AN AMERICAN JEWISH – GERMAN INFORMATION & OPINION
IN THIS EDITION
D-DAY & GERMANY: SOME THOUGHTS – Time may not heal but it certainly changes
GERMAN FOREIGN POLICY – Trying to figure it out.
LOOTED ART: A BIGGER FISH – A list of another treasure trove found.
THE CHANGE IN PENSION THINKING – Responsibility has made its mark.
AIN’T NOTHING SECRET ANYMORE – Everyone’s hacking everyone else’s phone
EXTREMISM IN GERMANY – A report.
A CHINK IN HER ARMOR? – Merkel fatigue?
Before we get down to business I promised my first AJC Berlin Assistant Ari (you might
have known her as Wendy) Campbell Kloke, who has returned to Berlin with her
husband Richard to start up a Berlin tour agency, that I would mention her new
endeavor. Click here http://beettours.com and you’ll see what she’s up to.
At least for the moment, most things in Germany are “on hold” while the World Cup
Soccer Tournament is underway. The World Cup is “the” sporting event every four
years. It’s the Super Bowl magnified a few times. As I write this, Germany is getting
ready to play the U.S. in a match which might determine who goes on to the round of 16
and who goes home.
While everyone there is focused on the TV, Chancellor Merkel made a speech lauding
the achievements of her government in a most positive way. Frankly, given Germany’s
strong economy and high standard of living, she, legitimately, has a lot to crow about.
However, if you read through this edition of the newsletter to the last article you will see
that not everything politically is peaches and cream. You can read about the Merkel
speech by clicking here. http://www.dw.de/ignoring-opposition-outcry-chancellor-angela-
I want to wish everyone a wonderful Fourth of July. It’s our “national day”. Whatever our
problems, we’re very lucky to be here and to be Americans.
P.S. Go Yanks! Beat Germany!
On to the news…
D-DAY & GERMANY: SOME THOUGHTS
By the time you get this the celebration around D-Day will have long gone by. However,
I thought I should include this important item about the 2014 commemoration.
I’m old enough to remember D-Day (though I was only 12 at the time) and the animosity
almost everyone in the U.S. felt toward Germany and the Nazis during World War II. It is
still deeply etched in my mind though it’s now 70 years later. But times have changed.
According to Nicole Glass writing in This Week in Germany…
World leaders stood in solidarity on Friday as they marked the 70th anniversary of the
Normandy landings (D-Day) on the western coast of France - the largest seaborne
invasion in history and a turning point in the Second World War. Both German
Chancellor Angela Merkel and US President Barack Obama were among the attendees
at the ceremony. This is only the second time a German leader participated in the
commemoration in Normandy, which makes it all the more significant.
Ten years ago, former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder joined world leaders in marking the
60th anniversary of D-Day. His attendance ultimately became a symbol of how far
Germany has come since the war. "The French receive you as a brother," French
President Jacques Chirac told Schröder on that day. In a speech delivered at a
memorial site in Caen, Schröder emphasized the good that came out of the Allied
invasion - both for the Allies and Germans. While France was liberated from German
occupation, Germans were liberated from Nazi tyranny, he said.
Today, Chancellor Merkel attended the historic commemoration, together with President
Obama and other world leaders. Unlike the Schröder visit - which was the first of its kind
- the presence of a German chancellor is now almost expected, and shows the
advanced level of cooperation and trust between former wartime enemies. The memory
of D-Day no longer just unites the Western Allies - it unites leaders around the globe in
their effort for reconciliation and building a better future. This was exactly the aspect of
D-Day that Chancellor Merkel harnessed when she spoke today with Russian President
Vladimir Putin about the situation in Ukraine.
I think Ms. Glass got it right by noting, “…the presence of a German chancellor is now
almost expected, and shows the advanced level of cooperation and trust between
former wartime enemies”. When one thinks about it, that is a sea change from where we
were in our relations with Germany even five or ten years ago. Their commitment to
democracy, though we may not agree with all their policies, has earned them an equal
place with the other Western democracies.
Obviously, all is not forgiven or forgotten. The enormity of the crime of the Holocaust
cannot be expunged from memory – ours or theirs. However, their progress in less than
a century is truly great and, to my way of thinking, genuine. When I measure them
against some other “friends of the Jewish people” they come off pretty damn well.
