AN AMERICAN JEWISH – GERMAN INFORMATION & OPINION
October 28, 2013
IN THIS EDITION
THE NEW BUNDESTAG – Who is in and who is out.
THE WEAK OPPOSITION – The Greens and the The Left
BLACKS IN BUNDESTAG – Yes! There are two.
THE DIFFERENCE IN ELECTIONS – Germany vs. USA
GERMANY & ISRAEL: ANY CHANGES? - Not many.
ALTERNATIVE FOR GERMANY: A NEW PARTY – Important? Maybe!
NEO-NAZIS: INTERNATIONAL – Growing like a cancer.
JEWISH BERLIN: A WASHINGTON COMPETITOR – for dysfunction
SYNAGOGUES ATTACKED – 82 in five years
I could fill an entire newsletter with what is being written about the “spying on Merkel”
calamity. Germany, it’s Chancellor and just about everyone in Germany is “mad as hell”
about the US’s NSA telephone intercepts. The French and the Brazilians aren’t happy
Merkel called Obama directly to bitterly complain. Roger Cohen in The New York Times
opined, ―Merkel is measured. For her to lift the phone and go public with her criticism
leaves no doubt she is livid. As she said last July, ―Not everything which is technically
doable should be done.‖ This, on the now ample evidence provided by the former
National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, is not the view of the N.S.A.,
whose dragnet eavesdropping has prompted fury from Paris to Brasília.
Obama, in his cool detachment, is not big on diplomacy through personal relations, but
Merkel is as close to a trusted friend as he has in Europe. To infuriate her, and touch
the most sensitive nerve of Stasi-marked Germans, amounts to sloppy bungling that
hurts American soft power in lasting ways.
O.K. what happened was bad. However, it will eventually blow over. Our government
might have to apologize more profusely and sign some sort of a “no-spy” agreement but
Germany and the U.S. need each other in too many ways to let the thing get out of
hand. Need almost always trumps emotion. Granted! It’s a mess. Messes get cleaned
up and before you can say, “Handyüberwachung” (cell phone spying) we’ll be on to
some other problem.
In the meantime, perhaps more important even to us, Germany is on the cusp of having
a new government so let’s get on with the news…
THE NEW BUNDESTAG
With the German election over, the victorious CDU/CSU Parties got 42% of the vote but
ending up 5 seats short of a majority so a coalition is necessary.
Chancellor Merkel’s CDU/CSU Parties did win 311 seats, the SPD (Social Democrats)
got 146, the Left Party (Die Linke) 64 and the Greens 63. The FDP (Free Democrats)
won only 4.8% of the vote and, therefore did not make it over the need 5% hurdle and
so they did not get any seats.
The CDU/CSU could have coalesced with Greens but they were too far to the left on
some issues so that didn’t work. The Left Party is even further to the left so the process
of putting together a “grand coalition” with the other large party, the SPD, is now
DW reported, ―Wednesday's [Oct. 16th] 88-minute meeting in Berlin was only the first
step in what is likely to be a long and laborious process to iron out major differences
before forming a new "grand coalition" government in Germany.
The mood was upbeat following the gathering, which involved 75 leading figures from
Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU), its Bavarian sister party the Christian
Social Union (CSU) under Horst Seehofer, and the Social Democrats (SPD) led by
"It was a good start," Hermann Gröhe, the CDU general secretary said following the
talks, adding that there was a perceptible will on the part of all parties to bring the
negotiations to a successful conclusion.
CSU general secretary Alexander Dobrindt saw tangible signs of this good will in the
fact that participants "hugged each other at first and that was very helpful."
His counterpart from the SPD, Andrea Nahles, struck a more sober note, saying that
there was "much to do, and we now have to tackle that together."
Officials said Wednesday's talks were focused on the labor market and Germany's
public finances. The next round of talks, scheduled to take place on October 30, is to
concentrate on European affairs.
Before then, 12 working groups and four subgroups set up by the parties will endeavor
to establish more common ground.
