AN AMERICAN JEWISH – GERMAN INFORMATION & OPINION NEWSLETTER
IN THIS EDITION
BERLIN DEMONSTRATIONS: ANTI-ISRAEL & ANTI-SEMITIC – Gaza brings out deep
seated hate against Jews
GERMAN RESPONSE – Considerable support from govt. leaders and press.
A BILLIONAIRE NO LESS – After killing millions you should at least show a little
BREEDING GROUND FOR TERRORISTS – Right under their noses.
NEO-NAZI ON EU HUMAN RIGHTS PANEL – A genuine disgrace.
THE AGENCY THAT COULDN’T SPY STRAIGHT – Embarrassing!
STAYING OR GOING? – What’s the future for the Chancellor?
While Germany and Germans have not been directly affected by either the Gaza conflict
or the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH 17, that is not to say that they have
not been touched by them..
In terms of the downing of the plane over Eastern Ukraine with its obvious involvement
in it by Pres. Putin and Russia, Chancellor Merkel, in spite of the expected financial
losses by German industry, has been calling on the EU to expand the sanctions on
Russia. It’s a tough sell because of the possible harm to the EU’s economy. There has
been movement with enhanced sanctions so one must give her credit for a principled
stance, the guts to propose it and finally to get some results.
As far as Gaza is concerned, right from the start the Chancellor has been saying over
and over that Israel has a right to defend itself. That added to statements about concern
over civilian casualties has been Germany’s position. I don’t think anyone could expect
more. It’s basically the same as that of the U.S.
What was not expected was the (sometimes) violent and (sometimes) illegal anti-Israel
demonstrations that have gripped some cities in Germany. The anti- Israel chants mixed
up with those clearly anti-Semitic have a frightening tone for Germany. No country is
more sensitive to anti-Semitism (illegal in Germany) for what it can do to the fabric of its
own society. If the German reaction to it is not brought about by its own self-interest,
that should, at least, be part of the picture. Certainly anti-Semitism can be harmful
(deadly?) to Jews. What it can do to Germany and Germans is, at least, equally tragic
as 20th Century history informs us.
Germany has begun to react (see below) but considering the large Islamic population in
certain cities the proper sort of reaction may be a question. Time will tell. Many,
including the Germans themselves, will be watching the situation closely.
On to the news…
BERLIN DEMONSTRATIONS: ANTI-ISRAEL & ANTI-SEMITIC
Berlin and other cities in Germany are not immune from what has taken place in Gaza.
Like most European cities, those in Germany have sizeable Islamic populations. When
violence is taking place in the Middle East it is pretty much of a sure bet that pro-
Palestinian – anti-Israel demonstrations will take place in Germany – and they have!
During these kinds of demonstrations little (if any) distinction between anti-Israel and
anti-Semitic themes are made. “Death to the Jews” is as prevalent as “Death to Israel”.
Reports, especially from France, indicate that frightening threats of physical attack have
accompanied the vocal threats. Some actual violence has, indeed, taken place.
As far as Germany is concerned, The Times of Israel reported, “Following a pro-
Palestinian demonstration in Berlin on Thursday at which participants chanted anti-
Jewish slogans, the American Jewish Committee Berlin office filed a complaint with
police. According to a press statement, marchers chanted, “Jew, Jew, cowardly pig,
come on out and fight.”
Deidre Berger, director of the AJC’s Berlin office, wrote an open letter to the members
of the German Bundestag calling on them to be vigilant in protecting Jewish citizens.
Police should crack down on such threats “to show that anti-Semitism has no place in
The danger of uncontrolled demonstrations was made clear last week in Paris, when
violent protesters trapped Jews inside a synagogue and chanted such slogans as “Hitler
was right” and “Death to Jews.” In Germany, such expressions are illegal and not
protected by free-speech laws.
“We’re concerned that there are no more taboos against open expressions of anti-
Semitism at such protests,” Berger said. Reports of aggressive anti-Israel
demonstrations have come in from other cities in Germany, including Frankfurt,
Gelsenkirchen, Kassel and Bremen.
