AN AMERICAN JEWISH – GERMAN INFORMATION & OPINION NEWSLETTER
May 27, 2014
IN THIS EDITION
THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT (EP) VOTE: A swing to the (extreme) right.
THE AfD: WHAT KIND OF ALTERNATIVE? Extreme?
LISTENING TO PUTIN – Carefully please!
GERMANY & RUSSIA: REDUX – Implications for Jews & Israel?
COST OF REUNIFICATION – E. Germany & “The Old South”. Similarities?
ANTI-SEMITISM STUDY: GERMANY – The ADL Study. What it says.
THE SINS OF THE GRANDFATHER – How about the grandson?
ENVY & HOLOCAUST – Was this the real cause?
While the warm and beautiful weather has finally come to the Lower Hudson Valley,
enough in the way of awful news has put a damper on what should be a wonderful and
invigorating time. The murders at the Jewish Museum in Brussels and the attack on
Jews outside the synagogue in Paris were enough to bring about a psychological black
cloud. In addition, the swing to the extreme right in the European Parliament voting only
poured gasoline of the fire of depression at this troubling time.
However, on the good side of the ledger I had a great time at AJC’s impressive Global
Forum in Washington a couple of weeks ago. It was a tour de force with 2,000 people in
attendance and impressive presentations by many speakers including Hillary Clinton.
Since there is a lot to report, enough from me, let’s get on with the news…
THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT (EP) VOTE
What pray tell is the European Parliament? If you know (really know) you’re more
informed than almost everybody else in the U.S. or the rest of the world including many
in Europe itself. Why am I asking? Well, they’re just had an election incorporating a lot
of new members – including, of course, Germans and it didn’t turn out all that well.
Before going further, let’s try and understand what the EP is. According to Wikipedia,
“The European Parliament (abbreviated as EU Parliament or the EP) is the directly
elected parliamentary institution of the European Union (EU). Together with the Council
of the European Union (the Council) and the European Commission, it exercises the
legislative function of the EU and it has been described (by its own members) as one of
the most powerful legislatures in the world. The Parliament is composed of 766
members, who represent the second largest democratic electorate in the world (after
the Parliament of India) and the largest trans-national democratic electorate in the world
(375 million eligible voters in 2009).
It has been directly elected every five years by universal suffrage since 1979.”
If you want more details click here. http://www.dw.de/eu-election-will-reshuffle-reduce-
By any test the European Parliament is important. Now down to the election itself.
Throughout much of Europe there was a very troubling swing to the right, much of it
extreme, in the voting. It is best explained in an Atlantic Institute press release. It
reported, “The AJC Transatlantic Institute expressed its great concern over the success
of extremist parties in a number of member states in the European Parliament elections.
While the center-right European People’s Party projected to finish first with 214 seats,
followed by the center-left Socialists & Democrats with 189 seats, several parties that
promote hatred had strong support.
Jobbik became the second biggest Hungarian party in the European Parliament with
14.3% (4 seats). Despite being under criminal investigations and with several party
leaders in prison, Golden Dawn entered the European Parliament for the first time,
coming in third place in Greece with about 9% of the vote (projected 3 seats). In France,
the far-right National Front became the strongest party with 25% (projected 25 seats)
and the far-right FPÖ in Austria came in a notable third with 20.5% (4 seats).
“The extent to which these parties will be able to unite to influence European policy
remains to be seen,” said Daniel Schwammenthal, Director of the AJC Transatlantic
Institute. “Nevertheless, their mere presence in the legislature for the next five years
will, at a minimum, provide a soapbox from which to propagate their vile hatred.”
Golden Dawn and Jobbik are openly racist, blaming the economic ills of their countries
on minorities like Jews, Roma or immigrants. Their anti-Semitism also often spills into
vicious attacks against the state of Israel.
“These radical parties have been able to grow in their respective home countries for
quite some time and are now cementing their presence also at the European level,” said
Schwammenthal. “They must be confronted head-on or the danger will only continue to
Jobbik’s European success follows an even stronger showing in April’s national
election, where it received 20% of the vote (up from 16% in the previous poll) and 23 of
the 199 seats in the Hungarian parliament, making it the third largest party. Other
parties, like France’s National Front and the FPÖ in Austria, are hoping to use the
momentum from the European elections to increase their presence on the national
“MEPs from the shrinking pool of mainstream parties in the coming legislature will face
the challenge of standing up firmly to any statements of hatred in the European
Parliament,” said Schwammenthal. “Some European leaders, like Greek Prime Minister
Antonis Samaras, have already taken courageous stances, but only a strong, unified
voice against hatred can truly stem this dangerous tide.”
