AN AMERICAN JEWISH – GERMAN INFORMATION & OPINION
September 27, 2010
AS far as editing is concerned – I give up! No sooner had I promised no more
words left out, in the next paragraph there was an omission. You’ll just have to
take me the way I am.
This past week has been a busy one in terms of Jewish – German matters.
Chancellor Merkel was in New York for the UN General Assembly meeting. Most
notably (from our perspective) she was awarded the Leo Baeck Medal by the Leo
Baeck Institute, the only organization dedicated solely to the historical study of
German speaking Jews. Through the good offices of the LBI director, Carol
Strauss Kahn, I was invited to the event. According to DW-World, The chancellor
said the medal was an inspiration for continuing the work of integration and
cooperation with the Jewish community.
"That work, unfortunately, entails going against the anti-Semitism that crops up
on a regular basis," she said.
She added that Germany was prepared to use its leverage to support peace
talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians. She met with Palestinian
President Mahmoud Abbas in New York on Tuesday, and spoke with Israeli
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by telephone last week.
Merkel also urged Iran to clear up any doubts about its nuclear program, and to
stop threatening Israel.
"Iran must know that the existence of the state of Israel will never be negotiable
Who could ask for more from a world leader?
O.K. let’s get on with the news.
IN THIS EDITION
GERMANY & THE SECURITY COUNCIL – A seat for Germany?
YOUNG ISRAELIS IN BERLIN – They’re coming in droves. Why?
PASS THE PICKLED WOMBAT – It’s a stomach turner but you should read it
GERMAN ONLY? – Nationalism & language.
”BAD CHARACTER”. WHERE DOES IT LEAD? – Where might such an
assertion take us?
A FAR RIGHT PARTY IN GERMANY? – Not “nazified” but dangerous.
THE GREENS GAIN – They’re becoming a greater force. Look out SPD, CDU,
CSU, FDP, and Die Linke, they’re gaining on you!
GERMANY & THE SECURITY COUNCIL
As I put this edition “to bed”, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle is
about to address the UN General Assembly. One of his important points is a
case for Germany having a seat of the Security Council.
DW-WORLD.de reported, “German Foreign Minister Westerwelle is scheduled
to address the UN General Assembly on Saturday, where he will outline
Germany's application for a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council.
The UN General Assembly will be voting new members to the Security Council
when it convenes on October 12. There are three candidates for two seats
reserved for Western nations - Germany, Canada and Portugal.
Previously, Chancellor Merkel had made the same case when she appeared at
the UN. “The chancellor is keen for Germany to become a non-
permanent member of the influential UN Security Council. She claimed on
Tuesday that she had received "a lot of support and encouragement" for
A seat on the UN's peacekeeping council would allow Germany to "present its
views more strongly." The new non-permanent members will be elected by the
General Assembly in October.
There is no doubt that Germany would like to have a “Permanent Seat” which
would give it veto status. However, that does not seem possible unless there is a
general reorganization of the UN which also does not seem possible at the
moment. For an interesting review of the situation click here for a DW-
YOUNG ISRAELIS IN BERLIN
I am a strong believer in the proposition that Jews should be able to live
wherever they want to in peace and security – including Berlin. Presently there
appears to be some kind of a movement afoot for young Israelis to move to
Berlin. Given the exciting cultural scene in the German capital one should not be
The AP recently ran a story entitled, Young Israelis Are Moving To Berlin in
Droves”. They note, “The city from which Hitler unleashed the genocide of 6
million Jews is now attracting a small but growing community of Jews from Israel
for whom it embodies freedom, tolerance, and an anything-goes spirit.
Berlin has become a real magnet for Israelis — everybody wants to move here,"
said (Nrit) Bialer, 32, whose Friday noon (radio program) "Kol Berlin," Hebrew for
"the voice of Berlin," started three years ago and is something of an institution for
young Israelis in Berlin.
Nobody knows exactly how many Israelis have moved here in recent years;
unofficial estimates suggest 9,000 to 15,000 — far fewer than the 120,000 Jews
who lived in Berlin before the Nazis came to power in 1933.
But their presence is a powerful symbol of generational change. Years ago,
Israelis viewed emigration from their country as a betrayal of the Zionist cause,
and moving to Germany was reviled as the worst betrayal of all.