A further AJC report noted, “Due to the complaint we filed, the Berlin police reevaluated
their tactics for the weekend, when a much larger demonstration is planned, and will
strengthen their presence. They will also most likely file charges themselves after
investigating yesterday's incident against the young man who led the anti-Semitic
In addition, due to a seminar day on Islamic extremism that took place two weeks ago at
our office, in addition to current events, the Berlin police today told us they reevaluated
their plans for Al-Quds day on July 25th, scheduling now substantially more police
officers than in the past.
We also sent a letter to the interior ministry as well as to numerous members of
parliament, alerting them to the growing anti-Semitic component of the Palestinian
demonstrations and asking them to evaluate carefully police tactics to avoid violence
and incitement. We also raised the issue in the letter of the need for German leadership
on a European-wide initiative against anti-Semitism in the European parliament.
Unhappily, I think we can look forward to these kinds of demonstrations for a long time
to come – perhaps as long as there is an Israel and Jews. No one ever said it’s easy to
be Jewish. However, --keep reading
Germans, government and just regular citizens have begun to respond. The Local.de
reported, “Demands are growing in Germany for the prosecution of protesters in Berlin,
Frankfurt and other cities who led anti-Semitic chants and incited violence against Jews
over Israel's military offensive in Gaza.
"We cannot and should not let this go," Frankfurt city councilor and head of the local
CDU faction Uwe Becker said in comments reported on Wednesday by the Frankfurter
The CDU has now filed formal complaints of anti-Semitism and incitement of the people
against participants in a rally on Friday who led anti-Israeli chants, Becker said.
The head of the FDP Liberal Party faction in the Hesse parliament also demanded that
the state's interior minister, Peter Beuth, take action against protesters in Frankfurt who
overstepped legal bounds of freedom of expression.
"Regardless of all strategies to de-escalate the situation, do not allow slogans of
incitement that hark back to the darkest hours of our history to echo in Hesse," the
deputy head of Frankfurt's FDP branch, Wolfgang Greilich, wrote to the minister.
Meanwhile, Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday pledged the country's 200,000-
strong Jewish community her unwavering support, a government spokesman said.
"The chancellor and the entire German government condemn the anti-Semitic remarks
made at pro-Palestinian and anti-Israeli demonstrations in Germany in the strongest
terms," Georg Streiter told reporters.
"These outbursts are an attack on freedom and tolerance and an attempt to shake the
foundations of our free and democratic system. We cannot and will not tolerate this,"
said Streiter, adding that any violence against Jewish people or institutions would be
prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
In Berlin, prosecutors began legal proceedings on Thursday against Danish citizen Abu
Bilal Ismail, an imam from a mosque in Copenhagen, who prayed for the death of Jews
during a speech at a mosque in the Neukölln district last week.
CDU parliamentarian Burkard Dregger filed a complaint of incitement against Ismail with
the city police. "Such people who call for violence are not welcome in our country," the
politician told the Berliner Zeitung.
You can read more by clicking on this link. http://www.thelocal.de/20140723/authorities-
Of course there’s more but the above gives you a pretty good idea of the vitriol that is
pouring out from some anti-Semites and anti-Israel segments in the population. As
“Protective Edge” continues in Gaza we can expect a lot more.
Without question though, the most positive response has come from Bild. Don Snyder
writing in The Forward noted, “Bild, the largest circulation paper in Germany Friday
called on Germans to raise their voices against anti-Semitism. A banner headline said:
“Nie Wieder Juden-Hass (Never Again Jew Hatred).
The paper’s late owner, Axel Springer, was a friend of Jews and a strong supporter of
The newspaper’s statement is a repudiation of the rash of recent anti-Semitism in
German demonstrations against Israel’s Gaza war, Bild editor Kai Dieckmann, said. He
added that the newspaper’s journalists feel a special obligation to Israel.
“We as Germans take the lessons and the responsibility of the Holocaust seriously and
we will always be on the side of Israel when its existence is threatened.”
Dieckmann says critics of Israel should voice their opinion in front of the Israeli
Embassy and not in front of synagogues. “Those who do this are pure anti-Semites, and
there should be no place for them in Germany.”
Here are some of the comments in today’s Bild.
German president, Joachim Gauck: “I want to call on all people to raise their voices
when there is new anti-Semitism in the streets.”