GERMAN FOREIGN POLICY
I think it’s difficult to identify German foreign policy. In fact, to quote the King from The
King and I, “It’s a puzzlement”. The people and the leaders seem to be going in
opposite directions and the actual policy can’t seem to make up its mind.
Melinda Crane writing in DW (Deutsche Welle) opines, “While Germans remain
skeptical of a greater political role, the foreign minister delivers on the promise of a new
diplomacy, one which moves out of the comfort zone into the middle of things,”
Germany is delivering on its promise of a new foreign policy with greater verve than
even its friends expected. When President Joachim Gauck called on Germany to play a
bigger role in international affairs in his speech at the Munich Security Conference,
foreign observers acknowledged that his words were timely, if not long overdue, but
asked who would follow up, and how? Were similar messages from the defense and
foreign ministers coordinated with the chancellery to ensure follow-up sufficiently
coherent to represent a real shift in policy?
To both questions, the answer, so far, is yes. Gauck urged his country to step out
“earlier, more decisively and more substantially" on the world stage. Frank Walter
Steinmeier has been stepping out indeed: on the Maidan and in Odessa, from Tallin to
Chisinau, he is on the spot and on the line. After four years of "sleepwalking",
Germany's foreign ministry is adeptly wielding the complex and sensitive tool of
This new diplomacy disturbs many Germans. A new study conducted for the Ministry
itself with the Körber Foundation shows a full 60 percent of those surveyed do not want
to see Germany take on more responsibility in foreign affairs. A majority professes
support for diplomatic efforts but is clearly skeptical about the pitfalls of engagement
and prefers a foreign policy guided not by interests but by normative considerations –
human rights, humanitarian aid, climate and environment.
Foreign Minister Steinmeier is pushing with courage and commitment to deescalate the
Ukraine crisis. And the outside world is taking note. US Secretary of State John Kerry
has praised his leadership while The New York Times editorial board recently remarked
that Germany seems to be the European country Mr. Putin cares about most.
…diplomacy is slow and non-linear, its results not always perceptible to outsiders. Often
they amount merely to warding off a worse scenario than the crisis already raging.
This is exactly what Chancellor Merkel admonished last week when she rejected
criticism that Steinmeier's shuttle diplomacy was an exercise in futility and insisted that
she and the foreign minister were working hand in hand. In fact, her own diplomatic
dexterity was on display at a recent mini-summit with French President Francois
Hollande, when the two leaders declared they would hold Moscow accountable should
upcoming presidential elections in Ukraine fail.
Given its position in the middle of Europe and the fact that it does not have a sizeable
military, perhaps it can only do so much. Being that it is bound up in the EU it cannot
truly have an independent foreign policy.
As far as this newsletter is concerned, whether Germany will stand firm or not in the
nuclear negotiations going on with Iran is a major question. Germany, along with most
of the other nations involved, does a great deal of business with Iran. Corporations
across the international spectrum are pushing and lobbying for more. Iran is a major oil
producer and a prospective EU customer. The Chancellor has said more than once that
Iran will not have a nuclear weapon. Does that mean that almost having one or just
having the equipment and know-how to produce one quickly are tantamount to having
one – or not?
How about the Israeli – Palestinian matter? The EU made an announcement that it will
deal with a new Palestinian government made up with technocrats. Does it make a
difference that half the ministers will have been appointed by Hamas, an organization
that both the EU and the U.S. term as terrorist?
So, to me there are a lot of unanswered questions about where German foreign policy is
headed. Does the fact that Germany is so tightly tied to Russian energy sources
undercut its possible assertiveness and, perhaps, move it more closely to Vladimir Putin
and the Russians?
It’s easy to say “We’ll be more assertive”. It’s harder to adopt that policy when realpolitik
spells out a less proactive role.
LOOTED ART: A BIGGER FISH
When the art collection of the late dealer Hildebrandt Gurlitt came to light in the
possession of his son, many (most?) thought that, perhaps, the greatest collection of art
looted from Jews during the Nazi time had been located. As it turns out, Gurlitt was
“small potatoes” compared to Adolf Weinmüller.