In Germany the results were not as bad. DW reported, “Chancellor Angela Merkel's
conservatives won the EU elections in Germany with final results putting them at 35.3
percent. But other parties had reason to jubilate - such as the euroskeptic AfD
[Alternative for Germany].
For the first time, Germany's contingent of 96 European Parliament deputies will include
euroskeptics: The Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) was estimated to have won six of
the 96 German seats, as they won 7 percent of the vote.
Party leader Bernd Lucke was triumphant: "This is springtime in Germany," he said.
The AfD campaigned on a platform which included demands to expel weak southern
European economies from the eurozone, end bailouts and return central powers from
Brussels to the national level. It is "necessary to correct Europe," Lucke said Sunday.
"It is important for the electorate in Germany that there is such a party that will review
critically the results of policies which have been implemented in the past," Lucke told
DW in an interview.
The AfD has ruled out working with extreme right groups such as those in France and
The Netherlands or the euro-skeptic UKIP in Great Britain. Lucke and his party will most
likely seek allies within the conservatives and reformists in Europe.
The second-largest share of the German vote went to Merkel's Social Democrat (SPD)
coalition partners, who won 27.3 percent of the vote, gaining seven percent on their
The SPD's top candidate, Martin Schulz, who is currently the president of the European
Parliament, is still hoping to get enough support in parliament to become head of the
European Commission in Brussels, succeeding Jose Manuel Barroso.
Voter turnout in Germany was high, rising by 5 percentage points to 48 percent in
comparison to 2009.
Merkel's bloc won 35.3 percent of votes, significantly lower than its general election
result of 41.5 percent last year and it's worst-ever result in an EU poll.
The losses were largely confined to Bavaria, where the CDU's 'sister party', the
Christian Social Union CSU won only 40 percent of the vote - a record low.
Germany's two largest opposition parties, the center-left Greens and Left Party, won 11
and 8 percent of votes respectively.
Parliamentary thresholds were abolished by a court in February, which meant that fringe
parties have won seats, including the far-right, anti-foreigner National Democratic Party,
The NPD? Yes! That’s the neo-Nazi party. While they will have only one seat it is
dangerous enough that they’re on the inside. It’s something to worry about.
THE AfD: WHAT KIND OF ALTERNATIVE?
Last year following the German national election I wrote about a new political party,
Alternative for Germany (AfD) which barely missed getting the needed 5% of the vote in
order to win seats in the Bundestag. At that time it was described as very conservative
with its main focus being against the Euro currency.
With the EU Parliament election just having taken place, AfD did better this time and
O.K.! So they’re an alternative but what kind? Spiegel On-Line recently ran an article
about Bernd Lucke, a Hamburg economics professor who founded the party only a little
more than a year ago. In it, it stated, “One thing that is clear is that Lucke doesn't want
the euro -- at least not the common currency as it exists at the moment. He also wants
highly indebted Southern European countries to leave the common currency zone and
rejects the mechanisms in place for bailing out the euro. He is striving for a different
Europe -- or at least a different EU.
He has also launched a master plan, a draft for a future society that evokes a lot of
suspicion about just how far to the right Lucke and his party really are.
Although Lucke only founded the AFD one year ago, it has already attracted 18,000
members, with the party hovering between five and seven percentage points in public
opinion polls. Many people were surprised that a party politically to the right of
Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats could establish itself so quickly in
It is one of several parties using the idea of Europe to mobilize nationalist sentiment.
The UKIP of Britain's Nigel Farage, the Vrijheid of Holland's Geert Wilders and the
National Front of Marine Le Pen are all harnessing feelings of threat and loss in order to
attract voters to their movements. There is considerable speculation about the extent to
which Lucke's party is similar to those others.
To be honest, AfD has tried to stay away from being seen as an extremist party. It
cannot be identified as anti-Semitic. However, one of my informants noted, “This is the
first time that a German right-wing party has scored so well in European
elections. They are not - yet - comparable with the Austrian Freedom Party or the Front
National, as they have focused more on economic issues and seem nationalist but not
racist. However, there have been some adherents on the margins who have made anti-
The problem here is that extreme right parties always seem to become the resting
places for active anti-Semites. We will have to see what sort of a leader Prof. Lucke is.