Many wouldn't set foot in Germany even as tourists. Today, Israelis make up the
second-largest group of non-European tourists coming to Berlin, after
Americans. The streets of Tel Aviv feature billboards featuring Berlin's landmark
Brandenburg Gate as a tourist attraction.
The Israelis who come to stay are looking to work, study, party and make art,
and don't seem to care much about the Nazi past. They arrive on student visas,
overstay tourist permits or have German or other European ancestry that entitles
them to citizenship. Many start families with German partners, far from the
tensions of the Middle East.”
Living here has also made Bialer more aware of her Jewishness.
"In Israel you don't think about what it means to be Jewish because everybody is
celebrating Shabbat or the Rosh Hashanah," she said. "In Germany, you
suddenly realize who you are as a Jew and you're different from everybody else
In the end, Bailer said, an Israeli influx could start to fill the void left by the
"I think there's something growing here: A new Jewish community in Berlin."
While there is little doubt that the Jewish community in Berlin is expanding, the
number given above (9,000 – 15,000) are misleading. That number indicates the
best guess as to the entire Jewish population of which the Israelis are only a
relatively small percentage. Most are immigrants from the former Soviet Union.
However, there is no question that Israelis are moving into the capital city as well
even though nowhere near the 9 – 15,000 number so far.
Berlin has become a great city where artists, musicians, etc. can work in a cross
cultural atmosphere which encourages artistic production. This sort of an
atmosphere is nothing new. Weimar Berlin of the 1920’s had the same flavor and
it even flourished during the period of the Cold War. The “opening” of the city
after its West and East parts came back together after the Wall fell has enhanced
it even further. In addition its Jewishness has emerged once again and that is a
further enticement for young Jews.
What’s happening there is certainly great for art. It’s probably less good for Israel.
My guess is that the immigration will continue unabated. Young people have a
mind of their own. If anyone has a problem with it, my advice is – get over it! It’s
not going away.
Read the whole story by clicking here.
PASS THE PICKLED WOMBAT
Many members of the older generation of my family (not me) loved pickled
herring. It was supposed to be a great Eastern European Jewish delicacy. They
reveled in eating it. I thought it was disgusting just to look at. However, the Berlin
Natural History Museum has put up an exhibition of pickled animals enough to
gross anybody out - even pickled herring lovers. Spiegel On-line reports,
“Thousands of jars containing fish, mammals, worms, crabs, spiders and reptiles
preserved in alcohol have gone on show in Berlin in a spectacular new exhibition
at the city's Natural History Museum.
Some of the exhibits are more than 200 years old. The jars were previously
stored in various parts of the building but have now been moved together in one
location in the museum's newly reconstructed east wing. The wing was
destroyed in World War II.
Berlin now boasts what is probably the most modern storage site for alcohol-
preserved natural exhibits in the world, the museum said. It contains some one
million objects stored in 276,000 jars, containing a total of 81,880 liters (21,600
gallons) of alcohol and lined up on 12.6 kilometers (7.8 miles) of shelves.”
O.K. It’s science! That’s about all I can say good about it. Read further by
The Thilo Sarrazin book I wrote about in the last edition which raised the
question about Germany’s immigration policy – and how immigrants should be
thought of and treated - has kicked off another major discussion. In an allied
subject - the matter of the sanctity of the German language has emerged in the
Deutsche Welle reported, “The constitution should make it clear that German is
the country's official language, a leading conservative politician said on Friday.
His call comes as social integration is at the center of public debate in Germany.
German conservative politician Alexander Dobrindt on Friday called for the
country's language to be enshrined in the constitution. His comments come amid
a fierce debate on immigration and integration sparked by former central banker
Thilo Sarrazin's controversial claim that Muslim immigrants fail to integrate.
"The protection of the German language ought to be laid down in the
constitution," Dobrint told the online edition of mass-circulation paper Bildzeitung.
"Respect for our German language equals respect for our culture and our
country. And that's something we ask of everyone who lives here with us," he
Without a common language, successful integration was impossible he argued,
pointing towards the fact that other countries, such as France, mention the role
of their language in their constitution.
Holger Klatte, head of the Association of the German Language said “"I think the
biggest danger for the German language is that important groups in our society
simply don't speak it," he told Deutsche Welle. "Take for instance some of the big
companies in our country that try to establish English as the language spoken
among their employees - even for their operations within Germany."
