AN AMERICAN JEWISH – GERMAN INFORMATION & OPINION
August 12, 2013
IN THIS EDITION
GERMAN ELECTION UPDATE – Who will be the winner?
AFTER THE ELECTION – What happens the day after? Big change? Little change? No
change? Business as usual? Disaster?
CAN GERMANY LEAD? – Or will Europe deteriorate?
THE UNENDING BURDEN – Does the Holocaust ever recede?
THE NSA AND GERMANY – Snooping as a political issue.
CONFRONTING A NATIONAL DISGRACE – Euthanasia didn’t start with the Holocaust.
The summer is coming to a close and before we know it the High Holidays will be upon
us. So, let me be among the first to wish you a wonderful, healthy and happy 5774.
Summer politics are always slow in Germany. Many of the politicians including the
Chancellor have taken (or are taking) vacations with the national elections only a month
or so away. Unlike the U.S., the atmosphere seems very relaxed. So far no sexting
scandals or threats of government shutdown. What do they do to spice things up?
If you want a very good Nate Silver-like analysis of what the election is all about you
should read Heinrich Oberreuter’s (Prof. of Political Science at the University of Passau)
essay Party Politics in the 2013 Election printed in the newsletter of the American
Institute of Contemporary Studies. You can access it by clicking here.
With the election being on Sept. 22nd
, my next newsletter will be coming to you shortly
thereafter. With that said let’s get on with the news…
GERMAN ELECTION UPDATE
The German national election is about a month away and there does not seem to be
much change in what the Chancellor outcome will be. In fact, in late July Chancellor
Merkel seems so relaxed about it all that she is reported to have taken her summer
Meanwhile, her Social Democratic (SPD) competitor, Peer Steinbrück is hot and heavy
on the campaign trail. Spiegel On-Line reported, “In Germany, the main stretch of the
election campaign, usually just the last few weeks before the election, is referred to as
the heisse Phase -- the hot phase. With Angela Merkel's main challenger for the office
of chancellor lagging behind the conservative in polls, Social Democrat Peer Steinbrück
hit the campaign trail much earlier than usual on Tuesday (late July).
"So far we've been at training camp," Steinbrück told reporters. "But tomorrow we will
take to the streets." At a press conference in Berlin, he also presented the SPD's first
campaign posters. Oddly, the party's chancellor candidate himself is missing from the
The party plans to post around 8,000 of the signs across Germany. In some towns,
small images of Steinbrück announcing dates for nearby stump speeches will be affixed
to the posters. For the most part, however, his visage will be absent. Is it a sign that the
SPD is somehow ashamed of candidate Steinbrück, who has failed to gain traction with
his campaign and has suffered some embarrassing gaffes along the way?
It's the kind of conclusion the SPD leadership would heatedly deny. Instead they argue
they are playing down Steinbrück's image as a deliberate campaign strategy -- one
aimed at focusing on issues and differentiating itself from the personality-driven
approach adopted by the Merkel camp. That, at least, is the official line.
With seven weeks left to go before election day, the SPD is kicking its campaign into
high gear very early by German standards. Chancellor Merkel will be away on vacation
until mid-August and the SPD wants to take advantage of the time to gain ground.
Steinbrück has planned around 100 public appearances -- an average of two per day
between now and Sept. 22. During the second and third phases of the campaign, the
party plans to release new posters -- including ones that feature Steinbrück's face. A
spokesman for the party said the SPD is in no way trying to hide or down play its
candidate for the Chancellery.
Maybe that’s true but things do not look very bright for the SPD or Steinbrūck. However,
not all is “peaches and cream” for the Chancellor. Maybe there are peaches but,
perhaps, the cream will be missing.
A week before the national election there will be a state election in Bavaria, Germany’s
largest state (Think Texas!). TheLocal.de reported in mid- July, “Bavarians will vote in
the new regional parliament on September 15, just a week before national elections will
see whether Chancellor Angela Merkel hangs on for a third term, or if Social Democrat
(SPD) challenger Peer Steinbrück pushes her off the top spot.