Will he reject those kinds of people or will he try to have them blend in? We’ll try to keep
an eye on it for you.
LISTENING TO PUTIN
I recently came across an article wherein the Chief Rabbi of Russia (a Chabad rabbi)
talked about Pres. Putin being a great friend of the Jews. Maybe he is – but anybody
who says what he says and acts as he does raises a lot of questions in my mind. I read
somewhere that Putin’s program is “Fascism without anti-Semitism”. I’m no political
scientist but I wonder if that is possible. Fascism always contains extreme nationalism
and populism and, somehow, anti-Semitism usually pops up as a force when countries
go down that road.
Of course, Germany is close to Russia geographically and economically so it is not
surprising that the German media is loaded with pieces about Putin and Russia’s future.
Recently Jan Fleischhauer, a noted German conservative columnist writing in Spiegel
On-Line opined, “Some like to idealize Vladimir Putin as the ideological successor to the
left-wing Soviet leaders, but that's sheer nonsense. His speeches offer clear evidence
that his points of reference originate in fascism.
In order to understand Vladimir Putin, you have to listen to him. You have to read what
he wants. More importantly, though, you have to see what it is that he is seeking to
prevent. Often, a politician's fears and aversions can be more telling than his or her
plans and promises.
So what is it that drives Putin? The central theme of all his speeches is the fear of
encirclement -- the threat represented by powers that want to keep the Russian people
down because they fear its inner strength. "They are constantly trying to sweep us into a
corner because we have an independent position, because we maintain it and because
we call things like they are and do not engage in hypocrisy," he said in a March 18
speech before the Duma. In a television interview in April, he said: "There are enough
forces in the world that are afraid of our strength, 'our hugeness,' as one of our
sovereigns said. So they seek to divide us into parts."
There remains a tendency to view the Kremlin's foreign policy primarily from a
geopolitical perspective -- namely that the country is seeking to recover some of the
territory it lost when the Soviet Union dissolved. But when Putin speaks of the enemy of
the Russian people, he is speaking about something deeper and more basic. The forces
against which he has declared war are not only seeking to expand their influence further
and further into the East -- they are also going after the Russian soul. That's what he
means when he says that Russia must put up a fight against the West.
But what's at the heart of this soul? Putin has provided some insights here as well. "It
seems to me that the Russian person or, on a broader scale, a person of the Russian
world, primarily thinks about his or her highest moral designation, some highest moral
truths," he said in the interview. In contrast to this is a West that is fixated on personal
success and prosperity or, as Putin states, the "inner self." In the view of its president,
the battle Russia is waging is ideological in nature. It is a fight against the superficiality
of materialism, against the decline in values, against the feminization and effeminacy of
society -- and against the dissolution of all traditional bonds that are part of that
development. In short, against everything "un-Russian."
Even today, many are having trouble recognizing the true nature of a man who is
currently in the process of turning the European peace order on its head. Perhaps we
don't have the courage to make the right comparisons because they remind us of an era
that we thought we had put behind us. Within Germany's Left Party and parts of the
center-left Social Democrats, Putin is still viewed as a man molded in the tradition of the
Soviet party leader, who stood for an idealized version of Socialism. The old knee-jerk
sense of solidarity is still there. It is based on a misunderstanding, though, because
Putin isn't post-communist. He's post-fascist.
When they were first introduced one year ago, people also failed to recognize the true
meaning of Russia's new anti-gay laws. But today it is clear that it marked the
emergence of the new Russia. What began with an anti-gay law is now continuing at
another level: The logical progression of the belief that certain groups are inferior is the
belief in the superiority of one's own people.
And when Putin evokes the myth of Moscow as a "Third Rome," it is clear he is
assigning the Russian people with an historic mission. Responsibility is falling to Russia
not only to stop Western decadence at its borders, but also to provide a last bastion for
those who had already given up hope in this struggle. But he is also saying that Russia
can never yield.
"Death is horrible, isn't it?" Putin asked viewers at the end of his television appearance.
"But no, it appears it may be beautiful if it serves the people: Death for one's friends,
one's people or for the homeland, to use the modern word." That's as fascist as it gets.
