AN AMERICAN JEWISH – GERMAN INFORMATION & OPINION
I hope that not too many of you are suffering what we in the Lower Hudson Valley are
enduring – the ice-cold weather. I’m sure that those of you in the Midwest are in even
worse shape than yours truly. We’re only three and a half weeks away from the opening
of baseball spring training – a sure sign of warmer weather! Hang in!
I was going to suggest a trip to Berlin to warm up but they’re only in the 20’s as well.
Things in Germany are quiet. The new government has been sworn in but Chancellor
Merkel fractured her pelvis in a skiing accident so she’s on crutches and a limited
Checking the daily German news reveals that not much of international importance is
happening in the Federal Republic. However, I’ve scraped around and found enough of
interest so – let’s get on to the news…
IN THIS EDITION
NEW GOVERNMENT PRIORITIES – The grand coalition gets off the ground.
URSULA VON DER LEYEN – The first female Defense Minister
COALITIONS DOWN THE LINE – A four year from now look.
LOOTED ART: A FASCINATING FOLLOW-UP – One guy with a lot of pictures. Who do
they really belong to?
LOOTED ART: A SENSIBLE SOLUTION - Deidre Berger offers one.
1914 – FIRST WORLD WAR – 2014 is the 100th anniversary. The impact continues.
MEIN KAMPF: A BEST SELLER –Who woulda thunk it?
NO “DON’T SPY” DEAL YET – A thorny U.S. – Germany issue.
BERLIN JEWRY: AN INTRA-JEWISH WAR ZONE – It’s getting worse.
NEW GOVERNMENT PRIORITIES
With Grand Coalition agreement signed and the new Ministers appointed, as the new
year begins the German government is beginning to act on the priorities in the coalition
agreement (They actually spell them out in written form).
Dw.De notes, ―Chancellor Angela Merkel will continue dealing with the Eurozone crisis
herself, but her ministers will still have plenty on their plates in 2014. Challenges from
online spying to energy policy face the grand coalition.
Germany's new grand coalition will take on the country's greatest problems, Chancellor
Angela Merkel said at the start of her third term in office. But whoever is waiting for a
political sensation will be disappointed. The key challenges of 2014 will be the same as
The country's sound economic footing will be crucial to the chancellor. Budgetary
discipline, a debt ceiling and tightening tax loopholes will all be on the government's list
Anyone hoping that Germany will take a more active role in global agenda setting will
likely be disappointed by the grand coalition government, according to former diplomat
Wolfgang Ischinger, head of the Munich Security Conference. Foreign Minister FrankWalter Steinmeier (SPD) will be reserved when it comes to military deployments
abroad. Bundeswehr troops will come home from Afghanistan but others will remain in
Mali, where they are stationed as part of a European training mission. Berlin would like
to send military equipment but has come under criticism for its strategy of
"strengthening partners" for sending weapons to conflict areas.
Two other touchy topics that will continue to vex the government will be dealing with the
US surveillance program conducted by the National Security Agency (NSA). Berlin is
hoping to get back onto better terms with Washington and a personal meeting between
Merkel and US President Barack Obama at June's G8 meeting in Sochi, Russia, could
help on that front. In the wake of widespread anger over the US spy program, Merkel
and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff pushed for the UN's Human Rights Council and
General Assembly to address Internet surveillance.
There is little or no role at all for Germany directly in the Middle East issues other than
through the EU. While they are represented in the group that is negotiating with Iran on
the nuclear issues it appears that the EU Representative is doing all the “wheeling and
dealing” for them. Germany in no way wants an “up-front” position on this issue or the
Israel – Palestinian matter. As above, they are consumed with economic and fiscal
issues and want a stronger and reformed EU.
URSULA VON DER LEYEN
While many of Germany’s political leaders seem to be guys in dark suits, that cannot be
said for the new Defense Minister, Ursula von der Leyen.
