AN AMERICAN JEWISH – GERMAN INFORMATION & OPINION
October 26, 2010
In going over all the news from Germany, things seem relatively quiet in the
Federal Republic these days. There are no big elections any time soon and no
major catastrophes descending at the moment. There is a lot of talk about
implementing tougher EU budgetary rules and a study is about to be released
shortly proving that Germany’s Foreign Office was much more involved in the
Holocaust during World War II than previously thought.
The Green Party seems to be gaining strength so that it may become one of the
major parties rather than a political addendum and there have been
demonstrations against the destroying of the old Stuttgart train station and
replacing it with a new underground structure.
However, all that does not seem to be raising the political temperature very much
so I’d have to say things are relatively peaceful. However, that is not to say that
nothing is happening.
So, let’s get on with the news…
IN THIS EDITION
FASCISM RISING – Hungary not Germany – but enough to worry about.
RISE IN XENOPHOBIC SENTIMENT – This time it’s Germany
INTEGRATION – Germany’s leading domestic problem.
A GERMAN MIDDLEMAN – Behind the scenes diplomacy from Germany’s CIA.
THE HITLER EXHIBITION – First time in Germany. Good idea? Bad idea?
ANOTHER EXHIBITION: ANTI-SEMITISM IN EAST GERMANY – Yes! They had
AJC, THE BUNDESWEHR & ISRAEL – The Germany Army visits Israel
I don’t normally write about Hungary. I’ve never been there and know very little
about it. However, when Germany’s leading magazine Der Spiegel publishes a
story entitled, Europe's Capital of Anti-Semitism: Budapest Experiences A New
Wave of Hate it got my attention. It has been pointed out to me that the article
has “mostly impressionistic, lacking even "biased" data”. That may be the case.
Even so, when Der Spiegel gives something 4 pages, it’s worth considering.
According to the story “Budapest survived fascism and communism and
blossomed after the fall of the Iron Curtain. Now the Hungarian capital is
experiencing a rebirth of anti-Semitism. The far-right Jobbik party is part of the
government and Jews are being openly intimidated. (Editor’s Note: Jobbik is part
of the Hungarian parliament but not part of the ruling government).
Neo-fascist thugs attacked Roma families, killing six people in a series of
murders. The right-wing populists of the Fidesz Party won a two-thirds majority in
the parliament, while the anti-Semitic Jobbik party captured 16.7 percent of the
vote, making it the third-largest party in Hungary, next to the Socialists. Unknown
vandals defiled the Holocaust Memorial with bloody pigs' feet. A new law granted
the government direct or indirect control over about 80 percent of the media. The
television channel Echo TV showed an image of Nobel laureate and Auschwitz
survivor Imre Kertész together with a voiceover about rats. Civil servants can
now be fired without cause. Krisztina Morvai, a member of the European
Parliament for Jobbik, suggested that "liberal-Bolshevik Zionists" should start
thinking about "where to flee and where to hide."
” Gábor Vona, the chairman of Jobbik,… shortly before the swearing-in
ceremony, the radical right-wing politician threw off his jacket to reveal a vest
reminiscent of the uniforms of the Arrow Cross Party. Germany's Frankfurter
Allgemeine Zeitung described it as "sort of a Nazi outfit."
”All of this is happening in a country that belongs to the European Union and
”Things won't get that bad -- at least that was what Jewish intellectual Gaspar
Miklos Tamas, 61, used to think. But he changed his mind one day last year,
when a group of men in black uniforms and riding boots appeared outside his
house in downtown Budapest, shouting "Heil Hitler, Professor Tamas, how are
The above are only snippets of a short four part story. You should read the whole
thing. It concludes with, “The country's most famous writer has not lived in
Hungary for years. Imre Kertesz, 80, an Auschwitz survivor and author of
"Fateless," grew up in Budapest. Kertesz now lives in the German capital. "Why?
It's very simple. Because for a Jewish writer, life is better in Berlin than in
I guarantee that a full reading of the story will make your blood run cold. Bad
times bring out the worst in people and some of it is beginning to surface – and
Hungary isn’t the only place. Start worrying – then read it by clicking here.