Perhaps Mr. Fleischhauer is extrapolating a bit too much from some of Pres. Putin’s
statements – but maybe he’s not. It’s obviously important to understand Putin so that
the West’s counter programs can effectively deal with him. I think it behooves the
Jewish community to do the same. There are at least 190,000 Jews in Russia today –
perhaps even many more. Getting political movements started (like wars) are easy as
compared as to where they might lead. If things should turn for the worse, I don’t think
the EU, or even Germany, will be able to help much. Vigilance and a watchful eye are
what are needed at the moment.
GERMANY & RUSSIA: REDUX
In last month’s newsletter I included a NY Times article about Germany & the Jews by
Clemens Wergin who is the foreign editor for the German newspaper group, Welt,
including Die Welt, Welt am Sonntag, Berliner Morgenpost and Hamburger Abendblatt.
In addition to overseeing the newspapers’ foreign policy coverage, he writes the foreign
policy blog Flatworld.
Now writing regularly for the NY Times, he has written an important piece on Russia
and Germany entitled “Why Germans Love Russia”. In it he notes, “…Russia’s actions
were not the only surprise. If you have followed the German debate about the Ukraine
crisis, you have witnessed another strange phenomenon: a parade of former politicians
and public figures going on TV to make the case for Russia.
You thought that Germans were the champions of international law and a rules-based
world order? Think again.
There is a blatant hypocrisy here. At times the same people who had relied on
international law to attack the American invasion of Iraq are now, as newborn realists,
excusing Russia’s need to infringe on the sovereignty of other nations.
Some of this pro-Moscow sentiment is the work of Russia-sponsored propaganda: A
recent investigative report by the newspaper Welt am Sonntag revealed how a shady
network of Russia supporters has shaped public discourse in Germany. Even dialogue
forums with Russia, co-sponsored by the German government, are full of friends of Mr.
Putin, even on the German side.
But there is also a disturbing undercurrent among ordinary Germans that harks back to
old and unfortunate German traditions. We have come to think of Germany as a
Western European country, but that is largely a product of Cold War alliances. Before
then it occupied a precarious middle between east and west.
Twenty-five years after the end of the Cold War, German society may well be drifting
away from the West again. In a poll last month by Infratest/dimap, 49 percent of
Germans said they wanted their country to take a middle position between the West and
Russia in the Ukraine crisis, and only 45 percent wanted to be firmly in the Western
This anti-Westernism is coming from both sides of the political spectrum. There is the
part of the left that is instinctively anti-American and takes the side of whatever
international actor happens to challenge the status quo and the leading Western power.
Then there is Europe’s populist right, which agrees with Russia’s propaganda that
Europe has become too gay, too tolerant, too permissive in its morals and too un-
Christian, and which welcomes an authoritarian leader challenging Europe’s fuzzy
Both versions of anti-Westernism have been around for decades; until now, though,
they have been confined to the political fringes. These days they are accepted by parts
of the elite and sections of the political center. That, combined with the enormous
investment by German companies in Russia, is placing constraints on how aggressively
the government of Angela Merkel, Germany’s strongly pro-Western chancellor, can act
For anyone who has grappled with Germany’s Nazi past, it should have been easy to
call right from wrong in this case, instead of finding excuses for Russia’s actions. It’s a
test that too many of my compatriots have failed.
To be fair, in a recent poll 60 percent of Germans said that their country should stand
with the West in the Ukraine crisis. So Russia’s ongoing aggression is having some
effect on public opinion. But that still means that nearly half of all Germans do not feel a
deep connection with the West and its values — which is precisely what Mr. Putin
There is a bit more to the article but I think the above gives you enough of an idea about
Mr. Wergin’s thinking. Troubling to be sure.
Israel and Jews are not mentioned by Mr. Wergin but the security of both is intimately
invested in a Western-oriented Germany. The implications for a Germany leaning
toward neutrality and, worse, Russia, are dire indeed. Thus far the present government
and especially the Chancellor can be counted on, however, if German politics drift
toward the East all bets are off.
To read the entire Wergin article click here.
COST OF REUNIFICATION
It’s been 25 years since the Berlin Wall came down and slightly less than that since the
two Germanys were reunited into the Federal Republic of Germany.
I have often wondered how much the folks in the former West Germany had to pony up
in terms of taxes, etc. in order to bring their poor relatives into a united Germany. I’ve
thought about it and guessed – billions! I was way off.