Chancellor Angela Merkel: “These outbursts and utterances are an attack on freedom
and tolerance. We cannot and will not tolerate this.”
Turkey’s ambassador, Huseyin A. Karslioglu: “Solidarity with the suffering Palestinian
population must not turn into anti-Semitism.”
Bild reports comments on its Facebook and Twitter pages “show how necessary our
campaign is. “The inhumane hate that hits us, Israel, and the Jews is simply frightening.
The postings on our social media pages go from rude to pictures of Adolf Hitler.”
Bild says: “Today we document their hate to make sure that the overwhelming number
of Germans stand firmly and unfaltering against this hatred.”
More than 1,000 people denounced Israel today in a Berlin march to mark Al Quds Day,
an annual event to voice grievances against Israel.
Without doubt a great deal of applause and gratitude is due my AJC Berlin colleague
Deidre Berger and her staff. It was they who first began to make public aware of how
dangerous the anti-Semitic components of the anti-Israel demonstrations were to
Germany itself. That seemed to hit an important nerve in German self-interest. That
added to some genuine understanding of Israel’s stand against Hamas terrorism plus
the lack of regard Hamas has for fellow Palestinians has made major in-roads in the
media. Perhaps it has even begun to open up the thinking of those who have a
Pavlovian negative reaction to anything at all that relates to Israel.
A BILLIONAIRE NO LESS
No! He wasn’t some hedge fund guy or the developer of some unbelievable computer
something or other. .He made the billionaire’s list the old fashioned way. He killed and
plundered and almost cornered the market on almost everything in the Western World.
Who else could I be talking about but the man who considered himself a great artist?
Yes! Adolf Hitler died with a lot of cabbage stashed away in currency and stolen art
work but, luckily for all of us, he is long dead.
In late June The Daily Beast (a very reputable daily e-news sheet) reported, “After the
Second World War, when Adolf Hitler was officially declared dead, the Allied Forces
concluded that his estate was pretty modest by dictatorial standards—worth about
$800,000 in today’s money.
He had always claimed to have no interest in money, and in his will, declared: “What I
own belongs, as so far as it is of any value at all, to the party.” The truth could hardly
have been more different; it is now claimed that he had amassed a personal fortune in
property, art and cash worth in excess of $6 billion.
When he wasn’t plotting his ascent to power in Germany and subsequent European
domination, Hitler was working on an incredible array of money-making schemes. He
surreptitiously pocketed collections from his rallies, channeled millions into personal
accounts through government purchases of his book and secured a slew of image-
rights deals that put LeBron James to shame.
It wasn’t only the adoring crowds that had no idea of his profiteering; the German
taxman were also kept in the dark. By the time he was chancellor he owed $3 million in
taxes, according to a British television documentary. Soon afterwards it was quietly
decided that chancellors need not pay tax.
“He felt that paying taxes was beneath him,” explained Cris Whetton, author of the book
Hitler’s Fortune. “He loved money. He just wasn’t prepared to do much work for it.”
The British TV documentary, The Hunt for Hitler’s Missing Millions, asks what happened
to the fortune. “By the time we get to 1944 he’s definitely in the billions of reichsmarks. It
would not be far off billions of Euros today. From virtually bankrupt to billions in less
than a decade,” says Whetton.
A lot of the cash was sunk into property, with Hitler spending the equivalent of more
than $200 million renovating his countryside retreat, Berchtesgaden, into a sprawling
30-room complex, replete with Persian rugs, tapestries and Old Masters.
Godfrey Barker, an art historian, said Hitler’s appreciation for fine art helped him to
amass a stunning personal collection worth hundreds of millions of dollars. “Hitler the
man who wanted to rule the world was only the public face,” Barker told the program.
“The private man is something that few people seem to understand. His beating heart
was all to do with art. He held dinner parties at Berchtesgaden at which art was freely
discussed with visiting generals and not a word is spoken about the blood spilt in the
camps within 50 miles. Dachau, the village south of Munich which housed one of the
filthiest concentration camps, was a place where Hitler housed art.”
He estimated that around 3,000 of Hitler’s collection of 8,500 paintings were worth
millions of dollars each.