DW reports, “In addition to notorious art dealer Hildebrandt Gurlitt, numerous other Nazi
dealers attempted to wash their hands of unethical acquisitions, even though a large
portion of the art transactions conducted in the run-up to and during World War II
involved works misappropriated from Jewish collectors.
As one of four buyers for the planned Führermuseum in Linz - which was to hold a
grand collection of Nazi-looted art but was never fully realized., Gurlitt had good
contacts among the Nazi authorities. But his colleague in Munich, fellow art dealer Adolf
Weinmüller, greatly surpassed him, establishing a monopoly over auctions involving
The catalogue of Weinmüller's auction house was recently published online as part of
the Lost Art database.
Weinmüller joined the Nazi party early on, in 1931. At that time, he was still developing
his career as an art dealer, according to Meike Hopp from the Central Institute for Art
History. "Adolf Weinmüller had an art dealership in Munich from 1921, but we don't
know much about the time between 1921 and 1933," she said.
Hopp wrote her dissertation about Weinmüller and was instrumental in the recent
publication of his business documents. "Starting in 1933, his career boomed because
he became chair of the federal association of art and antiquities dealers," Hopp
"After that, he had a great deal of influence on the elimination of Jewish art dealers
because, as a state-approved appraiser, he refused to give Jewish businesses licenses
to hold auctions."
That meant that Adolf Weinmüller had an overview of which auction houses would be
losing their licenses and was thus able to profit unscrupulously from the "Aryanization"
of the art sector.
By late 1938 - after the Germany-wide Kristallnacht pogroms in November of that year -
all 628 Jewish-run art and antiquity dealers had been put out of business and their
Founded in 1936, Adolf Weinmüller's auction house became the most prosperous in the
business. One of his best customers was high-ranking Nazi official Martin Bormann,
who was commissioned with purchasing valuable old paintings for Hitler's personal
Within a short time, the auctioneer managed to create a monopoly on the German art
scene, according to Uwe Hartmann, director of the provenance research unit at
Germany's Federal Office for Central Services and Unresolved Property Issues.
"In some cities, the artworks seized from Jewish owners after 1938 were auctioned by
his house, nearly without exception."
In summer 1941, Weinmüller started traveling regularly to Prague together with Hans
Posse, director of the planned Führermuseum in Linz.
"He was allowed to go to the Gestapo headquarters and select paintings and furniture
that had been confiscated from Jewish collectors and art dealers," explained Meike
Hopp. "That clearly indicates that a large portion of the objects he dealt with were
By 1944, Adolf Weinmüller had amassed an impressive collection. In Vienna he took
over the "Aryanization" of the Jewish gallery Kunsthaus Kende and opened a branch of
his own there. After the war, the so-called Monuments Men sent by the Allied forces
recovered 34,500 works in his auction houses.
In contrast, Gurlitt was a small fish, says Meike Hopp, pointing out that the Allies' list of
Hildebrandt Gurllit's inventory took up three pages, but Weinmüller's filled an entire
"It's hard to even imagine the dimension of the works that were in his inventory in 1945,"
she said. "And that's what he built his post-war business on."
The publication of Weinmüller's documents from 1936-1943 reveal the extent of his
massive collection: 51 auctions were recorded in 93 catalogues, which were recently
made available to the public on the Lost Art website.
The documents include the deliverer, the sale price and exact details of each work that
came under Weinmüller's hammer. There's one exception, explained Meike Hopp: "For
us it was clear that we didn't want to publish the names of the buyers online, in order to
avoid any form of defamation or slander."
In researching Weinmüller's past for her dissertation, Meike Hopp stumbled upon
incriminating evidence, but his business documents appeared to have been destroyed.
In 2009, with support from the federal government and the Neumeister auction house,
her research was expanded into a bigger project.
The coincidental discovery of Weinmüller's auction documents in a steel air conditioning
cabinet in March 2013 was all the more valuable, says Kathrin Stoll, director of the
Neumeister auction house. "There were bundles that were tied together. And then you
could see the name of the consignor: 'Gestapo.' Then you get goose bumps."