A recent article in The Local.de fixed the cost at Two Trillion Euros. Since the Euro is
valued at about 1.3 dollars to the Euro – well, you figure it out.
In a study commissioned by the Welt am Sonntag, economists at the Berlin-based
research association SED-Staat added up all transfers to East German states and
individuals since reunification to come up with the astronomical figure.
The difference between the social benefits collected by East Germans and their tax
contributions made up the bulk of the price tag at about 60-65 percent of the total, the
East German states spent about €1.5 trillion more than they would have earned
independently, according to the study.
Another €560 billion went straight to East German states and municipalities in the form
of direct transfers, such as the German Unity Fund, the Solitary Pacts and the State
Financial Equalization system.
Bild newspaper argued on Monday the €2 trillion spent was “worth every cent”.
And criticism of the study came from the state premier of East German state Saxony-
Instead of recognizing and valuing this as a great feat of solidarity that we have
accomplished in Germany, the discussion is being reduced to a one-sided transfer
balance sheet," Reiner Haseloff (CDU), told the Mitteldeutschen Zeitung.
But even after 25 years of support, the economic strength of East Germany remains far
short of the West.
The Gross Domestic Product per capita (GDP) of East German states remains stuck at
two thirds the rate of the West, according to national statistics office Destatis.
And many experts do not expect this situation to change in the near future.
"We're going to have to face up to a future of greater economic differences within
Deutschland," Karl-Heinz Paqué, economist and former Finance Minister of Saxony-
Anhalt, told the Welt am Sonntag.
Nonetheless, the transfers have allowed poorer states to maintain balanced budgets,
invest in infrastructure and assure a higher standard of living to their populations.
I have a couple of thoughts about reunification. First of all we Americans should
understand the difficulties of “coming back together”. We went through that 149 years
ago and, God only knows, how much that cost us in terms of dollars over the last
century and a half. Even to this day, wealth-wise, the Old South has remained relatively
poor when compared to the Northern States.
I don’t think I’m out of line when I say that the States of the Old South have remained
politically more conservative than those in the North. The same thing has happened in
the former East Germany (DDR). It is there that the neo-Nazi NPD party gets most of its
votes and has elected a couple of state representatives into the state legislature.
If the U.S. is any example it will take many generations for those living in the former
DDR to be brought up to the economic level of their relatives in the West. However,
while they’ve turned out a pretty good political leader in Chancellor Merkel so I’m not
complaining. However, it’s troubling to think that “The Old East’s Gonna Rise Again”.
ANTI-SEMITISM STUDY: GERMANY
A few weeks ago the ADL (Anti-Defamation League) released the results of a massive
world-wide study of anti-Semitic attitudes.
In reporting on it The Local.de noted, “Based on a worldwide survey of 53,100 adults
across 101 countries, a global average of 26 percent of people can be classed as anti-
Semitic, the Anti-Defamation League said.
ADL researchers classed respondents as anti-Semitic if they answered 'probably true' to
six out of 11 statements classed as "anti-Semitic stereotypes" in their questionnaire.
The most common anti-Semitic belief was "Jews are more loyal to Israel than to [this
country/the countries they live in]", which was seen as 'probably true' by 41 percent of
respondents worldwide and 45 percent in Western Europe.
"For the first time we have a real sense of how pervasive and persistent anti-Semitism is
today around the world,” said Abraham Foxman, the national director of the US-based
In the Middle East and North Africa, the proportion of those deemed anti-Semitic was 74
percent, whereas the Europe-wide average dropped to 24 percent.
Within Europe, the highest number of anti-Semites were recorded in Greece, with 69
percent of adults agreeing with six or more of 11 sentiments in the survey. France
received Western Europe's worst result, with 37 percent of surveyed adults agreeing.
Germany, where one percent of the population is Jewish, came in the middle of
European countries, with 27 percent of those surveyed deemed anti-Semitic.
The German result was high when compared with other northern Europeans such as
Netherlands (five percent), Denmark (nine percent), Sweden (four percent), the United
Kingdom (eight percent) and Norway (15 percent).