The negotiations could theoretically last until December 17, when the German
parliament, or Bundestag, is due to formally elect Merkel as chancellor of a new ruling
The issues to be decided on are largely domestic. Taxes and the possibility of a
minimum wage are among the most important. Until they can agree the current
government remains in office including Foreign Minister Westerwelle whose party will
not even be in the Bundestag once the new government is formed.
The thing that impressed me the most was the willingness to come to workable
arrangements somewhere down the line so that a government can be in place to govern
the country. No talk of a government shutdown. Maybe we should try a parliamentary
system instead of the warlike one we have.
Apparently the dividing up of the ministries and the appointment of Ministers will be
taken care of after all the issue matters are decided. Of course, the most important for
the purposes of this newsletter is- Who becomes the Foreign Minister? Normally the
winning party takes the Chancellor’s role and the junior partner is awarded the Foreign
Minister’s position. I am concerned that, in this case, the SPD Chairman, Sigmar
Gabriel might become the Foreign Minister.
Why am I concerned? Last year The Times of Israel and many other media outlets
reported, ―The chairman of Germany’s main opposition party has accused Israel of
running an ―apartheid regime‖ in Hebron.
―I was just in Hebron. There’s a legal vacuum there for Palestinians. This is an apartheid
regime, for which there is no justification,‖ Sigmar Gabriel – who has a good chance of
becoming Germany’s next chancellor – posted on his Facebook wall. The post quickly
drew hundreds of responses, mostly from pro-Israel surfers, some of whom threatened
to cancel their memberships in the SPD, the party that Gabriel leads.
Gabriel then clarified his remarks in two follow-up posts, saying that he didn’t mean to
compare Israel with South Africa’s apartheid regime but that he is ―immensely angry‖
about how Palestinians are treated in Hebron.
―I think [Israel's] current settlement policy is wrong and I consider the conditions [in
There is no guarantee that the SPD will want or get the Foreign Ministry. They may
want some other. Even if they do get their person into the Foreign Minister’s position,
they might opt for someone other than Gabriel. We’ll have to wait and see what
THE WEAK OPPOSITION
With a “grand coalition” on the horizon for the German government, what about “the
minority” or, as it’s known in the UK, “the loyal opposition”? With the two major party
groups, the CDU/CSU and the SPD in the majority, who’s left, who will speak for them
and how powerful will they be?
DW/DE notes, ―An elephant sits across from a tiny mouse. At least that's the sort of
metaphor being used to describe the yawning gap in power between the likely coalition
government and its miniscule opposition.
Of 631 seats in the Bundestag, Germany's lower house of parliament, no less than 504
would be taken by a potential "grand coalition" between Chancellor Angela Merkel's
union of Christian Democrats, its Bavarian sister party of Christian Socialists, and the
Social Democratic Party.
That leaves just 127 seats for the likely opposition candidates, The Left and the Greens.
Prior to September elections, opposition parties accounted for more than twice as many
seats in German parliament; at that time, the Social Democratic Party (SPD) was still
among them. Having likely lost the SPD heavyweight from its bench, opposition forces
are now left with few options for participating in - as well as critiquing - the work of the
Opposition parties in Germany normally have an extensive toolbox for procedurally
reigning in the governing parties: They can lodge official inquiries that the government
must answer in full; they can assemble attention-grabbing investigatory committees to
uncover behind-the-scenes wheeling and dealing in government ministries; and they
can call on Germany's highest court to judge the constitutionality of proposed
But in the plenary hall of the Bundestag, opposition voices will now be muffled. Since
microphone time in the chamber is apportioned on relative political fraction strength,
opposition speaking privileges will be curtailed. In a one-hour debate, for example, the
opposition would have just 12 minutes to voice their concerns.
"The Greens and The Left will no longer be able to propose a committee of inquiry, nor
to file a motion of no-confidence in the government," said political scientist Stephan
Bröchler at the University of Giessen.
The right to invoke such proceedings is only afforded to opposition factions holding 25
percent or more of the Bundestag's seats, according to Article 44 of Germany's Basic
Law as well as parliamentary rules. The Left and the Green Party together account for
"If it stays that way," Bröchler told DW, "there's the danger it'll do damage to
As far as the Speaker for the Opposition is concerned, because The Left Party outpolled the Greens by one seat, it appears that Gregor Gysi will have that post.