The Nazis were notorious for looting art as they rampaged through Europe in the 1930s
but Whetton said he was astonished to discover that this did not seem to be the source
of Hitler’s collection. “I had expected to find that he was directly responsible for the
looting and stealing of paintings he wanted for himself and I couldn’t find any evidence
for it. I found evidence that he paid for them—sometimes at knockdown prices, but not
direct theft,” he said.
Certainly, Hitler had the cash on hand. His friend Max Amann, the publisher of Mein
Kampf, was channeling back 10 percent royalties on millions of copies of the book,
many of which were bought up by the German government. Hitler was also receiving
millions through Heinrich Hoffmann, his official photographer since the 1920s, who
came up with the idea of licensing his image for a fee, including for payments for every
stamp minted by the government.
According to documents that were declassified decades later, an investigation by OSS,
a precursor to the CIA, found accounts worth over $350 million in the 1940s. That
money was never accounted for after the war.
Kenneth Yormark, forensic accountant based in New York, says its whereabouts is still
a mystery. “Hitler’s bank accounts are not very well known,” he said. “There’s not a lot
of information that’s out there.”
Hitler’s sister spent the last 12 years of her life fighting to access the inheritance due to
her. Her right was granted in 1960, four months before she died, but she was seemingly
unaware of the vast fortunes that had been stashed away.
Yormark said there had been evidence of accounts in Switzerland and Holland but they
had never been disbursed to Hitler’s heirs. “They would potentially have the right to
attempt to try and claim some of those funds,” he said. “Theoretically, the bank should
have tried to find the rightful owner.”
He said it was likely that the Swiss government would have collected any unclaimed
cash in the accounts by now.
Hitler’s will, which was written in his bunker shortly before he killed himself, was
discovered by a specialist German-speaking British Army unit. Herman Rothmann, a
German-Jewish refugee who fled to Britain and signed up to join the army at the age of
18, was there when one of Hitler’s press aides was captured.
“In our unit there was a man, he saw immediately there was something wrong. The
shoulder pads didn’t look right,” he said. Hidden inside they found folded sheets of
paper: “We were absolutely shocked when we saw the signature ‘Adolf Hitler’—it
became evident that this was an extremely important document.”
For the most part, the Allies accepted that the document, which described his “modest
estate,” was relatively accurate. Rothmann, now 89, said Hitler’s subterfuge had failed
in the end. “He wanted to show his ambition purely for the German people,” he said. “A
man like that wanted to project that image for eternity.”
There’s a moral there. If you want to “project your image for eternity” you’re safer with
American T-Bills and, by all means, get your last will and testament secured with some
international lawyer. Don’t trust some fellow with questionable shoulder pads.
BREEDING GROUND – FOR TERRORISTS
If you were German and thought that the best breeding ground for terrorists was Syria,
Pakistan or Iraq you’d be wrong. Try the German prison system and you’re closer to the
In a recent article Lisa Schnell writing in Spiegel On-Line noted, “Radical Islamists have
found what might appear to be an unlikely place to gain new followers: German prisons.
Officials at the Bavarian state unit of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, the
agency responsible for monitoring extremist activity in the country, say they have
identified jihadist handbooks recommending the recruitment of fellow prisoners and that
they have observed Salafist prisoners trying to convert other inmates.
Rauf Ceylan, a prominent Islam expert in Osnabrück, believes a growing number of
extremists are likely to be incarcerated in Germany in the future. "Many of the 300
Germans who have joined the jihad in Syria will probably end up in German jails at
some point," he says.
A handful of international cases underscore the acute threat of young men converting or
becoming radicalized in prison.
The killer in Toulouse, France, who shot seven people in March 2012, had become a
Salafist while in jail.
The most recent case involved Mehdi Nemmouche, 29, the man suspected in the
shootings at the Brussels Jewish Museum in May in which four people died. He is
believed to have spent around a year fighting in Syria with Islamist rebels. Public
prosecutors claim that Nemmouche had been arrested seven times within a decade for
relatively minor offences like break-ins. They also claim he became radicalized during
his time in jail.
The head of the Wiesbaden correctional facility herself has experienced just how
imperceptible the transformation from petty criminal to Salafist can be. Hadmut Jung-
Silberreis is an energetic women who has worked in the penal system for more than 30
years. But she was caught off guard by Riza, an inmate of Arab origin. "The young man
was totally inconspicuous," she says. "He conducted an apprenticeship in jail and even
got a job." Jung-Silberreis first learned through a video she came across on the Internet
what he had really done after leaving prison.