Yet if the outcome of the Bavarian election has any bearing on the national result, a
leadership change doesn't seem likely, the Tagesspiegel newspaper suggested on
The latest regional poll predicted the SPD opposition would scrape just 18 percent of
the vote in the wealthy southern state.
The state has long been dominated by the Christian Social Union (CSU) - Bavarian
sister party of Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU), currently in a coalition with
the Free Democratic Party (FDP).
But the poll suggested the CSU could muster enough seats to rule alone - the 47
percent of votes predicted would be enough to do that.
Even if the opposition were to work together, they would only be able to gather 41
percent, not enough to challenge the mighty CSU, the poll suggested.
O.K. that’s the peaches. Now the possible missing cream. In the same article it was
noted, “The worst news came for current national junior coalition partners the Free
Democrats (FDP), which could be chucked out of Bavaria altogether if they don't
improve on their predicted 3 percent of the vote - a result which would see them fail to
clear the 5 percent hurdle needed to enter parliament”.
Simply put, if the FDP cannot garner 5% of the national vote they will be excluded from
the Bundestag and that will, in all likelihood, force the Chancellor to go into a “Grand
Coalition” with her main rivals. She will remain as Chancellor but will be largely
constrained by her competitors who will become her partners. It has happened before
and is not a disaster but it certainly isn’t the preferable arrangement. Split government is
not a winner (Think Washington!)
P.S. A later poll gives the FDP a 5% rating which (as above) would let them back into
the Bundestag – barely! There is no question that it will be “nip and tuck” all the way.
You can read about it by clicking here.
AFTER THE ELECTION
While it looks as if Chancellor Merkel, one way or the other, will remain in office, there
is, of course, the question of what sort of a Europe will Germany wake up to the day
after the votes are counted.
Jürgen Habermas, a German sociologist and philosopher in the tradition of critical
theory and pragmatism writing in Spiegel On-Lineposes important questions. He is
perhaps best known for his theories on communicative rationality and the public sphere.
Global polls consistently identify Habermas as one of the world's leading intellectuals.
His opinions carry a lot of weight. He is very critical of the Chancellor and her fiscal
He writes, “The fact is that the Merkel administration is forcing its controversial crisis
agenda on France and the "southern countries," while the purchasing policy of the
European Central Bank (ECB) provides unacknowledged support. At the same time,
however, Germany denies Europe-wide responsibility for the effects of its crisis policy --
a responsibility it tacitly assumes by taking on this (some would say, perfectly normal)
role as a leading power. Just think of the horrendous youth unemployment in Southern
Europe as one of the consequences of an austerity policy that weighs most heavily on
the weakest members of those societies.
When seen in this light, the message "we don't want a German Europe" can also be
interpreted in a less favorable way, namely that Germany is shirking its responsibility.
Formally speaking, the European Council reaches decisions by unanimous vote. As
only one of 18 members of the Monetary Union, Merkel can uninhibitedly pursue
national interests, or at least that which she believes to be such. The German
government derives a benefit from the country's economic preponderance, even a
disproportionately large benefit, for as long as its partners don't begin to question the
Germans' politically unambitious loyalty to Europe.”
It's worth repeating again and again: The suboptimal conditions under which the
European Monetary Union operates today are the result of a design flaw, namely that
the political union was never completed. That's why pushing the problems onto the
shoulders of the crisis-ridden countries with credit financing isn't the answer. The
imposition of austerity policies cannot correct the existing economic imbalances in the
Of course what Habermas has to say is more fully fleshed out than what I have included
above. Whether he is right or wrong is another question. I’m not enough of an
economist to know. However, there is no question that Europe has a long way to go for
all its nations to reach a level of economic security. To read the entire article click here.
CAN GERMANY LEAD?
Hopefully, you have looked into the Habermas article above pointing out what the
Professor thinks are destructive Euro-economic policies that the German government is
following. Whether he is right or wrong, the question remains, “Can Germany Lead?”
Every once in a while an all-encompassing thoughtful article on this subject appears
which is “must”reading on the subject. Such an article appeared recently in The New
York Review of Books written by British historian Timothy Garton Ash.