According to another DW/DE story, ―The 65-year-old politician even manages to appear
nearly unchanged since when, under his leadership, the defunct socialist SED party of
the former East Germany became the Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS).
The PDS and the Electoral Alternative for Labour and Social Justice (WASG), a leftwing breakaway from the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) eventually
merged and became the Left Party. The point here is that the Left Party is, indeed, the
most left-wing party in the Bundestag far more in that direction than the Greens.
This is the first time a member of The Left Party will have such an important post. We’ll
have to see what he does with it.
A personal note: Back in my days of dealing with the Jewish Community in East
Germany I got to know Gysi’s father, Klaus Gysi who was the State Secy. for Church
Questions and was sort of the “Godfather” to the small Jewish community there. It was
well known that Gysi himself was of “Jewish extraction”. While there is nothing
particularly Jewish at all about his son Gregor, he is seen by some as Jewish. It’s a hard
label to shake.
BLACKS IN BUNDESTAG
After all the votes were counted it came to pass that something quite amazing
happened – two African-Germans were elected to the Bundestag.
The Local. De reported, ―Germany's first two lawmakers of African origin cheered their
victory as trailblazers on Monday after winning seats in parliament in Sunday's
Senegalese-born Karamba Diaby, 51, will represent Halle, an eastern city of 230,000
people, for the Social Democrats in the Bundestag lower house of parliament.
And a German actor of Senegalese extraction, Charles M. Huber, captured a seat for
Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats (CDU).
"I'm in!" Diaby wrote on Twitter under his handle @KarambaDiaby. "Thank you for your
trust," he added on his Facebook page.
"It is a good feeling," he said, after failing to capture a direct mandate but clinching his
seat via the party list. "I am looking forward to having the chance to shape policy in the
Born in Dakar in 1961, Diaby moved in 1985 to then communist East Germany with a
scholarship to study chemistry.
Settling first in Leipzig, he moved to Halle in 1986 where he now lives with his German
wife and two children.
Diaby said he aims to focus on education, a national minimum wage and social justice
as a lawmaker.
As far as his victory's historic importance, Diaby was modest. "If I can contribute to
raising awareness to create more opportunities for people with foreign roots then that is
good," he said.
Huber, 56, will represent the southwestern city of Darmstadt.
"Dear friends. I AM IN THE BUNDESTAG," he tweeted under his handle
Huber is seen posing with Merkel on his Facebook page and is widely known in
Germany for his role as a detective on the television crime show "The Old Fox", which
ran from 1986 to 1997.
Born in Munich in 1956, Huber is the son of a Senegalese diplomat and a German
The election of these two men is truly a sea change for Germany and proof that the
country is becoming less insular. I guess I would be less surprised if they were elected
for constituencies in Berlin. However, Halle and Darmstadt are much less mixed and so
it is a genuine step forward
THE DIFFERENCE IN ELECTIONS
Ruth Marcus writing in The Washington Post wrote a fascinating column on the
differences between German and American election campaigns.
She starts off by saying, ―For a visitor from the land of win-at-any-cost elections and
ceaseless partisanship, the election that just concluded here, resulting in a triumphant
third term for Chancellor Angela Merkel, offers a glimpse of politics from another planet.
On the most technical level is the fact that the campaign, by U.S. standards, was
fleetingly short and bargain-basement cheap. No surprise there, except the magnitude
of the financial gulf. Merkel spent about $27 million, mostly in public funds, during the
six-week campaign — and that was for the entire slate of her Christian Democratic
Union (CDU). By contrast, the Obama reelection campaign alone spent $700 million —
not including extra cash from the party or outside groups.
The notion of data-driven micro-targeting is offensive to Germans, for whom the idea
that a political party would purchase information about voters’ preferences and
behaviors evokes an unwelcome history of overbearing government. Even the most
rudimentary of information — voters’ party preferences and records of participation — is
[A] staple of modern American politics — negative advertising — was absent, for the
simple reason that it would be certain to backfire.