Minister von der Leyen is a comer, a mother of seven and a physician to boot she has
been appointed as the first woman Defense Minister and a possible Chancellor
candidate to follow Angela Merkel. .
Spiegel On-Line reported, ―Germany now has a new government -- it has a few
surprises in store, and one of them has been Ursula von der Leyen. Not only has she
battled her way up to become the first female defense minister in German history, she
has also managed along the way to reorganize the hierarchy of her party, the Christian
Democratic Union (CDU).
Within the CDU, two women are in charge now. Merkel at the top, and von der Leyen as
her second in command. Then there's a considerable gap between them and the next in
line. De Maizière, who had been all set to slip into the role of crown prince, was forced
to make way so that von der Leyen could receive a ministerial post. That step fits in with
her ambition and her desire to invent a new story for herself.
Part of the secret of von der Leyen's success lies in her ability to continually reinvent
herself. When the CDU was in opposition, she was a fervent supporter of Merkel's
neoliberal reform plans. As family minister in the first great coalition under Merkel, von
der Leyen became the icon of the working mother. Then, in the Labor Ministry under a
coalition of the CDU and the Free Democratic Party (FDP), she was the compassionate
conservative, deeply concerned about the fate of poor retirees, the kind of politician who
would have liked to personally bring every schoolchild a warm lunch each day. And
now, the politician once nicknamed "Röschen" ("Little Rose") is responsible for rifles and
In any case, von der Leyen is enjoying the sensation that her new position has caused.
When she arrived at the Bundestag on December 17 to elect the new chancellor, few
were in as high spirits as von der Leyen, who was thronged by a crowd of well-wishers.
As she made her way through the east lobby, she joked with colleagues, "First I need to
learn how to stride." That applies to the minefield ahead of her as well."
If you are interested in a really good story of how hard-nosed politics (in any country)
works you owe it to yourself to read the entire story. It almost reads like political fiction.
Click here to read it. http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/german-defenseminister-faces-political-minefield-a-941302-2.html
COALITIONS DOWN THE LINE
The discussions about who will run in the U.S. presidential primaries and election in
2016 are not the only ones that people are starting the talk about. How about what’s
possible in Germany? Just above, I mentioned that Defense Minister von der Leyen is
seen as a 2017 Chancellor possibility. The political talking heads are beginning to look
down the road to see what’s possible. In addition, it gives them something to talk about.
Of course, in Germany there is no direct election of Chancellors. A politician has to be a
party member whose party wins enough votes to get the nod from the President to form
a government. Therefore, one’s party has to be able to put together a majority coalition
or win a majority outright. The latter has only happened once in post war Germany and
is highly unlikely.
So that you can start placing your bets now, let me spell out some of the possibilities.
First of all no one is talking about or wishing for a repeat of what Germany now has – a
Grand Coalition of the two major parties, Four years from now the CDU/CSU and the
Social Democrats will try to gain a majority by itself by joining up with a smaller partner
The most likely combinations are the Social Dems (SPD) with the Greens and the
CDU/CSU with the Free Democrats (FDP). However, the FDP did not get enough votes
(5%) to make the cut and so they’re not represented in the Bundestag. There is no
guarantee that they’ll make it in 2017.
There is some talk that if the left of center SPD could not get reach a majority with the
Greens alone they might try to bring in a third party, the Left Party (Die Linke). There is
bad blood between the SPD and Die Linke. The latter is made up of the remnants of the
former East Germany communist party and the extreme left wing of the SPD itself.
However, the original holders of the animosity are slowly retiring or dying off so a three
part left leaning coalition might be a possibility.
As far as the CDU/CSU is concerned, instead of being so right-wing oriented they may
turn more toward the middle and if the FDP doesn’t re-group itself they might turn
toward the Greens who have become more centrist over the years.
Just recently, DW reported, “Germany's Green party has voted in favor of joining forces
with Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) to form a coalition in the
state of Hesse. It is the first such coalition to rule a large German state.