RISE IN XENOPHOBIC SENTIMENT
Germany is not Hungary but the Federal Republic is also undergoing a rise in
xenophobic attitudes including some dealing with the Jews.
Dear Spiegel recently reported, “A new study has revealed that far-right attitudes
are deeply rooted in German society. One-third of Germans would send
foreigners home if there weren't enough jobs, while one-sixth think Jews have too
"Germany is in serious danger of being overrun by foreigners." It's a sentence
one would expect to find on an election poster for Germany's far-right NPD party.
As it happens, it's a view that is held by over one-third of the German population -
- a new survey has revealed that 35.6 percent of Germans agree with the
Additionally, more than 30 percent think that "foreigners come to take advantage
of the welfare state" and that when jobs are scarce foreigners should be sent
"back to their own country." More than one-tenth would like a "Führer" -- the
survey deliberately used the German word for "leader" that is associated with
Adolf Hitler -- who would govern the country "with a firm hand" for the benefit of
These are some of the findings of a new study on right-wing attitudes that was
presented on Wednesday in Berlin by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, a think
tank linked to the center-left Social Democrats. A quarter of Germans agreed
with statements that included xenophobic content. "We've detected a rise in
decidedly anti-democratic and racist attitudes in 2010," said the researchers,
describing the results of their survey of 2,500 randomly selected people.
Given that socio-economic factors such as satisfaction with the democratic
system or one's personal economic situation are often put forward as possible
explanations for people holding extreme right-wing views, the researchers also
asked respondents about their level of satisfaction with the political system, as
well as about their personal situations.
The answers painted a bleak picture: More than 90 percent of respondents felt it
was useless to become involved in politics and 39.1 percent said they did not feel
"safe and comfortable" in their immediate surroundings.
Nonetheless, over 90 percent of respondents in both the east and west of
Germany believed in the idea of democracy. When they were asked about
democracy as it is anchored in the German constitution, however, the level of
support fell to 73.6 percent. Additionally, only 46.1 percent said they liked the
way that democracy functioned in Germany.
There is, of course, more to the story - none of it good. It is obviously important
for us to understand that Europe in not the United States and that political
thoughts and behaviors across the Atlantic do not develop in the American mold.
That is not to say that we are immune to xenophobia and extremism here. The
anti-Islamic fever that has grown since 9/11 is just the tip of our own iceberg. Let
the economic situation get worse or have the recovery touch only a portion of
Americans and we'll see more of it. The focus of hostility may not be on the Jews
at this moment in history, however, we should always remember (and I believe
this to be true), we’re next!
The major political issue in Germany as I have been reporting revolves around
the integration of mostly Turkish and Arabic residents. Recently the leader of the
CSU, (the Bavarian sister party of Chancellor Merkel’s CDU), Bavarian Minister
President Horst Seehofer said in a speech that the concept of multiculturalism
ahs completely failed. Following that, the chancellor allied herself (sort of) with
Seehofer’s statement by noting (according to The Local) “While warning against
"immigration that weighs down on our social system," Merkel said she wanted to
see the immigration of highly-specialized experts to continue, backing Labour
Minister Ursula von der Leyen.
But Merkel said immigrants had to understand the German legal system and
speak the language. The multicultural approach had failed, she told the meeting
of the youth wing of her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in Potsdam.
Yet she referred to Federal President Christian Wulff’s speech where he said that
Islam was a valid part of Germany, saying, “Those who ignore the fact that 2,500
Imams conduct their worship in mosques are kidding themselves,” she said.
Merkel’s straddling of the immigration and integration topics mirrored splits within
Jewish leaders in Germany meanwhile warned that German society and
democracy were under threat from extremists.
A recent expert study should prompt the government to act against anti-
democratic ideas, the secretary general of the Central Council of Jews in
Germany, Stephan Kramer, told the Rheinpfalz am Sonntag weekly.