The fact that the percentage of Germans who hold anti-Semitic attitudes is high does
not come as a surprise nor is it new news. For instance only a month or so ago Quartz
(a news blog) reported, “A recent National Bureau of Economic Research working paper
finds, sadly, faint echoes of anti-Semitic attitudes can still be found in Germany,
especially in states where the Nazi party fared well in the elections of May 1928. (The
party, which ran on an outright platform of anti-Semitism only garnered a sliver of the
This suggests that anti-Semitic sentiments continued to exist in local areas for
centuries. We use this idea and include in some of our specifications a measure of local
support of the Nazi Party in 1928. We find that people who reside in states that have
provided above-median support for the Nazi Party in 1928 are more anti-Semitic today
in comparison to those who live elsewhere. This provides evidence that local cultural
traits in terms of anti-Semitism persisted over the last 80 years.
Last year “AJC called a new study of anti-Semitism in Europe, showing a 30 percent
spike in incidents, a wake-up call that should lead governments and civic organizations
to step up efforts to address this growing danger.”
“The Tel Aviv University report confirms our own fears, based on regular contact with
Jewish communities across Europe,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “Anti-
Semitism not only threatens Jews, but the very fabric of democratic societies in which
they live. There must be recognition of the extent of the growing threat, and a
commensurate commitment to confront this age-old scourge.”
In no way meant to denigrate the ADL Study which is amazing in its scope, at least in
Germany, the fact that there is a high level of anti-Semitism does not come as a shock.
It led my colleague Deidre Berger to set up the European Forum on Anti-Semitism.
There are many efforts on many fronts to counteract this pernicious virus. From my
perspective the most important goal is to keep it out of government public policy and to
counter allowing it to color German – Israeli relations.
If you want to know more about the ADL Study I’d advise you simply to “Google” “ADL
Anti-Semitism Study”. There is much to read.
THE SINS OF THE GRANDFATHER
Ezekiel 18 states, “The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the
wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.”, and I’ll add –on no one else. That’ s
the way it should be especially when one considers the life and actions of Rainer
Who is he? Well, unfortunately for him, he is the grandson of Rudolf Hoess, the
Commandant of Auschwitz and the murderer of more than a million Jews. Y-Net News
recently reported, “Rainer Hess [Ed. Note: Hess & Hoess are the same] didn’t learn
about the extent of his grandfather's involvement in the Holocaust until the age of 12,
when one of his teachers told him the grim truth. Rudolf Hess had been the commander
of Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland, responsible for the deaths of more than one
million men, women and children.
"I knew nothing of Auschwitz, I knew nothing of my family, I only knew that my
grandfather had participated in the war like thousands of others," Hess told the AFP
during a recent trip to Stockholm, the Swedish capital.
Now 48 years old, Hess is at the head of a campaign fighting the rise of far-right, neo-
Nazi parties in European elections…
Run by the Social Democratic Youth of Sweden (SSU) the campaign is named, "Never
forget. To vote." The SSU runs the campaign on the belief that the best way to stop the
spread of far-right extremism across the continent is by speaking through the ballot box.
Rudolf Hess was the longest serving commander of Auschwitz, where he tried various
methods to accelerate Hitler's "Final Solution" before settling of the pesticide Zyklon B,
thereby allowing soldiers at Auschwitz to murder 2,000 people every hour.
Rainer Hess, wearing a Star of David pendant, has spent the last four years educating
students about the dangers of racism and anti-Semitism in Germany and elsewhere.
"The extreme right is not stupid," he said. "It increases its ranks, gaining ground slowly
but very effectively. I am very aggressive towards them. Whenever I can act against
them, I do."
His research has led him to meeting many Holocaust survivors, and he has also
participated in a documentary in Israel. "It was a little tricky as the grandson of a mass
murderer of Jews going there," he said.
When he met with a group of Jewish students, he was asked what he would do if he
had met his grandfather. Today Hess says that his reply was slightly "too impulsive" but
responded at the time, "I would have killed him."
I’ve included this story because in many ways the life of Rainer Hoess has been played
out by many Germans who at one time or another found out that their fathers or
grandfathers were involved in the Holocaust. Most, I’m sure, tried to put it behind them
and made all the necessary rationalizations so they could go with their own lives at least
partially unencumbered by the kind of guilt associated with that sort of knowledge. On
the other hand I have met many people in Germany who have dedicated themselves to
live their lives in a way to make up for the sins of their fathers - and their grandfathers.