It is only the second time a German state will have seen a CDU-Green coalition at the
helm. Previously, the city-state of Hamburg and some municipalities have been
governed by the combination. A CDU-Green coalition came into force in Hamburg 2008,
but was broken off two years into the term.
The two parties reached the coalition agreement earlier this month after several weeks
of negotiations. Key sticking points related to budgetary concerns and the expansion of
While this state election proves nothing, it does open up some possibilities that just a
few years ago such a coalition was unthinkable. The next German national election is
almost four years away but people are beginning to think about it even now. And, by the
way, in 2017 Angela Merkel will be only 63. Who is to say that she’ll be through with
elective politics by then?
LOOTED ART: A FASCINATING FOLLOW-UP
Back in November I reported, “A few weeks ago it was widely reported that a treasure
trove of some 1400 paintings were found in the Munich apartment of the son of an art
dealer who had close ties to the Nazis during WW II. DW reported, ―Many of the
paintings recently found in Munich were probably seized from Jews by the Nazis.
Since then a great deal more has been learned about the “son of an art dealer”, the art
dealer himself and where these paintings came from. The story is very complicated and
is still unfolding. The paintings are currently in the possession of the German
government with the son claiming that his father bought them legally and that they are
his. However, a commission has been set up to investigate each work individually to
see if legal ownership can be established.
While all that is being done, Spiegel On-Line published a fascinating story about
Hildebrand Gurlitt, the man who assembled the astounding art collection itself. Though
one-quarter Jewish himself he was ―deeply involved in the trade of looted artworks than
had been previously assumed. He also profited from Nazi injustices after the war.‖
In the following months and years, the American art investigators wrote letters, memos,
inventory lists, reports and dossiers to clear up the origins of the art.
[About} Gurlitt, they wrote, was "an art collector from Hamburg with connections within
high-level Nazi circles. He acted on behalf of other Nazi officials and made many trips to
France, from where he brought home art collections. There is reason to believe that
these private art collections consist of looted art from other countries." For the
Monuments Men, Gurlitt was also an "art dealer to the Führer."
The “Monuments Men” were a specialized group of Allied soldiers charged with the
responsibility of dealing with the art works looted by the Nazis during the 1930’s and
1940’s. Their story is so interesting that a movie about them with George Clooney is to
be released shortly.
To make a long story short, Gurlitt survived the war, became a museum and celebrated
art expert. It is only now with the discovery of the enormous collection that his son had
in his possession that the entire story is slowly but surely seeing the light of day.
I cannot recommend strongly enough that you read the entire Spiegel On-Line story (3
short pages) that is more fascinating than fiction. You can access it by clicking here.
LOOTED ART: A SENSIBLE SOLUTION
Though we are almost 69 years from the end of World War II, art works looted by the
Nazis during the 1930’s and 1940’s continues to emerge with serious questions as to
who really owns them.
Just recently, two such treasure troves have been in the news. The first has been
publicly displayed in a German museum for all to see. However, There is a serious
question as to whether a Berlin museum foundation or a Jewish family of the Holocaust
era are the real owners. The works are (according to Y-Net News)‖ …worth an
estimated quarter of a billion dollars, filled with gold crosses studded with gems and
―….a German government-created commission convened to make a recommendation
on who should rightfully own the Welfenschatz – or Guelph Treasure. However, it did
not make a final decision.‖ You can read the full story by clicking here
The second collection was found in the Munich apartment of Cornelius Gurlitt and was
privately held, and therefore different from Nazi-looted artwork held in public German
Each of these situations and the many more that will arise will be just as complicated.
So, there is a genuine question as to how and by who they should be handled.
Enter my AJC Berlin colleague Deidre Berger with a very sensible solution. According to
The Jerusalem Post, ―The American Jewish Committee is calling on the German
parliament to form a special commission of inquiry to investigate Nazi-looted artwork on
display in German museums, the organization’s Berlin office said.