―We don’t attack each other,‖ Stefan Liebich, a member of parliament from the Left
Party said as he campaigned in a gentrifying district of East Berlin. ―Germans wouldn’t
I channel-surfed in vain for a single German campaign commercial, only to be informed
that each party is given a set amount of time, based on voter share, on the two public
networks. Ads from the two main parties — Merkel’s CDU and the Social Democrats —
ran eight times on each channel; smaller parties were consigned to four.
The parties can purchase time on private networks as well, but the relative paucity of
funds limits such airings.As Emily Schultheis of Politico observed, the Merkel ad was
slated to run 140 times, while the Obama campaign ran more than 100,000 ads in Ohio
The Merkel ad, by the way, offered a fascinating glimpse of cross-cultural gender
politics. With 90 seconds of the chancellor speaking directly to the camera, it featured
close-ups of jowls and wrinkles that no female politician in the United States — indeed,
that no female politician’s opponent in the United States — would dare risk.
And for U.S. visitors inured to tight security, campaign events here were disconcertingly
open; even at Merkel’s final rally, supporters did not have to pass through the metal
detectors ubiquitous at American campaign events.
But perhaps most astonishing for those immersed in the polarized American political
landscape is the edges-rounded-off nature of the German political debate. U.S. voters
may say they want their politicians to cooperate and compromise, but a system built on
party primaries and gerrymandered districts pushes relentlessly toward division.
In theory, a multiparty arrangement accommodates and reflects a wider range of
political views. In Merkel’s Germany, it has resulted in a race to the middle — not just in
forming a coalition government but in the campaign itself.
[The campaign] offered a soothing respite from the arrows-flying atmosphere of divided
Washington and the permanent campaign.
Given where our own government is these days with total gridlock a possibility
(certainty?), the parliamentary system seems a reasonable alternative. Even if in
Germany no party gets a majority of Bundestag seats or a coalition cannot be arrived at,
there is always the possibility of a minority government or the calling of new elections.
Our own constitution just doesn’t allow for that. Yes! We’re an exceptional country with
an exceptional political system. Sometimes it ain’t so good to be exceptional.
GERMANY & ISRAEL: ANY CHANGES?
While I do not think Chancellor Merkel and any of her prospective government partners
were thrilled with P.M. Netanyahu’s strongly accusative speech given at the UN about
Iran, nothing much in German policy toward Israel will change. Even if the new Foreign
Minister is someone who is less pro-Israel than Fr. Merkel things will remain about the
Alexander Hasgall writing in The JC.com following the German election wrote, ―The
results of yesterday’s election in Germany can be summarized quickly: as far as Israel
and the Jews are concerned, nothing will change.
On Israel, there are only small differences between Chancellor Angela Merkel’s
victorious party, the Christian Democrats (CDU), and the SPD, with whom she is likely
to seek a governing coalition. With both, Germany will remain one of the closest allies of
Israel in Europe.
Even if Ms Merkel builds a coalition with the Green Party — which is unlikely — not
much will change.
The Greens, like the SPD and several other political groups in Europe, have an
increasingly critical attitude towards Israeli policy in the West Bank. However, they are
interested in maintaining relatively good relations with Jewish state.
If, as is more likely, we are left with a tie-up between the CDU and the SPD — as there
was from 2005 to 2009 — the result will be a carbon copy of that government, perhaps
even with the same foreign minister.
When it comes to Jewish life in Germany, no big changes should be expected. Official
Jewish bodies and the government work together closely, and this will not change
However, there are unresolved issues to be dealt with. Around 80 per cent of the Jews
left in Germany after the war migrated to the former Soviet Union. Many of them are
now asking for dual citizenship, a demand which Ms Merkel has refused. In addition,
civil society groups do not enjoy consistent funding from the state as they struggle
against anti-Semitism and other forms of intolerance.
The election night led to another surprise. The AfD (Alternative for Germany), a right
wing populist party, failed to put any MPs into the Bundestag. AfD based their campaign
on a demand for Germany to leave the Eurozone. This is remarkable: Germany is one
of the few countries in Europe without a successful populist party in the parliament.
Having AfD in parliament would have sent a negative signal to religious and ethnic
minorities in the country.