Last year, the leading justice official in the city-state of Berlin suspended his agency's
cooperation with an organization called the Working Group for Muslim Chaplains
because security authorities had determined a few of the religious representatives to be
problematic. But approaches seem to differ depending on where you go in Germany.
Officials at the Leipzig correction facility, for example, allowed Salafist Hassan Dabbagh
to work as a chaplain at the prison despite the fact that he was under investigation on
suspicion of sedition.
It's often only with great trouble that prison heads can determine the type of Islam a
person represents. There aren't even official guidelines in Germany stating who is
allowed to serve as a Muslim chaplain. In most cases, the local Muslim community
recommends an imam. Islamic Studies experts are calling for the same kind of training
to be established for Muslim chaplains that already exists for their Christian
counterparts. But there's a problem here, as well, given that Islam doesn't have the
same kind of hierarchical structures that exist in the Christian churches. It's also likely it
would be difficult for the diverse Islamic associations to agree on common religious
precepts that the chaplains could convey.
To be fair I should tell you that I have excerpted the most negative part of Fr. Schnell’s
piece. Quite a bit of it deals with the efforts of a moderate Muslim Chaplain,
Husamuddin Meyer (a convert) who tries to steer the inmates away from the worst sorts
of Islamic extremism.
You should read the whole story (it’s only two pages). It seems to me, however, that
prisons are the perfect places where young, angry, frequently violent people can easily
be recruited. Germans, of course, should be aware of the problem – but so should we.
Our own prisons are probably the same as those in Germany. Maybe worse! I can’t
even begin to think what some of the inmates say and feel about the Jews.
To read the Schnell article click here.
NEO-NAZI ON EU HUMAN RIGHTS PANEL
There are times when I have my doubts about the EU and how it handles matters of
importance to Israel and the Jewish people.
Haaretz recently reported, “The seating of a German neo-Nazi on a key European
Parliament committee has drawn an outraged reaction from European Jewry and a
pledge from the parliament's president to oppose him, EurActiv.com reports.
Udo Voigt, 55, who took his seat on the parliament’s Civil Liberties, Justice and Home
Affairs Committee on Monday, is the former leader of the National Democratic Party of
Germany, which is classified by German intelligence as a far-right extremist party. An
attempt to have it banned on the grounds that its ideology is identical to that of Hitler is
currently before the German courts.
Voigt is on record as having praised Hitler and was convicted in 2009 for glorifying the
Waffen SS. The son of a former Wehrmacht officer who famously tried to nominate
Hitler’s deputy Rudolf Hess as a Nobel Peace Prize candidate, Voigt once claimed that
“no more than 340,000 Jews” had died in the Holocaust.
Unaffiliated European Parliament members like Voigt are allocated a set number of
committee seats to be divided among all independent politicians.
The parliament’s Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee is responsible for
the protection of citizens’ rights, human rights, and measures to combat discrimination.
“Everyone who denies the Holocaust and who is against human dignity, democracy and
plurality will encounter the strongest resistance from me," said Martin Schulz, the
socialist-democratic president of the parliament, in response to Voigt's committee
“The European Parliament is the place where the representatives of the European
people work hard to ensure a good and peaceful future for us on our continent. There is
no place for racists and anti-Semites in this house.”
AJC hit the nail on the head with its statement. It noted, “AJC is outraged that Udo
Voigt, of the German neo-Nazi National Democratic Party (NPD), will serve on the
European Parliament’s Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee. “It’s
revolting enough that Voigt was elected to the European Parliament, but his assignment
to this particular European Parliament committee makes a mockery of everything all
democratic forces hold dear,” said Stephan Kramer, director of AJC’s European Office
on Anti-Semitism. The Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee is
responsible for the protection of citizen rights, human rights, and measures to combat
discrimination. “The idea of a neo-Nazi as a guardian of European human rights is
sickening,” Kramer added. Voigt has long belittled the Holocaust, glorified Adolf Hitler
and the Nazi regime, and promoted racism and xenophobia. Looking ahead to the next
European Parliament elections in 2019, Kramer called for serious consideration of
setting an electoral threshold for political parties vying for seats in the regional
legislature. “The threshold percentage for parties entering the European Parliament
should be considered just as important as the rules in place in the German Bundestag,
where it is a minimum of five percent, and most other national parliaments in Europe,”
I understand rules and regulations and how Voight got elected to the EU Parliament and
then took a seat on the Parliament’s Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs
Committee. But where is the outrage from outside the Jewish community? O.K. Martin
Schulz, the Parliament President made a statement (weak in my opinion) but where are
the European leaders? As far as I could tell, it is only Jewish organizations that seem
The silence is deafening!