The public discussion about the German language is nothing new. In some ways
it is similar to our own “English Only” debates. I wouldn’t be opposed to everyone
in Germany learning German nor everyone in the U.S. becoming proficient in
English as long as it did not mean that their original homeland language is to be
German is a very beautiful language and much of the greatest literature in
Western history has been written in it. I understand the anxiety Germans have
about the influx of English which is widely spoken. My concern is with the
“nationalistic” tone in which the subject is being introduced and the political
associations (very right) that goes along with it. The ”Super Americans” who
frequently back “English Only” are cut from the same cloth. Needless to say, the
backers of both movements are not always extreme people. It just seems to me
though that the extremes have captured the subject and that is too bad.
”BAD CHARACTER”. WHERE DOES IT LEAD?
A few editions ago I covered the League of Expellees, the organization that
represents those Germans expelled from Poland after World War II. The
organization is opposed to the long settled boundary between Germany and
Poland. In addition, it was opposed to Poland being accepted into the EU and, in
general pretty anti-Polish. The organization’s head, Erika Steinbach is an
important CDU politician and controls a great many votes so the CDU is reluctant
to do anything much to reign her in.
Now comes the headache part. Frau Steinbach is a “stick in the mud” when it
comes to German – Polish relations. Recently according to the New York Times,
“In remarks to German public television, Mrs. Steinbach referred repeatedly to
the “bad character” of Mr. Bartoszewski, 88, a former foreign minister and now
Poland’s special representative for forging closer ties with Germany.
When asked why, Mrs. Steinbach replied: “I had greatly admired Bartoszewski. I
had written him heartfelt letters years ago but never received a reply, except a
She gave no further explanation.
The Polish government declined to comment, but a senior Polish diplomat who
requested anonymity because of the political delicacy of the issue, said, “This is
an internal affair for Mrs. Merkel’s Christian Democrats.”
Mr. Bartoszewski, who is generally held in high esteem by Germans and Poles,
played down the comments. I greatly appreciate the opinions of 41 million
Germans, but I am indifferent to Mrs. Steinbach’s views,” he said in a statement
Guido Westerwelle, the German foreign minister, and other leading politicians
defended Mr. Bartoszewski. “He is an honorable individual who has done great
work over his lifetime to promote German-Polish reconciliation,” Mr. Westerwelle
No stranger to controversy, Mrs. Steinbach rattled the Christian Democrats last
week when she said that Poland had mobilized its army six months before the
1939 Nazi invasion that began World War II.
The government immediately distanced itself from those remarks. She later
denied that she had intended to imply that Poland had started the war.
Mr. Bartoszewski is a great friend of Israel, the Jewish people and AJC. I’m not
sure what being of “bad character” means. Surely, Mr. Bartoszewski can’t be
accused of that. However, I am very sure about what Fr. Steinbach meant by
saying the Poles mobilized six months before the Nazi invasion and it’s not only
of passing interest. Any action that alters the historical facts regarding the 1939
invasion of Poland by the Nazis will invariably lead to a discussion of the facts
about the responsibility for the war and the Holocaust. It is an obvious forerunner
of Holocaust denial that the deniers will link on to immediately.
I think you understand why the Steinbach matter is of considerable importance.
Read the whole story. Click here.
A FAR RIGHT PARTY IN GERMANY?
Given the rise of right wing populism in Europe, “Wolfgang Böhmer, Christian
Democratic premier (Governor) of the state of Saxony Anhalt, warned of the
possibility of the rise of a populist far-right party in Germany, "even if it is not
clear who could lead it."
"There is always a danger that a populist right-wing party could emerge," Böhmer
told the Hamburger Abendblatt newspaper. "We need to be permanently vigilant,
and do everything we can to prevent the foundation of a party right of the
Christian Democratic Union," he said.
”… in an interview with the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Chancellor Angela
Merkel played down talk of a new far-right party in Germany. It's up to
democratic parties to prevent new parties on the right or left extremes," she said.
"We can't just describe grievances, we have to solve problems. Then we won't
have to worry about new fringe-parties," said the chancellor.”
Of course, Chancellor Merkel is right in saying that it is up to the democratic
parties in Germany to see that extreme parties do not get traction. Thus far, in
Germany’s post World War II history they have been successful. While there are
fringe right wing extremist parties (i.e. NPD – the neo-Nazi party) no substantial
extremist group has ever gained a seat in the Bundestag as the le Pen party in
However, at least a small amount of trouble is currently bubbling to the surface.