He starts off by noting, “There is a new German question. It is this: Can Europe’s most
powerful country lead the way in building both a sustainable, internationally competitive
eurozone and a strong, internationally credible European Union? Germany’s difficulties
in responding convincingly to this challenge are partly the result of earlier German
questions and the solutions found to them. Yesterday’s answers have sown the seeds
of today’s question.
He concludes by saying, “So, who will speak for Europe? Starting on September 23, the
day after the Bundestag elections, the European conundrum must be addressed more
decisively by Germany. But this Germany is neither objectively nor subjectively big
enough to solve it on its own. The Berlin republic can be, at best, first among equals. Its
leadership must be understated, collaborative, building on carefully cultivated relations
with small as well as large states—which is, after all, the distinctive foreign policy
tradition of the Federal Republic. And it knows it.
Germany therefore needs all the help it can get from its European friends and partners.
Only together can we generate the policies and institutions, but also that fresh breeze of
poetry, to get the European ship sailing again. The answers to this new German
question will not be found by Germans alone.
While Garton Ash’s conclusion in the article seems correct to me, it is the entire article
that cries out to be read. If you want to have a good idea of why Germany is where it is
today you owe it to yourself to read the entire article. You won’t be sorry if you do. Click
here to read it.
THE UNENDING BURDEN
Hitler promised the Germans a “1,000 Year Reich”. We know that it lasted only 12 years
and brought disaster and many millions of deaths. What may have resulted from “the
time of National Socialism” instead of a century long hegemony is 1,000 years of an
unending burden dealing with anything that even smells like a bit of Nazism.
For instance, DW.Derecently reported, “The German magazine "Der Landser" tells
WWII stories from the perspective of Wehrmacht soldiers. Now the Simon Wiesenthal
Center has called for it to be banned, on the grounds that it propagates far-right
At first glance, "Der Landser" might look like some sort of harmless pulp adventure
magazine. Every week, its website proclaims, the journal tells stories from "world
history's biggest war, as seen though the eyes of the fighting troops and the individual
But now the Simon Wiesenthal Center wants to put an end to the magazine - the US-
based Jewish organization has called for "Der Landser" to be cancelled for propagating
Founded in 1954, the journal takes its name from the colloquial term for a German
soldier used during World War II. It sells its stories as eye-witness accounts of heroic
Wehrmacht soldiers without putting things into the historical context of the Nazi era - let
alone mentioning war crimes perpetrated by the German troops.
Klaus Geiger of Kassel University, a professor of political sociology who wrote his 1974
PhD dissertation on "Der Landser," says that is the key problem.
"The content is a gripping depiction of isolated events taken out of context," he told DW.
The readers are mostly male, and often people who sympathize with Germany's far-
right scene or are already part of it. The magazine, he argues, offers them a falsely
heroic portrait of the German Wehrmacht soldier.
Peter Conrady, professor emeritus of German literature at Dortmund University says
that "Der Landser" depicts the day-to-day life and hardship of the regular soldier in an
"emotionally gripping way." Though the preface inside the slim publication does insist
that it does not glorify war, Conrady believes this is merely an attempt to cover up the
magazine's true colors.
There’s more. Click here to read it. http://www.dw.de/calls-for-ban-on-german-pulp-
mag-der-landser/a-16989362We will continue to watch the situation to see what
That’s only a magazine! What do good Germans think when it is reported that two
Catholic novitiate priests are walking around giving the Heil Hitler salute? The Local
noted recently, “Priests at the Würzburg seminary in northern Bavaria were tipped off at
the end of May about far-right behavior from some of their 18 trainees. The student
priests were suspected of carrying out Nazi rituals, celebrating Adolf Hitler's birthday in
a beer cellar and telling anti-Semitic jokes during meetings.
Head of the seminary Herbert Baumann, who supervises young priests as they prepare
to serve parishes in Würzburg and Bamberg, immediately called for an in-depth
investigation into the matter.
On Wednesday the investigation committee released the 204-page report, which stated
that of the four trainee priests under suspicion, two have been removed from the
course. A decision is yet to be made on a third.