Whatever the next government looks like, it will face major challenges. Taking into
account the raise of extremist and anti-Semitic groups in other European countries —
particularly in Greece — Germany has to assume a more active and less egotistical role
on the continent. The people gave Ms Merkel a significant gift of trust. Time will tell how
she uses it.
ALTERNATIVE FOR GERMANY: A NEW PARTY
Since the Alternative for Germany Party (AfD) is mentioned in the prior article, and since
they came within a whisker of getting enough votes for Bundestag membership, some
explanation about this group is merited.
AfD was founded less than a year ago. According to Wikipedia it, ―…is a conservative,
euro-currency-skeptic German political party founded in 2013. The party states that it is
anti-euro, but not anti-EU, and not against European unity. The party's central argument
is that the euro is a failed currency that threatens European integration by impoverishing
countries with uncompetitive economies and burdening future generations. The AfD
competed in the German federal election and the state election in Hesse in September
Their manifesto was endorsed by a number of prominent economists, journalists, and
business leaders. The group argued that the eurozone had proven to be "unsuitable"
and that states in southern European states were "sinking into poverty under the
competitive pressure of the euro"
The party is seen as offering a home to socially conservative voters who have been
disenfranchised as chancellor Merkel has allegedly shifted the Christian Democratic
Union (CDU) to the left in areas of social policy such as same sex marriage. Some
members of the AfD have been critical of same sex marriage, particularly Beatrix von
Storch, an AfD candidate in Berlin. Co-founder of the party Konrad Adam has stated
that the party does not yet have an official position on the matter.
In contrast with other anti-euro movements in Europe, the AfD claims that it is neither
nationalist nor anti-immigration. Its program calls for Canadian-style policies to entice
more skilled foreign workers to Germany.
Alternative for Germany party organizers have been sending out the message that they
are not trying to attract right-wing populists or radicals. The AfD check applicants for
membership to exclude far-right and former National Democratic Party of Germany
(NPD) members who support the anti-Euro policy (as other mainstream German
political parties do). The party toned down rhetoric on their Facebook page following
media allegations that it too closely evoked the language of the far-right.
AfD is certainly worthy of keeping one’s eye on it. Some political commentators think
that it took away votes from the Free Democrats and were a major cause of their failure
to get enough votes to enter the Bundestag. No doubt it also drew votes away from the
right wing of the CDU. However, at least thus far, they have focused almost exclusively
on economic issues and certainly stayed away from the neo-Nazi NPD kind of extreme
right wing people. As far as I can tell that have not uttered a peep about Israel or the
As above, we’ll keep an eye on them.
Ever since starting this newsletter (4 or 5 years ago) I have been writing and reporting
about the neo-Nazis in Germany, especially the NPD Party. Having the kind of attraction
that that this sort of hate group has for some elements of the population, it shouldn’t
surprise us that they would be in touch with others like themselves in other countries.
Recently DW.com reported, ―In Germany, recent investigations into the murders
committed by the neo-Nazi group NSU (National Socialist Underground) have revealed
an extensive international network that serves the interests of right-wing extremists.
"Neo-Nazis began to network, also on an international level, in the mid-1990s or even
earlier," said Berlin-based political scientist and right-wing extremism expert Hajo
Andreas Speit, a Hamburg-based author of several books on right-wing extremism,
says that neo-Nazi activity can be broadly divided into three different categories.
"You have to distinguish between three types: the subculture scene, the violent neoNazis and the politics," Speit said.
He has observed that, on the cultural level, networking is being done at right-wing rock
concerts. German bands with racist song lyrics tour all around Europe.
"As a right-wing rock band, you can perform in countries like Italy or Greece," added
Speit. CDs with songs that are banned in Germany are produced abroad and then
brought into the country.
Experts have observed a form of cross-border cooperation between violent neo-Nazis.
Internationally active groups such as the Ku Klux Klan, Combat 18 and Blood and
Honour can help individuals wanted for right-wing crimes go into hiding in other
"Such groups have become stronger in recent years because domestic intelligence
agencies have allowed it to happen," Funke said.