It may be an expression of the democratic responsibility felt by the post-war generation:
Kathrin Stoll, whose father, Rudolf Neumeister, bought Weinmüller's debt-ridden auction
house in 1958, quickly cleared it with her family that she wanted to make these dramatic
documents available to the researchers and the public.
"We didn't want to hesitate a day longer because we knew that every day heirs or
descendants of dispossessed Jewish families may die," said Stoll. We knew we had to
go public very quickly - unlike the Gurlitt case, which was kept secret for two years."
Uwe Hartmann holds Kathrin Stoll in high regard for her approach. "She makes it clear
that dealing with this issue differently is perhaps a generational issue. She described it
fairly visually when she said, 'I don't want any corpses in my cellar!'"
A few more facts. As Julia Voss reports in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, “The art
dealer Adolf Weinmüller lived from 1886 until 1958 in Bavaria. Like Gurlitt, he made his
most significant professional leap under National Socialism, and like Gurlitt he was also
active in art dealing after 1945. Previously, he was known mainly to professionals.
When Meike Hopp made public her dissertation “Art Dealing under National Socialism:
Adolf Weinmüller in Munich and Vienna” in 2012, it was the first publication that dealt
with him. Until only a few months ago, even his appearance was unknown. A
photograph has since surfaced that shows an old man with glasses at an auction,
With the discoveries of the Gurlitt and now the Weinmueller information, the looted art
matter seems to have new life. My guess is that there will be other findings elsewhere
and the legal attempts to restore some of the stolen works of art will continue for years
Sometimes justice takes a long time to be served. The two recent findings have
speeded up the process immeasurably.
No sooner had I finished writing the above than it was announced in The Times of Israel
that, “Israel and Germany have agreed to conduct joint research in museums in both
countries aimed at determining the original ownership of Jewish-owned art looted by
Nazis, officials said.
Under an agreement signed Sunday by Israeli Culture Ministry Director General Orly
Froman and German Culture Minister Monika Gruetters, art experts from the two
countries will undergo training and coordinate the formation of joint data bases.
Read the entire article by clicking here http://www.timesofisrael.com/israel-germany-to-
THE CHANGE IN PENSION THINKING
Back in 1997 the then journalist Deidre Berger (in her pre-AJC days) wrote in JTA about
a dispute AJC and other Jewish organizations were having with the German
government. The government was paying disability pensions to World War II veterans
suspected of being war criminals but refused pensions to Holocaust survivors living in
former communist countries.
In fact, “the American Jewish Committee ran advertisements in U.S. newspapers
featuring photographs of a Waffen SS veteran and a survivor of a Nazi ghetto in Eastern
Europe with the headline: “Guess Which One Receives a War Victim’s Pension from the
It was strong stuff. The government finally relented
About the government’s about-face Deidre wrote, “The [new] law was proposed by the
Green Party, which led the fight in recent years to suspend disability benefits to war
criminals and to begin paying pensions to Holocaust victims living in Eastern Europe.
Germany has paid more than $54 billion in compensation to Holocaust survivors since
World War II. However, those living in Soviet-bloc countries were unable to apply for
compensation during the Cold War, and Communist East Germany refused to make any
payments. Jewish organizations estimate that there are between 15,000 and 40,000
Holocaust survivors in Eastern Europe who have never received compensation.
German officials are currently negotiating with the Conference on Jewish Material
Claims Against Germany regarding compensation payments to Holocaust survivors in
Eastern Europe. In August, the German government and officials of the Claims
Conference announced the establishment of a joint commission to recommend a
compromise. The commission is expected to make its proposals before the end of the
The pensions were paid and many thought that would be the end of the German
government’s willingness to adjust their thinking. That did not turn out to be the case.
Only recently Y-Net News reported, “Germany's Parliament has unanimously approved
a measure extending pension payments for thousands of elderly Jews who were forced
to work for the Nazis in ghettos.
The Jewish Claims Conference, which helped negotiate the deal with the government,
said the new deal passed Thursday means some 40,000 Holocaust survivors will soon
be able to receive benefits back-dated to 1997.
That's the year Germany began recognizing work in ghettos as eligible for pension
payments. Until now, recipients have only received payments backdated to four years
from when they applied.