Both were found to have made anti-Semitic jokes, in which they “made fun of the
factory-like slaughter of Jewish children, women and men during the Third Reich,” head
of the investigation panel Norbert Baumann told a press conference, broadcaster
Bayerische Rundfunk said.
The trainees also were found to have imitated Hitler and greeted each other with the
Hitler salute, reporters at the conference heard. Yet the court found no evidence
confirming they had celebrated the dictator's birthday.
Of course, both were kicked out of the seminary.
The now-ex-trainees also attended the concert of German rock band Frei.Wild in April -
without informing the seminary. The band is believed to have links with the far-right neo-
However, Baumann stressed there was not “a brown network or brown cesspool in the
“The Würzburg seminary distances itself from any form of political extremism,
antisemitism, racism and xenophobia," wrote the seminary in a statement on its website
put up on June 1st.
"Such attitudes are completely incompatible with the services and life of Catholic
And, if that’s not enough, it was widely reported that the Simon Wiesenthal Center has
started a poster campaign with the slogan "Late, but not too late." It wants the public's
help in finding the last remaining Nazi war criminals.
DW.dereported, “The campaign is mainly aimed at former concentration camp guards
and members of the notorious SS "Einsatzgruppen" mobile death squads. Zuroff
estimates that this amounted to some 6,000 men, of whom 98 percent have probably
already died. If half of those who are left are too old or sick to stand trial, that still leaves
some 60. Zuroff believes that there are many more people guilty of Nazi crimes than is
generally thought, even if no one knows how many exactly.
A 25,000Euro reward is being offered for the apprehension and conviction of the guilty
In presenting the above stories it certainly is not for the purpose of trying to make
anyone feel sorry for the people of today’s Germany who have to shoulder the burden of
the responsibility for what their fathers, grandfathers and great grandfathers left for
them. The situation is what it is. One, however, should, at least, think about this
unending kind of pressure that Germans must go through until, perhaps the year 2945
and maybe even beyond.
By and large I think they handle it well. First and foremost, as a nation they do not hide
from it. Any trip to Germany will reveal memorials in many places pointing out all the evil
acts they committed. For instance, wherever you go, Holocaust memorials abound.
Second, whenever anything that reeks of Nazism appears they do something about it
and do it fast. Very rarely is there shillyshallyingaround. Of course, they study the
situation a bit – and then act. The sad thing for them is that these sorts of occurrences
seem never to go away (They shouldn’t.). The three mentioned above all came to light
in only a month.
By and large they carry on and do not ask for sympathy. You have to give them credit
for that. I do.
THE NSA AND GERMANY
When Edward Snowden released all the information about the vast intelligence
gathering that was and had been done by the U.S.’s National Security Agency (NSA)
the ripple effect was quick to reach Germany.
It came to light that Germany was not only a listening post for the U.S. security folks but
they were tuning in on Germans themselves. The Social Democrats (SPD), thinking that
they had a hot political issue, pushed hard for Chancellor Merkel to explain it all. Like a
good politician - she didn’t! (More on the politics later)
However, you as readers deserve some sort of understanding of how it all started and is
playing out in Germany. For this I will turn to Prof. Professor Josef Foschepoth who is a
historian at the University of Freiburg and an expert on intelligence matters. DW.de
questioned him about the situation. The interview follows
Germany has been under surveillance by the United States for decades, and German
leaders have been fully aware of it, says historian Josef Foschepoth. The
reason?Secret post-war accords.
Deutsche Welle: The NSA spy scandal continues to ruffle feathers in Germany, Mr.
Foschepoth. As a historian, you say the surveillance has been going on since the early
days of post-war Germany. So, the revelations of Edward Snowden were not a surprise
Josef Foschepoth: No, not really. I was surprised instead by the initial reactions, in
particular, from the political side. They were as if this had happened for the first time, as
if it was something terribly bad and unique. But that is not the case. From my own
research, I know that this happened countless times in the 1960s in Germany.
How do you explain the rather low-key response from the German government?