This international networking results in violent German neo-Nazis committing crimes
"There have been incidents of German neo-Nazis traveling to the Czech Republic and
taking part in attacks on Roma and Sinti people - or going to Greece to see how the
Golden Dawn operates," explained Speit. "You could call this violence tourism."
However, right-wing extremists also attempt to gain influence through legal methods.
The European Alliance for Freedom and the Alliance of European National Movements
are two parties that plan to run for office in the next European Parliament elections.
But why do nationalists from various countries work with each other?
"Neo-Nazis don't think in terms of national borders," said Speit. "They don't hinder each
other's activities but instead they want to see the white race maintain power around the
world. And as long as foreigners stay in their own countries, the neo-Nazis have nothing
against them. The ideology at play here is ethno-pluralism."
The one thing that unites the right-wing parties from all countries is hatred of Jews. This
is a reason why many neo-Nazis had great respect for former Iranian president
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who openly spoke against Israel and threatened to destroy it.
The bond between Islamists and neo-Nazis is not a new phenomenon, however.
"Already in the 1920s there were strong alliances between the right-wing groups of
Europe but also with the Arab world," said Speit, adding that the ideology behind this
was banal. "The right-wing extremists realized that the other group was also fond of
upholding its old traditions, including those pertaining to dealing with women."
According to Speit, right-wing ideology is spreading internationally. This is partly due to
the effects of the economic crisis and the uncertainty felt by the middle class. The
networking between neo-Nazis only exacerbates the problem.
"We can expect that they will get more mandates during the next EU parliamentary
elections," said Speit.
The movement is also "unbelievably active" on the music scene. Young people from
small towns are easily excited by the local right-wing extremists getting the chance to
travel to Italy to attend a concert. This is why it is important to take preventative
"Turning away doesn't solve the problem," said Speit. "If you confront right-wing
extremists, you have a chance to change them."
So, there you have it. Neo-Nazis have a natural affinity for one another and with Internet
communication they are able to “talk’ with each other and, therefore, plot and plan
without much interference. In Germany the NPD is constantly under the microscope of
the security services. However, for instance, in Greece the Golden Dawn was able to
grow into a significant political force until recently.
Could the NPD grow its strength in Germany? They are already in two state legislatures
and got about 2% in the national election. At present they are under control but who can
tell about the future? Stay tuned.
JEWISH BERLIN: A WASHINGTON COMPETITOR
If you think Washington politics are disastrous, you don’t know Jewish Berlin. Several
months ago I wrote about the very difficult situation the official Jewish community had
gotten itself into. Well, it’sbecome worse.
Donald Snyder writing in The Forward reports, ―Germany’s largest Jewish communal
organization, the Berlin Juedische Gemeinde, is nearly dysfunctional.
At the center of the controversy crippling the Gemeinde is its president, Gideon Joffe,
an Israeli immigrant to Germany whose background and style of leadership reflect a
broader, seismic demographic shift in the historic face of German Jewry.
According to longtime observers, the deteriorating situation enveloping Berlin’s
organized Jewish community renders Jews a diminished force in Germany and
damages their influence. With firsthand memories of the Holocaust fading in the
rearview mirror, [Rabbi Josh] Spinner fears that the internal strife and negative media
accounts will ultimately erode Germany’s commitment to issues of Jewish concern.
Today, some 120,000 Jews live in Germany. This compares with an estimated 25,000,
consisting of survivors and displaced Jews from elsewhere, after World War II. But the
legendary stereotype of Germany’s punctilious Jewish community, one steeped in
German culture, history and propriety, as evoked by the slang term ―yekke,‖ is a thing of
Joffe’s leadership and the responses it has provoked project an implicit contrast with
this image. His tenure has included, among other things, a heated debate over secretive
financial transactions that climaxed in fisticuffs at a May 23 meeting, to which the police
were summoned. A chorus of critics has condemned Joffe for lack of transparency,
citing his failure to disclose the use of community property as collateral for a loan.
Other critics have complained about incompetent management, neglected maintenance
and low salaries at Jewish schools.
The Gemeinde is also in a court fight with the city of Berlin, its largest benefactor.