During World War II, the Nazis made widespread use of Jews, primarily non-Germans,
in ghettos as laborers in exchange for food or meager wages.
The proposal was introduced by Labor Minister Andrea Nahles, who has promised
payments would be made "swiftly and efficiently."
The important point here other than the fact that many aged survivors would now
receive enhanced pensions, is that the German government thinking over the years has
changed. They have increasingly accepted more responsibility and have “put their
money where their mouths are”.
AIN’T NOTHING SECRET ANYMORE
In the last six or eight months the U.S. has been pretty badly beaten up for spying in
Germany – on Germans. It was revealed that our NSA (National Security Agency) even
tapped the private cell phone of Chancellor Angela Merkel. The media (German and
American) played this up to such a degree that the average German’s perception of the
U.S. dropped precipitously. The American-haters had a field day and the NSA took it on
Where was the German security agency (BND) in all this? Lying low I guess. It now
comes out that the relationship between the NSA and the BND is extremely deep. The
BND is not supposed to spy on their own nationals. Do they? Or do they let the NSA do
it and then quietly and off the record receive the data?
Recently Spiegel On-Line ran a story which noted, “Cooperation between Germany's
foreign intelligence service, the BND, and America's NSA is deeper than previously
believed. German agents appear to have crossed into constitutionally questionable
In a particularly sensitive case called Wharpdrive, “The NSA, apparently, did not
perform the highly sensitive operation on its own. All signs indicate that the agency had
help from Germany's Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), the country's foreign intelligence
agency. The code name Wharpdrive appears in a paper drafted in preparation for a
BND delegation's visit to NSA headquarters in Fort Meade, and which instructs NSA
leaders to "thank the BND for their assistance with the trilateral program." It also makes
clear that the German agency plays a leadership role in the Wharpdrive program, with
the NSA providing only technical assistance.
Germany's collaboration with US intelligence, which Berlin officials agreed to in the
wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, is opaque and convoluted: opaque because
the German parliament and public are unable to review most of what is delivered to the
United States; convoluted because there are questions about its legality.
German intelligence agencies, for their part, consider their cooperation with the NSA to
be indispensable -- for counter-terrorism efforts, for the fight against the proliferation of
weapons of mass destruction and for the battle against organized crime. According to a
classified paper created by the government in response to a query from the opposition,
the BND does not keep official statistics on the amount of telephone, email and text
message metadata that is shuttled to American agencies”
From what I have printed above, you should be able to get the idea that spying,
especially electronic spying, on a massive level is happening both in Germany and the
U.S. It’s probably happening everywhere. There is no doubt that privacy is a thing of the
past. There is no such thing as confidential information. If you know it – they know it!
You should read the whole story. It will frighten you. Click here to read it.
EXTREMISM IN GERMANY
Given the dramatic rise in anti-Semitism is European countries such as France where
the extreme right wing party of the LePens scored a victory in the recent Euro elections,
it should not surprise us that extremist activity in Germany is also on the increase.
Recently Germany’s domestic intelligence service, which has the long drawn out name
of The Federal Office of the Protection of the Constitution, published its annual report on
A couple of weeks ago DW reported, “The German domestic intelligence agency has
warned of a sharp rise in violence from right- and left-wing groups. A report also found
growing numbers of Islamist extremists returning from terror training camps in Syria.
Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere warned of an increase in violence linked to political
and religious extremists in Germany.
Presenting the annual domestic intelligence agency report on Wednesday in Berlin, de
Maiziere said that though the numbers of right- and left-wing extremists in Germany had
not grown, there was a notable increase in the brutality of actions by such groups.
De Maiziere spoke of a deplorable trend toward physical violence on both sides of the
Right-wing extremists mostly target foreigners in Germany. However, they now opt for
physical aggression more often than in the past, when they often resorted to verbal
De Maiziere spoke of an increase in attacks on foreigners in Germany by over 20
percent compared to the year before: 473 such cases were recorded in 2013.
Left-wing radicals, on the other hand, go on record not for xenophobic attacks, but for
assaulting police officers or security personnel.
"We cannot accept this rise in violence, and do everything to combat it," he said.