Well, such affairs are always very uncomfortable because they bring to light something
that had functioned in the shadows. And this function should not be disturbed, so it's
played down. But now, this is no longer the case because it is an instance of severe and
intensive surveillance. And moreover: it has been conducted by a friendly state.
This surveillance, as you've said, has been going on for decades, since the beginning of
the Federal Republic of Germany in 1949. What rights did the occupation forces -
among them, the Americans - have at that time?
Let's be clear that the victorious forces were in Germany to occupy the country. They
wanted to make sure that Germany would never again be a threat as it was during the
Nazi dictatorship. But, after the victory over Nazi Germany, a further conflict began with
the Soviet Union and the Cold War was born. It was a two-fold conflict that required a
new strategy from the United States. A policy of double containment ensued:
containment of the Soviet Union on the one hand and Germany on the other. And an
essential element of this policy was surveillance.
The so-called General Treaty, which regulated ties between Germany and the three
allied powers, went into effect in 1955. The Federal Republic was to have the full
powers of sovereignty over its domestic and foreign affairs. What did that mean for the
surveillance strategy of the Americans?
These formulations, of course, are always very nice and are meant for the public, more
than anything. Ten years after the end of World War Two, the Germans felt the
fundamental urge to be a sovereign state once again. But that was not the case at all
because in the treaties from 1955 - it was volumes of treaties - were secret
supplemental agreements which guaranteed key rights for the Western allied forces;
among them, the right to monitor telephone and postal communications.
What was the motivation for the German side behind all this?
The Americans exerted massive pressure. They did not want to give up this territory,
which was geostrategically important for its surveillance operations. German leaders, of
course, wanted to be able to say that we now had a bit more sovereignty; in other
words, a few strokes for the reawakening national psyche. Of course, what they didn't
say was we had to accept the same circumstances we had in the past under the
occupation in the future as well, due to the international treaties and secret agreements.
And these agreements are still valid and binding for every German government, even
How could these agreements survive all these years?
They were secret. The US had built a little America with its bases, in which the German
government could not govern. When then-chancellor Helmut Kohl worked to clinch
German reunification, he realized that this issue was a little difficult and controversial, so
he said let's just ignore it, and so, there were no negotiations over America's special
status rights. Therefore, these supplemental agreements are still in effect.
Chancellor Merkel stresses that Germany is not a 'big brother' society. You say that
Germany is one of the most closely monitored countries in Europe.
The phrase 'big brother society' is certainly a bit polemical. But let me put it this way:
The fall from grace happened in 1955 when Konrad Adenauer agreed to the special
status rights in negotiations with the allied forces. The recognition of these rights by the
chancellor meant that there was no going back to the sanctity and privacy of post and
telecommunications, as it is written in the German constitution. That is how the large
German-allied intelligence complex arose.
That is interesting in that Germans are known for being very private about their data and
it's why they put great emphasis on data privacy.
In the early years of the Federal Republic that was even more pronounced than it is
today. That is why it was kept secret in the first place.
Now back to the politics involved.
Spiegel On-Line reported, “For a long time, Merkel tried to ride out the scandal
surrounding the massive data collection operations of the American National Security
Agency. Whenever she addressed the issue, she either spoke in vague terms ("there
must always be a balance between freedom and security"), or she simply said that she
could not seriously be expected to be involved in everything ("It isn't my job to delve into
the details of Prism.")