According to Guenter Kolodziej, spokesman for cultural affairs for the Berlin Senate, the
governing body of the city-state, the city subsidizes between 60% and 80% of the
Gemeinde’s operating budget. The government initiated court action after the Gemeinde
refused to supply information that the city requested about the community’s employees,
which number more than 300. This information is critical for the city in calculating the
Gemeinde’s annual budget.
The Gemeinde also owes the city of Berlin millions of euros because of pension
miscalculations that go back decades. Joffe has been uncooperative in working out an
agreement with the government to address this problem.
―The Juedische Gemeinde must repay those debts to the city that have been
accumulated due to inappropriate spending on pensions,‖ Kolodziej said. ―We want the
Juedische Gemeinde to grow and flourish; however, we can’t tolerate mismanagement.
Right now we are in the process of auditing, and some issues are under litigation.‖
Deidre Berger, director of the American Jewish Committee’s Berlin office, estimates that
only half of Berlin’s Jews with German citizenship affiliated with the Gemeinde and that
the number of Berlin Jews is closer to 25,000. Separately, there are 18,000 Israeli Jews
living in Berlin, according to AJC estimates. The Israeli Embassy estimates this number
to be 13,000. When Israelis are included, Berlin’s Jewish population is estimated to be
between 40,000 and 50,000, according to AJC figures. The vast majority of the Israelis
have no connection with the Gemeinde.
Today, Berlin’s einheit gemeinde, or unified community, has become predominantly
Russian. And with the addition of the Israelis, Jewish life has become more diverse. It’s
a much bigger community, as the German government had hoped. But some question
the continued viability of the big-tent concept. Many Jews are totally disconnected from
The future of Jewish life in Germany rests in the hands of this younger generation. Will
those Jews reconnect with their roots, or will they completely assimilate? And if they
reconnect, will they be inclined to transform the Gemeinde?
There is much more to Snyder’s article and you can read it all by clicking here.
Not only is the future of Jewish life in Germany in the hands of the young people but, in
my opinion, the future of Jewish life throughout Europe depends to a large degree on
what happens in the most important country in the continent. If German Jewish life fails I
fear that the positive developments in other countries will follow suit. Obviously, only
time will tell. Stay tuned!
It was disheartening to read in the JTA that, ―There have been 82 reported attacks on
synagogues in Germany from 2008 to 2012, according to a report requested by Left
Party legislator and Bundestag Vice President Petra Pau.
But the reported number may actually be too low: An investigation by Germany’s main
Jewish weekly, the Juedische Allgemeine, showed that several notable incidents were
not included in the report from the German Interior Ministry that was released last week,
including an attack on the Dresden synagogue in 2012, as well as desecration of
synagogue property in Regensburg and Wuppertal that same year.
Most of the reported cases involved property damage and graffiti featuring banned Nazi
slogans. According to the report, the main perpetrators are far-right extremists, credited
with more than 90 percent of the incidents, though some cases originate in Muslim
The lowest number of reported incidents was in 2010, with nine cases; and the peak
over the past five years was in 2008, with 21 reported incidents. Most of the incidents
occurred in the former West German states of North-Rhine Westfalia and RheinlandPfalz.
Pau told the Allgemeine that attacks on synagogues are the ―tip of the iceberg‖ when it
comes to anti-Semitic crimes in Germany.
Of course, one attack is one too many. 82 attacks over a five year period is 82 too
many. However, that many does not add up to a “Kristallnacht”. As you know from my
from my writings over the years there is an unacceptable amount of anti-Semitism in
Germany. The fact that it is worse in other European countries doesn’t make it any
better. However, in considering the above news article we must take into consideration
that the German government is strongly opposed to the kind of hate groups that make
these attacks. This is not 1933.
We should be thankful that Chancellor Merkel is the kind of person she is and is due to
head the government for another four years. She may not be on the same page as
many Jews about Israel’s settlements but when it comes to the Jews in Germany there
is just no better protector. 82synagogue attacks (with no fatalities as far as I could find
out) is something that deserves condemnation but we shouldn’t be going overboard
thinking that we’re on the verge of a new Holocaust.
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