While an array of advocates have proposed different solutions to Germany’s looted
artwork challenges, the AJC is the first major organization to propose the creation of an
The proposal underscores the increasing public interest of Jewish communities in the
fate of looted artwork in Germany, an issue that has also drawn recent attention from
the Israeli and American governments.
Deidre Berger, director of AJC’s Berlin Ramer Institute, said on Sunday that it is critical
the German parliament call the investigative body – formally named Enquete
Commission – in response to the discovery of hundreds of pieces of artwork in the
apartment of the son of a Nazi art dealer.
―This has been a long neglected chapter of the Holocaust... and efforts at restitution
have been patchy, uncoordinated and largely unsuccessful,‖ Berger said.
―Given the advanced age of those survivors still with us, and family heirs who grew up
with this loss, we think it’s imperative to create a framework to accelerate restitution to
the degree still possible these many years later,‖ she said.
The Gurlitt trove highlighted the convoluted state of art restitution in Germany. In
particular, art restitution advocates believe that thousands of pieces of artwork – stolen
from Jews by the Nazis – are currently in the possession of German museums.
Berger, however, did not place blame solely on museums.
She said German museums often lack the resources to complete complex research into
the provenance, or ownership history, of pieces of artwork.
Deidre’s idea seems to be receiving considerable support. If adopted it will go a long
way in bringing about a common sense approach to solving this very difficult problem.
There’s more to the story. Click here to read it.
1914 – FIRST WORLD WAR
It may not have too much meaning for Americans but the year 2014 is causing Europe,
and especially Germany, to consider and think about the fact that it is 100 years since
the beginning of World War I.
Underlining the importance of the centennial, Der Spiegel is undertaking a multi-part
series on the meaning of "The War to End Wars".
They start by noting, "It has now been 100 years since the outbreak of World War I, but
the European catastrophe remains relevant today. As the Continent looks back this
year, old wounds could once again be rubbed raw.
More than 60 million soldiers from five continents participated in that orgy of violence.
Almost one in six men died, and millions returned home with injuries or missing body
parts -- noses, jaws, arms. Countries like France, Belgium and the United Kingdom are
planning international memorial events, wreath-laying ceremonies, concerts and
exhibits, as are faraway nations like New Zealand and Australia, which formed their
identities during the war.
In the coming months, World War I will become a mega issue in the public culture of
commemoration. The international book market will present about 150 titles in Germany
alone, and twice as many in France -- probably a world record for a historic subject. The
story of a generation that has long passed on will be retold. New questions will be asked
and new debates will unfold.
Western Europeans paid a higher death toll in World War I than in any other war in their
history, which is why they call it "The Great War" or "La Grande Guerre." Twice as many
Britons, three times as many Belgians and four times as many Frenchmen died on the
Maas and the Somme than in all of World War II. That's one of the reasons, says Gauck
in his office in the Hohenzollern palace, why he could imagine "a German
commemoration of World War I as merely a sign of respect for the suffering of those we
were fighting at the time."
The 73-year-old president hopes that the series of commemorative events will remind
Europeans how far European integration has come since 1945. Gauck notes that the
"absolute focus on national interests" à la 1914/1918 did not led to happy times for any
of the wartime enemies.
But he knows that the memory of the horrors of a war doesn't just reconcile former
enemies but can also tear open wounds that had become scarred over. In this respect,
the centenary of World War I comes at an unfavorable time. Many European countries
are seeing a surge of nationalist movements and of anti-German sentiment prior to
elections to the European Parliament in May 2014.
In a recent poll, 88 percent of Spanish, 82 percent of Italian and 56 percent of French
respondents said that Germany has too much influence in the European Union. Some
even likened today's Germany to the realm of the blustering Kaiser Wilhelm II.
I think I will stop there. It should already be clear that this 100 year anniversary will have
a deep impact on pacifistic Germany. The implications for German – Jewish and
German – Israeli relations are not yet clear but they will be there. We will try to follow
them and point out their importance as they emerge.