THE AGENCY THAT COULDN’T SPY STRAIGHT
We Americans should be embarrassed by the foolish spying scandal that has erupted
over our clumsy spy apparatus in Germany. I won’t bore you with the awful details but
the bottom line is that our attempts to spy on the German government, our best and
most important friend in Europe have been uncovered and two German nationals
arrested for being American spies.
I must say that our German friends have shown considerable restraint in dealing with
the matter. The top American intelligence (I didn’t say “intelligent”) officer in Berlin has
been “asked to leave”. He wasn’t thrown out – just asked to leave. He finally left.
The Germans are trying to contain their anger. For instance, (NY Times), “Both Thomas
de Maizière, the interior minister, and Wolfgang Schäuble, the finance minister and a
close ally of Ms. Merkel, suggested that the material handed to the Americans from the
German intelligence employee arrested last week was nothing important. The
Americans, Mr. Schäuble said, had simply proved to be stupid.
“With so much stupidity, you can only weep,” he said. “And that is why the chancellor is
‘not amused.’ ”
Of course, the Chancellor has her own politics to take into consideration. The
uncovering of American spying cannot just be quickly forgiven or swept under the
carpet. Fr. Merkel had to do something and I would argue that showing the door to the
Berlin CIA Chief was about as little as possible. What is needed is some sort of a real
agreement between the U.S. and Germany in the way of intelligence gathering.
There is some evidence that the White House didn’t know fully what was going on or
paid insufficient attention to what the CIA was doing. In any case the buck stops at the
door of the Oval Office and so the President has to take some of the responsibility for
what happened and, more important, fixing it up.
The big problem for the U.S. is not the anger (or whatever) of the German government
over this matter but, rather, the loss of faith in the U.S. on the part of the German
people. It even goes beyond that. The reputation of the U.S. throughout Europe, I am
sure, has taken a heavy hit. The remedy will take a long time to develop but we’d better
get on it ASAP.
BTW if you’re interested in a very brief (but good) history of American spying in
Germany click on this link - http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/07/10/the-cia-in-
STAYING OR GOING?
If there is one German politician who is solidly ensconced in a position it is the top
politician herself, Chancellor Angela Merkel. However, even though she has some 3
years left in her term, the question about whether she will stick it out to the end keeps
Spiegel On-Line recently ran a rather long article on this very question. “The chancellor,
nicknamed "Mutti," or mom, remains largely uncontested both within her own party and
in her coalition government. She is almost disturbingly popular among German voters
(with a popularity rating of 77 percent) and is one of the clear leaders of Europe; she is
on equal political footing with the presidents of Russia, the United States and China.
Despite this, almost all of those closest to her professionally -- be it in her party or her
cabinet -- are convinced that she will eventually step down. They are certain in their
belief that she intends to become the first postwar German leader to decide on her own
when she should leave office. "The idea really appeals to her," says one person on her
government team, echoing the feelings of many.
Merkel, though, said during the election campaign that she intends to remain in office
for the full term.
Stepping down voluntarily is quite possibly the toughest decision a top politician can
make. Those who step down can quickly be accused of being weak and become
vulnerable to questions about their health. They even run the risk of being viewed as
failures. Besides, there are always objective reasons to continue in office. Even absent
such reasons, most of Merkel's predecessors came to believe that they were truly
That's an idea alien to Merkel. But she also knows that, no matter how much she wants
to be the architect of her own departure, the fuss surrounding it will be intense. And she
too feels the call of duty.