Let me try here to explain (to the degree that I can) why this issue is so heated
and what the implications for the Jewish community are. Throughout Europe
there is a strong reaction to the immigration of Islamic people. Much like our own
problems with mosques and what is seen as Islamic terrorism, in Germany the
issue of non-integration into German society is the one that seems most charged
The failure to learn the German language and, in some way, to lean on Islamic
mores and not German law are major sticking points. In addition, many of the
immigrants are poor and wind up on “social benefits” (we call it “welfare”) which
is costly to the society. To make it worse, their children do not rise high
academically and they maintain citizenship and close ties to the mother country.
Many (most?) Germans do not see their country as multicultural. Germans look
next door to France and see the problems the French are having with the Arab
population that has come from northern Africa. The cookie topper is that they
The whole package is very frightening to many Germans and, in this era of
economic problems and social dislocation, reasonable German politicians are
concerned that the extreme right might have found an issue that has resonance
for them with a broader spectrum of the German population. On the other hand,
mainstream people on the right side of the political continuum can (and do) use
the issue for their own political gain.
As far as the German Jewish community is concerned, we shouldn’t forget that
they are mostly immigrants themselves. Many receive social benefits. The
immigration to Germany from the former Soviet Union has slowed appreciably.
There are comparatively few (250,000) Jews in Germany and they are not at all
“visible” and seem to integrate quickly. Given Germany’s sensitivity to Jews I do
not believe there is a problem for them. However, any strong shift toward the
right and away from democracy (which I do not see at the moment) is never good
for Jews. “Eternal vigilance” is part of our DNA so we should always be on guard.
A GERMAN MIDDLEMAN
Those of you who regularly read DuBow Digest know that I’m intrigued by spy
books and undercover stories even though I’d make a lousy spy – I talk too
much. However, there is a real live undercover story you might be interested in.
People who follow Israeli matters know that Hamas kidnapped an Israeli soldier,
Gilad Shalit in 2006. Since that time there have been negotiations between Israel
and Hamas on some sort of a prisoner exchange – unsuccessful thus far. What
(most) people don’t know is that the “middle man” who actually handles these “on
the ground” negotiations is a German by the name of Gerhard Conrad. Conrad is
a member of the BND, the German version of the CIA and has been at this sort
of task for quite a few years. Back in the 1990’s he was empowered by the UN to
handle the Israeli – Hezbollah prisoner swaps.
Back in 2008 Haaretz reported, “Conrad learned Arabic in Damascus as part of
his intelligence training. In fact, he is among the very few Arabic speakers in the
BND. That training destined him to serve in the agency's Middle East
department. Among other missions, he was sent in 1998 to serve, under
diplomatic cover, as the BND's official representative in Damascus, which role
included responsibility for Lebanon. Consequently, he is well informed regarding
developments in both countries, and has met several times with Hezbollah
leaders, including the movement's secretary general, Hassan Nasrallah.
Conrad's wife also works for the BND and the couple worked together in
A German source who knows him well said that Conrad speaks several
languages, knows Hezbollah and the Arab world well, and possesses integrity,
an iron patience and diplomatic and organizational skills - all the qualities that
allowed him not to despair of mediating a deal whose odds appeared impossible.
l think that its significant that Germany is playing this “middle” role. Every country
should be doing something to help warring nations talk to each other and in this
case, the Germans and Mr. Conrad (if that’s his real name) are playing an
important role. Let’s all hope Gilad Shalit comes home soon.
THE HITLER EXHIBITION
The showing of the Nazi flag and pictures of Hitler have been strictly forbidden
for the last 65 years. According to JTA, “Now the German Historical Museum has
dedicated an exhibit to the fascination Hitler held for the “Volk,” the ordinary
It marks the first time a German museum has ventured into such territory, and
the curators say they have taken great care to avoid glorifying the man behind
the Third Reich, which in Germany would not only be distasteful but illegal.
Controversial though it is for some, the exhibit has been welcomed by the Central
Council of Jews in Germany. The council's secretary general, Stephan Kramer,
said he thought the timing was right, given today’s political climate.
“Especially the lower-middle classes are susceptible to wanting to be led,” he
said, and politicians are “instrumentalizing their fears.
”Kramer said the exhibition "is dealing seriously with the issue, and I don't think
there is a danger of any form of glorification."
