American edition september 27, 2010


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American edition september 27, 2010

  1. 1. AN AMERICAN JEWISH – GERMAN INFORMATION & OPINION NEWSLETTER AMERICAN EDITION September 27, 2010 Dear Friends: 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 for Germany." Who could ask for more from a world leader? O.K. let’s get on with the news. 1
  2. 2. 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 anyway. 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. 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 Germany's bid. 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 2
  3. 3. moment. For an interesting review of the situation click here for a DW- article.,1518,717489,00.html 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 surprised. 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 3
  4. 4. around you." In the end, Bailer said, an Israeli influx could start to fill the void left by the Holocaust. "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. 4
  5. 5. 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 clicking.,1518,717401,00.html GERMAN ONLY? 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 Bundestag. 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 added. 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 lost. 5
  6. 6. 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 public reaction.” 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 from Warsaw. 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 said. 6
  7. 7. 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. ’Nuff said! Read the whole story. Click here.,,6013795,00.html 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. However… ”… 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 7
  8. 8. 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 France has. 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 access it.,,5455829,00.html 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.,,5996369,00.html 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 8
  9. 9. 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 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 opinion poll. 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. 9
  10. 10. 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 at Both the American and Germany editions are also posted on line at 10