is a demand by the Berlin Orthodox Rabbinical Seminary for
an increase in state funds to match financing granted to Liberal Jewish Rabbis.
Founded in 1873, the Orthodox seminary survived in the German capital until
1938, when it was shut down by the Nazis. For nearly seven decades, Orthodox
rabbis could not qualify in Berlin – until studies began again in 2005, with the
seminary officially reopening in 2009, ordaining its first two rabbis the same year.
Since its reestablishment, the seminary has been funded by donations through
the Central Council of Jews in Germany and private donors through the Ronald
S. Lauder Foundation, a charity.
But now the seminary is demanding state budget allocations along the lines of
those granted to its Liberal counterparts and has threatened to shut unless the
government supplies the money.
The previous interior minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, had publicly praised the
seminary, calling it a vital contribution to the renewal of Jewish society in
Germany. But his successor, Thomas de Maizière – who this week cancelled a
planned trip to Israel – has been hostile.
Haaretz has seen a series of letters exchanged between Maizière and Rabbi
Josh Spinner, the seminary's U.S.-born chairman, in which the government firmly
refused funding, citing limited budgets, already strained by contributions to the
Liberal seminary, as well as the Jewish Studies faculty at Heidelberg University.
Berlin's Orthodox rabbis are furious, claiming the government is discriminating
against them in favor of more assimilated Jews.
"This dispute reveals the true attitude of the German authorities toward Jews,"
one of the seminary's rabbis said. "The Germans are prepared to finance Jewish
educational institutions as long as the Jews are Liberal, look like them, define
themselves as Germans first and Jews second."
Maizière's reference to Heidelberg caused particular anger, as the Jewish
studies faculty there is a secular institution, not a theological college.
"Anyone seeking ordination as a rabbi needs to fly to the U.K. or the U.S. to train
there," the Berlin rabbi said.
And the rabbis' claims of discrimination my have a basis in law, says Benjamin
Ladiges, a Berlin lawyer.
"The state has no right to chose one seminary over another," he told Haaretz.
"The Basic Law [Germany's constitution] dictates that as soon as one religious
institution gains funding, others of a different denomination are entitled to the
A day or two later The Jerusalem Post reported, “Germany's Interior Ministry
says it is considering options on funding an Orthodox rabbinical seminary.
Ministry spokesman Hendrik Lorges told JTA on Monday that the request for
funding by the Rabbiner Seminar zu Berlin has been the subject of ongoing talks
between his ministry and the Central Council of Jews in Germany. Stephan
Kramer, the council's secretary general, confirmed that he had spoken with
Kramer urged a solution that would channel funds for both seminaries through
the nonpartisan Jewish umbrella organization he directs.”
I like Kramer’s idea in general (funding for both) but I wonder if giving the funding
power to the Zentralrat will not cause another whole set of problems. For
instance, who in the Z-rat will decide on who gets what? Doesn’t lifting the direct
funding to each individual institution lessen their importance?
I myself am in favor of anything that enhances the development of Jewish
infrastructure. It’s not as if there are a million German speaking rabbis, Reform or
Orthodox, who are willing to take up pulpits or teaching positions in Germany.
There are about 50 rabbis for 100 pulpits. Maybe Germany is short of budget but
when it comes to the ordination of rabbis in Germany, one would think that more
is better than fewer and causing an internal Jewish dispute by the government is
about the last thing the Germans need.
We’ll have to see how it all works out. Stay tuned!
A WOMAN RABBI
While the uproar over which seminaries should be funded was going on, the
(Reform) Abraham Geiger College in Potsdam ordained the first woman rabbi to
be ordained in Germany since Regina Jonas in 1935. Rabbi Jonas was
murdered in Auschwitz.
As reported by The Local.de, “Alina Treiger, 31, who was born in Ukraine but
moved to Berlin in 2001, was ordained alongside two fellow students before an
audience that included President Christian Wulff and 30 top rabbis – including
some women – from around the world.
Treiger said at a press conference that she found it somewhat irritating that there
was so much hype around her appointment, according to daily Berliner
“I am annoyed; I haven’t actually done anything yet,” she said. “It’s only
important that a rabbi is good. It’s not important whether it’s a man or a woman.”
Treiger will now lead the Jewish communities in the cities of Oldenburg and
Delmenhorst in Lower Saxony. She said youth work was important to her. Jewish
life had to go on in a country that had once resolved to exterminate Jews”.
You’ve got to love her attitude! I think she’ll be great. Read more.
INTEGRATION: THE GERMAN APPROACH
As mentioned here many times, aside from the poor economic situation which
Germany seems to be coming out of a lot better than we here in the U.S., their
major domestic problems seems to revolve around the integration of, primarily,
the Turkish and Arab populations who do not seem to meld easily into German
They’re working on it!
The Local.de recently ran a story noting that “Federal, state and municipal
officials met with immigrant associations … in Berlin for a national summit on
how to improve integration in Germany. This year's focus is the recognition of
foreign job qualifications.
Ahead of the summit Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger
called for an end to the deportation of well-integrated juveniles.
“We can’t seriously discuss controlled immigration while simultaneously
banishing those who fulfill all of the requirements of successful integration,” the
pro-business Free Democrat told daily Süddeutsche Zeitung.
These young people, who have often established a solid position in German
society through their own hard work should instead have a “concrete prospect of
naturalization,” she told the paper.
The constant threat of deportation is intolerable for those who have long called
Germany their home, she said.
“A change in residency law is past due,” she said.
Meanwhile federal integration commissioner Maria Böhmer echoed previous
comments by Chancellor Angela Merkel that multiculturalism had failed in
“Ambiguity doesn’t help integration and neither does masking problems,” she told
national broadcaster Deutschlandfunk.
The government, led by her fellow conservative Christian Democrats, has been
right to take a stand for both demanding and supporting integration, she said.
“We want one to understand diversity in our country as a chance and not a
burden,” she said.
I think it’s important to point out here that the German approach to their
immigrant communities is not, as it is in the U.S., i.e. enhanced law enforcement
(police). There are no raids, no arrests and no mass deportations as some
elements in our own society are demanding. The focus seems to be on how to
get non-citizens to learn German, stay in school and to adhere to German law. Of
course, none of this is easy. Obviously, the problems in Germany and those in
the U.S. are different. However, their approach seems to be aimed in a positive
direction. At the moment I can’t say the same for us.
See you again later in the month.
DuBow Digest is written and published by Eugene DuBow who can be contacted
at email@example.com Both the American and Germany editions are also
posted on line at www.dubowdigest.typepad.com.