The exhibit opens only days after a new study by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation
showed that some 10 percent of Germans still wish they had a Fuhrer to tell them
what to do during these hard economic times.
“My idea, my wish, is to explain these historical events so that people know the
dangers which are caused by irrational mass movements,” curator Hans-Ulrich
Thamer told JTA.
The “fascination [with Hitler] was caused by very modern technical methods, with
movies and microphones and so on,” Thamer said. “People at this time thought it
was very modern.”
Though it does not focus extensively on the genocide of the Jews, the exhibit
“shows the persecution of German and European Jewry as one of the results of
the rhetoric and ideology of the ‘Volksgemeinschaft,’ ” – the Nazi concept of a so-
called Aryan racial community, Thamer added. A sign reading "Jews are
unwelcome in our town" is one of the items on display.
I agree with Stephan Kramer. Hitler and Nazism cannot be held under wraps
forever. If there was ever a time for Germans to see how they willingly followed
Hitler and thereby got themselves on the road to disaster and almost total
destruction, the time is now with things being so unsettled in Germany and
elsewhere throughout the world. Unfortunately, when times are tough and
disorder seems to abound, both in Germany and almost everywhere else,
especially in Europe, the move toward a power figure who can “fix” things
emerges. It is a good thing that this exhibit shows what can happen to a society
when that actually happens. I hope the lesson is clear and that many learn it after
a trip to the German Historical Museum.
ANOTHER EXHIBITION: ANTI-SEMITISM IN EAST GERMANY
During my early visits in the early 1980’s to what was East Germany (GDR –
German Democratic Republic) I was frequently told that there was no anti-
Semitism in that communist country. Of course, there were barely any Jews – at
least those that identified themselves as Jewish. Those that were identified were
given what I would call “special treatment”. In the 1980’s the GDR was trying to
make approaches to the U.S. in order to get “Most Favored Nation” tax status.
Frankly, the Jewish community was so small I never even thought about anti-
It now comes out, through the good work of the Amadeu Antonio Foundation has
done that even a country with a miniscule Jewish population there was plenty of
this hateful virus. The Foundation has put together a traveling exhibition on the
subject which (Deutsche Welle) “seeks to explain to visitors how persecution,
some of it state-sponsored, remained a part of life for Jews in the GDR. Currently
showing in the Baltic seaside resort of Prora, on the island of Ruegen, the
exhibition’s name - "We didn't have any of that" - refers to the taboo around the
Through its exhibits, the show demonstrates how anti-Semitic the GDR really
was. There were anti-Jewish trials and communist party purges in the 1950s and
the desecration of Jewish cemeteries. The government openly opposed Israel,
even allowing Palestinian terror groups to train in East Germany.
The information presented in the exhibition was collected by school children who
interviewed local residents. The idea was that asking children to gather
information that would come across as less accusatory and provide the young
people a unique history lesson.
If there is a moral or a lesson (or something) in this story it is that anti-Semitism
(like tuberculosis) lies dormant but never totally disappears. It behooves us to
never forget that.
AJC, THE BUNDESWEHR & ISRAEL
On a brighter note, my colleague Deidre Berger, AJC’s Berlin Director has
initiated a program of bringing high German military officers to Israel for
familiarity visits. In a press release AJC noted, “Germany is a key partner for
Israel and Israel is a strategic ally for Germany,” said Deidre Berger, Director of
AJC’s Berlin Ramer Institute for German-Jewish Relations. “We are delighted to
contribute to deepening understanding of this critical relationship.”
The German delegation is led by General Alois Bach, Director of the Army’s
Center for Leadership in Koblenz, which prepared the trip in close cooperation
with AJC’s Berlin and Jerusalem offices. The Israeli Embassy in Germany,
German Embassy in Israel, and Israel Defense Forces are partners in the
Kudos for Deidre! If there is one way to keep anti-Semitism at the lowest possible
level it is through education. To educate high members of the German armed
forces seems to me to be one of the most worthwhile projects any organization
See you again in November
DuBow Digest is written and published by Eugene DuBow who can be contacted
at firstname.lastname@example.org Both the American and Germany editions are also
posted on line at www.dubowdigest.typepad.com.