[Before making any decision] She would speak about it with one or two political
confidants as well as with her husband Joachim Sauer, a professor of physical and
theoretical chemistry at Berlin's Humboldt University. The influence he has on Merkel is
often dramatically underestimated. This is partly due to the fact that Sauer makes very
few public appearances, gives virtually no interviews and often travels abroad. Some
friends of Merkel in Berlin say it will be his word and their plans together that will be the
determining factors. They say he's the most important point of reference in her life.
One senior CDU member says that Merkel has made all of the necessary reforms to her
party. Be it the image of the family, same-sex marriage, abandoning military
conscription, implementing a national minimum wage or education reform -- regardless
what one thinks about the CDU's policy shifts, it would be hard for the party to move any
closer to the political center that Angela Merkel has steered it. Indeed, the party is a key
Merkel achievement, transforming it into the perfect reflection of a zeitgeist that lacks
much edge. The changes have muted the conservative and business-friendly wings of
the party, but they also brought in 41.5 percent of the vote in last September's general
election. With no major moves left to make, it seems inevitable that that number is
destined to fall the next time voters make their way to the polls.
When it comes to dealing with international crises, by contrast, she gets her hands dirty,
engaging in long telephone discussions about Ukraine, Russia or EU leadership
positions. She travels abroad, most recently to China, where she was curious enough to
ask a seemingly endless array of questions -- to the provincial governor, to a female
employee at a VW factory, to a chef teaching her how to make kung pao chicken or to
an engineering student. Her eyes lit up when she compared the Chinese system with
Western democracy, just as she did when she conducted joint talks with Beijing leaders,
discussions balancing advantages and disadvantages, limitations and dangers and the
individual and the collective. Even late nights in a windowless conference room, you
could listen in and get the sense that Merkel was still in top form.
And yet, she doesn't appear to have a goal. There is no political point that she wants to
achieve at all costs -- one that she can later look back on with satisfaction. Politics for
Merkel seems all process and no projects. The consummation of a political vision is
foreign to Merkel's nature -- which is one reason that the idea of her quitting at any time
doesn't seem out of the question.
It is only during crises that Germany's position as Europe's leader is clear -- when
conditions call for it or suffering euro-zone member states demand it. But in quieter
times, Merkel would have to actively claim a leadership role. "But she wouldn't dare to
do so," says one of Germany's most important bankers who meets with Merkel now and
then. Nevertheless, there are issues that are important to the chancellor in her third
term in office. She intends to adjust euro-zone rules to make the common currency
more crisis resistant; she hopes to ensure that members get back on track economically
and she hopes to renew the trans-Atlantic relationship with the US, despite the NSA
espionage affair. In addition, there is the question as to how Western societies can exert
more control over the process of global digitalization.
Among the obligations felt by Merkel is that of not wanting to leave the Chancellery and
her Christian Democrats rudderless when she departs. Because her party and her
governing coalition has thus far avoided scandal and squabble, she currently enjoys
significant trust from the German electorate, says one cabinet member. Germans, who
tend to view politics with a certain degree of mistrust, love the calm. And in order to
preserve it, Merkel would like to hand over both of her offices -- as chancellor and as
head of the CDU -- to a single heir.
As things stand now, that person is Ursula von der Leyen, though asking her about it
won't get one very far. "Every generation has a chancellor. In my generation, that
chancellor is Angela Merkel," says von der Leyen, who currently heads up the Defense
Ministry. She refuses to elaborate beyond that.
Even the many von der Leyen detractors among Merkel's conservatives admit that they
would support her should it become necessary. Von der Leyen, they say, is the
"accident chancellor" -- the one that would take over should something happen to
Merkel. She has made it clear that she is willing, having done little to hide her desire to
become defense minister. But what many forget is that it was Merkel who granted her
the portfolio, a clear indication that she wanted to give von der Leyen a crash course in
foreign policy to prepare her for the top job.
I’m going to leave it there. I’m not all convinced that the Chancellor will leave office early
or that Minister Von der Leyen will be her successor. The Spiegel On-Line article
mentions the possibility that she might become the Secy. General of the UN. I wouldn’t
bet on that either.
If you want to get the entire picture you should read the entire article which you can do
by clicking here. http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/party-insiders-say-angela-
See you again in August
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