How about an organization dedicated to reconciliation? If you have never heard of
Action Reconciliation you should click on this link. I think you will find it moving
Incidentally, AJC has had many AR volunteers work in its various offices. Great young
BTW, after WW II the original Hoess tried to escape but was caught by a German Jew
who had emigrated and become a member of the British Army. You can read the story
by clicking here. http://www.haaretz.com/news/features/.premium-1.579666
ENVY & HOLOCAUST
A frequent question one hears when discussing the Jews, the Holocaust and the
Germans is “Why the Germans?” What particularly brought this highly educated and
cultured nation to have it in for the Jews to the degree that they did?
More often than not, the Depression and/or religious anti-Semitism are the answers one
receives. But, as we know, other countries were in the same boat as Germany after
World War I and, while they might not have been in love with their Jewish populations
they didn’t try to totally destroy them.
Of course, there are no provable answers to the question – only theories, some
interesting, some not. However, not many novel or new ones – until now. A non-Jewish
German historian and journalist, Gotz Aly, according to Malcolm Forbes writing in The
Forward, comes up with one. Forbes notes, “Early in his penetrating and provocative
study of the roots of German anti-Semitism, “Why the Germans? Why the Jews?: Envy,
Race Hatred, and the Prehistory of the Holocaust,” Götz Aly quotes Julius Fröbel, a
delegate during the 1848 National Assembly in Frankfurt, a gathering whose efforts to
establish a German nation state ended in stalemate: “The German is always at pains to
emphasize how German he is,” Fröbel grumbles, his words foreshadowing Abish’s title.
“The German spirit, so to speak, always stands in front of a mirror admiring himself, and
even if it has looked itself over a hundred times and become convinced of its perfection,
it still harbors a secret doubt, which is the hidden core of vanity.”
Aly — an acclaimed German historian and winner of the National Jewish Book Award —
uses Fröbel’s words to buffer his claim that this swaggering confidence plagued by self-
perceived inferiority is a German characteristic, and further, that, insecurity is a source
of envy. Aly traces the prehistory of the Holocaust, from the 1800s to the Nazis’
assumption of power, and persuasively argues that German anti-Semitism stemmed not
from religious hatred or racist ideology, but instead from “the least desirable of the
seven deadly sins: Envy.”
Aly begins his quest for answers with the first seeds of Jewish emancipation from the
ghettos in 1806. Having finally been granted economic liberty and civil rights, Jews
began to seize entrepreneurial initiatives, identify with industrialization and prosper in
the fields of science. Aly focuses on the Jewish community’s progress in education,
noting that Jewish educational institutions were better equipped than German public
schools and placed a stronger emphasis on learning. Consequently, Jewish children
possessed the hunger and aptitude to learn, both of which translated into successful
results: Compared to their Christian peers, Jewish pupils were eight times more likely to
earn a better class of secondary-school qualification. Armed with such statistics, Aly
routinely contrasts the Jewish and Christian communities of the time, even noting at one
point that Jews were healthier than Christians during this era and enjoyed longer lives.
Eventually, though, Aly turns the discussion toward the burgeoning resentment among
German Christians who felt that their place in society was being usurped by canny
Jewish parvenus. The struggle against Napoleonic occupation engendered weakness
and self-doubt but also pent-up aggression and xenophobia. One year after Napoleon’s
defeat, anti-Jewish prejudices became as extreme as anti-French feeling in
revolutionary nationalist circles. Aly impresses here by toppling certain revered German
heroes from their plinths. Ernst Moritz Arndt, honored as a vanguard proponent of
German national unity by generations of democrats, saw Jews as “vagabond,
opportunist, treacherous, criminal” and warned that this “foreign plague and excretion”
threatened the purity of German lineage. The composer of the German national anthem,
Joseph Haydn, churned out anti-Semitic poetry. Karl Marx’s dissertation supervisor,
Jakob Friedrich Fries, demanded Jewish assimilation into the Christian majority.
Forbes concludes by saying, ““Anyone who proposes that the German anti-Semitism
that resulted in the mass murder of six million people was the result of anti-Semitism in
general,” Aly opines, “is merely painting a picture of the devil without accounting for the
forces that conjured him and gave him such massive power.” Aly recaps these “forces”
at the end of his book before reminding us of his crux and clincher: “The mortal sin of
envy… is what made the systematic mass murder of European Jews possible.” Rather
than learn from Cain’s folly, we have repeated and magnified it.
Once again I want to point out that Aly’s theory is just that – a theory. However, it makes
as much sense to me as anything else I have read on the subject. It’s certainly
something to think about.
See you again June.
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