I would strongly suggest that you read the entire 5 page Der Spiegel piece. It will not
take you long and, when finished, you’ll have some very good background on how the
war began and some of the important changes it brought about. To read it click here.
MEIN KAMPF: A BEST SELLER
In the last year or two I have written a couple of times about the contentious discussion
in Germany about whether Hitler’s Mein Kampf should be published there. At the
moment it is not. Of course it is available on the Internet and in English almost
everywhere – but not in Germany!
Germany or no Germany - it’s become a best seller!
DW reports, ―For nearly 70 years Germany's most controversial book, Adolf Hitler's
manifesto "Mein Kampf," has been effectively blacklisted from local bookstores. But it's
a much different story on the Internet.
Since November 2012 Hitler's infamous book - known as "My Struggle" in the UK and
"My Battle" in the US - can be purchased in electronic form on Amazon.com for only 99
US cents (73 euro cents) or on iTunes for just $2.99. And there is a surprisingly high
demand for it.
Over the last few months, the online version of Hitler's book has in fact worked its way
up the bestseller lists of online retailers, topping, for instance, Amazon's "propaganda
and political psychology chart."
On Amazon's US site the e-book version of "Mein Kampf" in fact received an average of
3.8 out of 5 stars and is accompanied by 354 reviews; some praising the book calling it
a "fascinating read," others denying the Holocaust altogether.
The book dates back to 1925-1926 when two volumes of "Mein Kampf" were first
published, outlining Hitler's political ideology and future plans for Germany. The screed
describes the then obscure politician's plans to create a "new order." By the end of
World War II about 10 million copies had been sold or distributed in Germany.
In light of the atrocities committed by Hitler, the book has not been printed in Germany
since 1945. With Hitler's suicide on April 30, 1945, his entire estate, including all rights
to his book, changed ownership to the German state of Bavaria, his last official place of
In agreement with the German federal government, the government of Bavaria thus far
refuses to allow any copying or printing of the book in Germany. Any attempts to publish
a version of the book in Germany, annotated or not, have been blocked by the Bavarian
But English versions cannot be prevented from entering the market, because the
English rights to the book had been sold to publishing houses in the UK and the US
long before 1945.
In fact, buying an English edition of "Mein Kampf" is nothing new. But now, with the
popularity of online retailers and electronic book readers, the book is available in digital
form and can be downloaded via iTunes or Amazon's Kindle store. It is even possible to
find an English version for free; more than 17 different websites offer translated
excerpts or even the full text. And the demand is increasing.
But where does this newfound popularity of Hitler's book come from? Journalist Chris
Faraone recently started the conversation with a post on Vocative.com, suggesting it
has to do with the fact that the book is now available online.
"People might not have wanted to … have [the book] delivered to their home or
displayed on their living room bookshelf, let alone get spotted reading it on a subway,
but judging by hundreds of customer comments online, readers like that digital copies
can be quietly perused then dropped into a folder or deleted," Faraone wrote.
Gerhard Weinberg, a professor emeritus of history at the University of North Carolina,
published Hitler's second book in 1961. The 86-year-old, who fled from Nazi Germany in
1938, thinks there is a combination of factors that contribute to the sudden popularity of
Hitler's book on the Internet.
For one it is simply curiosity. For contemporaries, Hitler is a figure from the past about
whom they've heard a great deal. And now suddenly on their computers they can either
for little money or no money at all read his most important major book," Weinberg told
DW in an interview.
"A second factor I would suggest is that some people may think that he was right about
many things and this is a way to find out what exactly he thought without making
yourself open to perhaps embarrassment by others who don't share your positive view
of Hitler," he said.