My good friend Ruth Block, who closely follows the German language press,
wrote me, “Rene Stadtkewitz (a Berlin legislator) was forced out of the CDU
because he invited Geert Wilders, the Dutch politician who produced the anti-
Islam video, to Berlin. On September 10 Stadtkewitz announced that he will
form a new Party to be called "Die Freiheit" (Freedom). Wilders will come to
Berlin to attend the establishment of the new Party on October 2. He announced
his plans for the Party: "classic liberal", more liberal than the FDP, less trusting
of the State than the SPD, and more anti-Party than the Greens.
In addition, back in April Deutsche Welle ran an article noting, “In recent months,
extreme right-wing and populist parties have won significant gains in regional
and parliamentary elections in Europe. For them, times of crisis are a boon.
In Hungary, Holland, Switzerland and France far right populism has emerged
with significant political strength. As I write this it looks as if the same thing is
about to happen in Sweden. (P.S. It did!) The fact that it has not happened in
Germany to any great degree as yet is a great plus and blessing. Such a
development in Europe’s strongest country would be ominous to say the least.
Even though the D-W article is 5 months old it bears reading. Click here to
By the way, if you’re interested in how the neo-Nazi movement developed in
Eastern Germany, Ben Knight writing in Der Spiegel gives an interesting
historical perspective. It’s only one page long. You can read it by clicking here.
THE GREENS GAIN
The world situation (economic and otherwise) have the electorate in almost every
country wishing that their current “in” government would somehow be “out” and
that the “outs” would become the “ins”. Of course, the romance with any new
government only lasts for a short while until the “outs” begin to act like the “ins”
and the whole drama begins over again.
In Germany the latest polls show that the center right coalition Christian Dems
(CDU), Christian Socialist Union (CSU who are very far from being socialist) and
Free Dems (FDP) losing ground especially to the Green Party.
The latest polls show the Greens gaining strength on everybody even the party
they would presumably be partnered with if there was an election any time soon
(There isn’t one until 2013), the Social Dems (SPD).
The Local.de reports, “In a tectonic shift in Germany’s political landscape,
the environmentalist Greens have equaled the main opposition party, the
Social Democrats, with an approval rating of 24 percent in the latest major
The latest Stern-RTL voting trend poll, released Wednesday, has underscored
the steady decline of the Social Democrats (SPD) and Angela Merkel’s
conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) as Germany's dominant Volksparteien
(or people’s parties).
One year after the federal election of September 2009, the mood of the
electorate has changed dramatically, with the Greens in particular soaring to an
impressive performance, partly on the back of voter anger over the centre-right
government’s recent decision to extend the life of the country’s nuclear reactors.
The Greens’ stunning result is a record high for the party, led jointly by Cem
Özdemir – the first German of Turkish descent to lead a major party – and
Claudia Roth. It gained 2 percentage points on the previous week’s result. At the
last election, it scored just 10.7 percent support.
The SPD’s figure of 24 percent was unchanged on the previous week. It gained
23 percent of the popular vote last September.
The socialist Left party registered support this week of 10 percent – a point less
than it scored last September.
By far the biggest losers in the shake-up are the FDP. Having seen their support
steadily drain away over the past 12 months, the party led by Guido Westerwelle
has now lost fully two thirds of its support since the election, dropping from 14.8
percent a year ago to 5 percent today.
Merkel’s CDU, meanwhile, won the approval of 29 percent of voters this week –
one point fewer than last week. The party has hovered steadily around 5 points
below the 33.8 percent it won last year to secure government.”
In Germany, where the recession is ending more quickly than here, the major
issue these days doesn’t seem to be “jobs” but the environment. The extension
of the life of nuclear reactors is a deep concern. Germany does have a lot of coal
and gets most of its natural gas from Russia. Oil pipelines are also being built so
Russia is very important in terms of energy. That does not seem to bother the
Germans – nuclear reactors do.
However, there is a long way to until the next federal election so maybe the
current polls are not all that important. We’ll keep an eye on it for you.
See you in October.
DuBow Digest is written and published by Eugene DuBow who can be contacted
Both the American and Germany editions are also posted on line at