The report published by the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution shows
that the number of members of right- and left-wing groups had remained unchanged
compared to 2012, at 9,600 and 27,000 individuals, respectively.
The agency did record, however, a significant rise in young people joining radical
religious groups, such as Islamist Salafists.
The report links this rise also to the deteriorating situation in Syria, warning that up to
100 people had returned to Germany after having spent time in terror training camps
All in all I do not think the report denotes a totally calamitous situation. Certainly the
increase in violence is something that is worrisome but the security people seem to
have any enormous growth of extremist activity in check. Germany is not France.
However, the fact that the report notes “up to a one hundred people” have been to terror
training camps in Syria is frightening. These folks are not traveling to Syria for a
vacation. Their future requires careful watching.
A CHINK IN HER ARMOR?
A Spiegel On-Line article recently noted, “For years, German Chancellor Angela Merkel
was the strongest politician in the European Union. Lately, her hold on power has
become weaker -- and one of the greatest challenges is coming from within her own
[Sigmar] Gabriel [SPD], who is also Germany's economy minister, spoke to journalists
during a tour of the Airbus facility in Toulouse. European policies have to be revisited,
Gabriel said. "The focus on pure austerity policies [for which Merkel is best known] has
failed," he claimed.
The reporters couldn't believe their ears. Did he really just say that? Is Gabriel in the
process of turning away from the highly touted Stability Pact after years of backing
German Chancellor Angela Merkel's euro-crisis strategy? Is he trying to pick a fight with
Europe's austerity queen?
Gabriel's comment was just the latest indication that Merkel's solid hold on the reins of
power in Europe may slowly be weakening. After years of being the de facto leader of
Europe, largely a function of Germany's relatively good economic health even as the
Continent's economy crumbled around it, Merkel is now losing traction on a number of
The assault on Merkel is coming from three flanks. First off, she is facing pressure from
her rivals inside of Europe. The governments in Rome and Paris have long believed that
Merkel is too dominant and that she is pushing Europe in the wrong direction. But now,
the chancellor is also losing the support of countries that once favored her course.
Indeed, when EU leaders gather in Brussels, there is one issue that unites them all,
regardless of their party affiliation: They believe that Merkel is too powerful.
Merkel's critics, secondly, will soon have an ally at the head of the European
Commission. As the situation currently stands, it seems probable that Jean-Claude
Juncker will become president of the EU's executive body. Officially, Merkel supports
the center-right politician from Luxembourg. But when it comes to austerity in Europe
and financial policy, Juncker is far to the left of the German chancellor.
Even worse for Merkel, she now faces a growing number of opponents within the EU.
When the Dutch, for example, slipped into recession two years ago, they suddenly
softened their focus on austerity.
Internally, Gabriel says that he is not interested in starting a fight with Merkel. He
instead sees himself as a liaison between the chancellor and all those countries for
whom austerity is an unbearable burden. But of course, if Merkel's foreign policy aura
dimmed, he wouldn't have any problems with that.
Gabriel recently set up a working group in his Economy Ministry to develop a Europe
strategy reflecting Social Democratic values. The focus, says one of the group
members, is to find ways to promote growth in Europe. But it has also proven valuable
in providing Gabriel with ammunition to counter Merkel. One slogan as already been
established, insiders say: "The states cannot be allowed to save themselves to death."
I don’t think anybody as yet thinks Chancellor Merkel is on the skids. However, when
Der Spiegel prints such an article one must at least say that the 100% strong backing
she has had in the past is not quite as muscular as it has been. It is true that she has
been Germany’s leader for more than two terms and nothing lasts forever. However,
there is no real sign that the current grand coalition between her CDU and Gabriel’s
SPD is anything less than solid.
The current term still has more than 3 years to run. There is no reason to think that it
won’t last. But, as we move on, my guess is that there will be more discussion about the
future and, perhaps, some softening of the Chancellor’s austerity stand. She’s a great
politician so I’m sure she’s not just sitting on her hands just waiting for things to happen.
We’ll keep you informed.
To read the entire Spiegel on-Line article click here.
See you in July.
DuBow Digest is written and published by Eugene DuBow who can be contacted at
Both the American and Germany editions are posted at www.dubowdigest.typepad.com