But early last week, Merkel and her team decided on a change of strategy. So far, the
scandal hasn't hurt her party, the center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU), in its
campaign for September's national elections. In fact, recent polls even showed the CDU
gaining a little ground. Nevertheless, the case has the potential to harm Merkel's image
as a prudent leader. In the past, the chancellor has consistently emphasized that she
keeps herself informed on current issues, even down to the details. But then Merkel
declined to address the particulars of a surveillance program that half the country was
talking about. Suddenly she was being described as a self-righteous politician with a
This was one of the reasons Pofalla [Ronald Pofalla, Chancellor Angela Merkel's chief
of staff] who is also the senior Chancellery official tasked with coordinating Germany's
intelligence activities, decided to address the sensitive subject. Last Monday, he
volunteered to answer questions before the Parliamentary Control Panel, the body in
German parliament, the Bundestag, assigned to keep tabs on the activities of the
country's intelligence agencies. From the standpoint of Merkel's team, this has two
advantages. On the one hand, it enabled Pofalla to avoid the embarrassing situation of
being quoted by members of the leading opposition party, the center-left Social
Democratic Party (SPD), in front of the committee. On the other hand, he is making
himself the target for attacks from the opposition, taking the chancellor out of the line of
That’s where the matter resides at the moment. In late July DW.de reported under the
headline “German voters unmoved by spy scandal”:
They've made it into a campaign issue. But Germany's opposition parties have been
unable to capitalize on the US data spying scandal. A new opinion poll suggests support
has actually risen for Angela Merkel's conservatives. And that's despite a majority of
respondents saying they don't believe the government was unaware of the snooping
activities revealed by Edward Snowden.
The voting public seems to be letting it go at that. They have bigger issues such as
bailing out southern Europe on their minds. They like Chancellor Merkel but if there is
an undercurrent of discontent it is not yet apparent.
However, the safeguard the Administration’s backside in an act the will probably get
them the “Closing the Barn Door After ….” The Local.de reported in early August,
“Germany has cancelled surveillance accords dating from the late 1960s with the United
States and Britain in the wake of revelations about vast US online spying.”
Better late than never I guess.
CONFRONTING A NATIONAL DISGRACE
One thing about Germany that has always surprised me is their national will to confront
their own horrible acts of the past. A trip through almost any German city reveals
monument after monument dedicated to the memory of the Holocaust.
The mas murdering of people did not begin with the Jews. In 1933, shortly after Hitler
came to power it began with their own citizens and now, in Berlin, they have undertaken
the building of a memorial to the victims.
DW recently reported, “Officials have gathered in Berlin to lay the foundations for a
monument to the people killed as part of the Nazi "euthanasia" programs. The symbolic
site was chosen as it was the headquarters of the original project.
Building work began in Berlin on Monday for the city's fourth official monument to
victims of Adolf Hitler's National Socialist government.
The planned exhibit at Tiergartenstrasse 4 in the capital will be dedicated to the victims
of the "euthanasia" program used by the Nazis to kill those with physical or mental
illnesses. Hitler's Nazi regime killed more than 200,000 people who were either
psychotherapy patients or physically disabled between January 1940 and August 1941.
On July 14, 1933, the National Socialists introduced the Law for the Prevention of
Hereditarily Diseased Offspring. As a result, hundreds of thousands of people were
forcibly sterilized. Others were murdered.
By the summer of 1933, the Nazis had Germany firmly in their grip. With this newfound
power, the far-right party decided to mold German society in the image of its own
A decisive step towards achieving that aim was the introduction of the Law for the
Prevention of Hereditarily Diseased Offspring, or Sterilization Law, that passed in the
Reichstag on July 14, 1933. The law stated that people suffering from particular
illnesses could be forcibly sterilized in order to prevent the spread of hereditary
Followers of the eugenics movement believed that the German population could be
genetically "improved" and welcomed the law. For the victims of forced sterilization, this
violent physical intrusion meant a life without the possibility of having children. Many
were heavily traumatized and suffered their entire lives.
The National Socialists hoped to realize the dream of "master race" in which "diseased"
and "weak" people had no place.
Until August 1941, around 70,000 people were murdered in gas chambers or by lethal
injection during "Campaign T4," the program named after the Central Euthanasia
Organization located at Tiergartenstrasse 4 in Berlin.
The Campaign T4 is well explained in the DW piece which you can access by clicking
I would advise reading it because the field of Eugenics also played a major role in the
thinking that went into “The Final Solution”.
The Nazi desire to have a “cleansing” of a race and acting on it is now understood as a
national disgrace. The willingness to face it by Germans has to be something that other
nations should emulate.
See you again in late September
DuBow Digest is written and published by Eugene DuBow who can be contacted by
Both the American and Germany editions are posted at www.dubowdigest.typepad.com