While Weinberg doesn't see any good reasons for prohibiting the book abroad, he does
make an exception for Germany. "Let me put it like this: If anyone has ever had
tuberculosis, it's very important to check [your] health regularly, to make sure that there
is no recurrence. Since in Germany once a very vast number of people succumbed to
this form of political tuberculosis (...) one needs to be more careful there than in other
Dr. Richard Wetzell, a research fellow at the German Historical Institute in Washington,
told DW that he believes a useful reaction to the recent success story of Hitler's book
would be to offer an annotated version online, with comments from historians, rather
than trying to limit Internet access.
"It is a historical source, so it should be available to the public," he said. "But of course
there is the fear that a lot of people read it for the wrong reasons." That's why putting it
into context by publishing a historical and critical edition of the book might be helpful, he
And this might even happen in Germany sooner than later. After all, the copyright held
by the Bavarian state government will officially expire at the end of next year - 70 years
after the author's death. A republishing of an annotated version of the book for
educational purposes would then be possible and has already been suggested, for
instance by The Institute for Contemporary History.
Given the recent demand for the online version of the book, Wetzell thinks that "if the
Germans were smart they would in fact make it available online as well."
I’m no expert on marketing or what should or should not be published in Germany. Nor
do I really understand why anyone would want to read MK. For better or worse Hitler
has become such a (monstrous) figure worldwide that people, especially youngsters,
might want to know what he actually had to say. One can only hope that his ideas have
no power to get a hold onto the thinking of today’s youth. But don’t bet the family farm
NO “DON’T SPY” DEAL: YET.
You will remember news of the furor in Germany over the bugging of Chancellor
Merkel’s private cell phone. It is no longer front page news in the U.S. but it is far from
forgotten in Germany.
After news broke late last year, there was a strong feeling in Germany that a no spying
agreement with the U.S. would certainly be in order. The German government
appointed a few leading politicians to visit the U.S. to meet with security people her3e to
see what could be worked out. In spite of the fact that Pres. Obama called Chancellor
Merkel (after her skiing accident) and invited her to visit the U.S., it didn’t bring an
agreement any closer to being agreed upon.
Recently DW.DE reported, ―Germany's future transatlantic coordinator Philipp
Missfelder says it would be a setback if the No-Spy Agreement didn't come about. But
the agreement wouldn't answer all the questions either.
In a Q & A format the following appeared with Philipp Missfelder who is the new
German government's designated coordinator for transatlantic relations. He's a member
of Angela Merkel's Christian Democrat Union in the German parliament and its
spokesman on foreign affairs. I would add that he is an outstanding friend of Israel and
of AJC as well.
Deutsche Welle: Does this latest development mean there is no reason to assume that
US spying activities will cease?
Philipp Missfelder: The agreement has not yet really collapsed. It's too early to say that
for certain. I'm convinced that it would be a setback for our cooperation with the US if
the agreement did not come about. In principle, I welcome the No-Spy Agreement, but
let's not deceive ourselves: even if a No-Spy Agreement were to be signed, there would
still be many unanswered questions. The principles governing how data is exchanged
are a very difficult issue. And we would have to be certain that any such agreement
would actually be kept.
Isn't it naïve of the Germans to believe that the US would seriously restrict its activities
in Germany, or even give them up?
I think the US needs to see the damage all this activity has done, and how much trust
has been lost in Germany. As allies, we can't allow ourselves a situation like the current
one to continue for long - and that doesn't just apply in the case of Germany, it applies
to many others among America's partners.
Does that mean that the United States has to commit to greater self-restraint in the
The same self-restraint is also being discussed very intensively in the US - the
discussion there is even livelier than it is here. That's why it's clear that we have to try to
maintain the transatlantic partnership and friendship. But the gap which has emerged
between us has to be closed again.
How should the gap be closed? Without the agreement, little will have changed - the US
continues to treat its allies like potential enemies.
No, that's not the case. Some of the American agencies have a questionable
understanding of their role, but America treats us as a friend and we are still friends and
nothing will change that. It's just that some of the agencies have shifted the balance in a
direction which does not fit with US' political conceptions. The fact is: the US is very
helpful to us in many things, such as Germany's domestic and international security - in
the fight against terror, or with regard to cooperation in such things as international
military operations. Afghanistan is one example, the resolution of the conflict in the
former Yugoslavia is another. We remain good friends and want to remain good friends.
But the friendship has been damaged by the fact that the agencies have taken what
they wanted without asking.
But now it looks as if it's the US that is not prepared to make concessions. It seems that
the US fears setting a precedent, since other countries could come and make similar
demands. Should one take account of US interests?
I don't accept those arguments. We want this agreement and we will continue to make
efforts to achieve it.
One would hope that some sort of agreement could be arranged. Security and the
importance of Europe’s most important nation will have to be weighed – one against the
other. A positive outcome is just too important not to have happen.
BERLIN JEWRY: AN INTRA-JEWISH WAR ZONE
Last summer I wrote about the internal strife that had gripped the Berlin Jewish
community including a fist fight that had broken out at one of its meetings. At that time it
seemed almost humorous – Jews battling Jews over community leadership. I no longer
think it’s very funny.
Haaretz recently reported, ―The ugly scene last May, described in interviews with
witnesses and seen on an Internet video, is indicative of a Berlin Jewish community in
crisis — driven by cultural rivalries, its finances under official scrutiny. It's hard to say
who is at fault, but the feuding is fed at least in part by a clash between an old guard of
German Jews dating to before World War II, and a growing presence of relative
newcomers from the former Soviet Union.
What is clear is that the 10,000-member Jewish community of Berlin, having
experienced a stirring post-Holocaust rebirth, now fears it's in danger of falling apart.
And Berlin authorities are so alarmed by alleged financial irregularities that they have
suspended millions of euros (dollars) in subsidies the community has enjoyed for
At the center of the storm is Gideon Joffe, who was elected nearly two years ago as
community president, and whose leadership style has alienated members even as he
comes under official scrutiny of his financial management.
The brawl in the famed Neue Synagoge on Oranienburger St. erupted last May after the
Berlin Senate, the community's main source of funding, made a stunning
announcement: It was cutting off payments for the community's salaries until Joffe
explained why his latest budget included an 11 percent increase in subsidies for
personnel costs — a jump of about 600,000 euros (more than $800,000). Joffe refused
to give details of where the money would go — or even the number of staff the
The city responded by blocking the funds — and the community was unable to pay
The Senate pays about 5.5 million euros a year toward community salaries — 40
percent of the total — and can't calculate the budget without knowing exactly how many
employees are involved, city officials said. Estimates provided by Joffe of between 300350 persons on the payroll are too vague, they said.
"We are happy to provide money to the Jewish community. We're eager to support its
growth, and due to our historical responsibility we're willing to be generous," said city
spokesman Guenter Kolodziej. "After the war, the rebirth of Jewish life was worth its
weight in gold.
"However, we are obligated to control how the money is being spent, and we weren't
able to do so."
Joffe has sued Berlin over the interruption of subsidies and a decision is expected this
In the Jewish community itself there is considerable opposition to Joffe. ―Opposition
members say they have collected around 1,900 signatures — dozens more than
needed — to press for new elections within six months. If that fails, many say they will
break away and found their own group.
To be at loggerheads with the Berlin Senate (actually the state administration) is bad
enough especially since the battle is so public with the Senate obviously having the
moral high ground. However, the internal dispute which offers the possibility of a schism
makes things even worse.
Given Joffe’s seeming authoritarian style and stance, it is hard to see any sort of a
peaceful solution possible. It is not only terribly sad to see this sort of in-fighting but the
situation might have dire consequences for the rest of the German Jewish community.
There are competing Jewish groups in cities throughout the Federal Republic. If the
Berlin situation spreads a more general set of communal splits might result. That would
be really tragic.
There is more to the Haaretz story which you can read by clicking here.
See you in February
DuBow Digest is written and published by Eugene DuBow who can be reached at
Both the American and Germany editions are posted at www.dubowdigest.typepad.com