AN AMERICAN JEWISH – GERMAN INFORMATION & OPINION
IN THIS EDITION
CHANCELLOR MERKEL ON THE UKRAINE – A standup lady.
TAKING THE HIT? – Strong sanctions can cut both ways.
GREEK JEWISH HOLOCUST CLAIMS – It never hurts to ask - or demand.
LOOTED ART: AN IMPORTANT LEGAL CASE – You don‟t win „em all.
GERMANY‟S TEA PARTY – Not for tossing tea. In this case the Euro.
CHILDREN‟S TORAH – A “good” story. .
March 26, 2014
It‟s not every day that a “happening” pushes everything else off the front pages of all the
media. 9/11 did it as did the first shot of the Civil War at Fort Sumter in 1861. Putin‟s
Push into the Crimea certainly did the trick this year. In terms of American – Germany
relations the terribly difficult matter of the NSA hacking into Chancellor Merkel‟s phone
immediately took a back seat to the need for all the Western countries, especially the
two most important, to come together to face off against this kind of naked Russian
As I write, The G8, with the blessing of Chancellor Merkel and Pres. Obama, has
become the G7 with Russia having been shown the door of this elite group of industrial
By and large, at least for the moment, this renewal of East – West hostility is not a
matter for the various Jewish communities of Europe or, for that matter, for Israel. There
were a few rumblings about the security of the Ukrainian Jews (see below) but the
major implications for world Jewry are yet to be seen. They will probably be there, but
So, with almost all matters pertinent to this newsletter joining Chancellor Merkel‟s cell
phone on the back seat, I think we‟ll get on with what there is to report…
However, before doing that let me wish you a very Sweet Passover.
CHANCELLOR MERKEL ON THE UKRAINE
Considering the fact that Germany gets a great deal of its oil and natural gas from
Russia, one might have expected that the Germans, and especially Chancellor Merkel,
would have walked a fine line in commenting on the Ukraine situation. However, that
was not the case.
In a speech before the Bundestag (as reported by DW.DE) “Chancellor Merkel used her
strongest rhetoric since the start of the crisis to condemn Russia’s actions in Ukraine.
She said the EU and other western nations were prepared to freeze bank accounts and
impose travel restrictions if Russia refused to enter "negotiations that achieve results."
She said if negotiations aren't effective further measures will be taken that "will cause
massive damage to Russia, both economically and politically," referring to sanctions.
Merkel, however, explicitly ruled out military action and said Russia's deployment of
troops to Crimea "was a breach of international law."
by EU supporters in Ukraine. Moscow does not recognize the legitimacy of Ukraine's
"The territorial integrity of Ukraine cannot be called into question," Merkel told
lawmakers, three days ahead of a referendum that is to be held in Ukraine’s Crimea on
The German chancellor also said Europe was ready to stand by former Soviet republics
in the face of possible Russian aggression, such as Moldova or Georgia.
"In a period of enormous uncertainty in the Ukraine, Russia has not proven to be a
partner for stability for neighboring countries which it has close links to but it uses their
inherent weaknesses," Merkel said.
Tough words indeed! However, given all the aspects of the situation, Germany, as
noted in a follow up article by Michael Knigge in DW.DE reported, “Germany’s special
ties with Russia give Berlin a crucial role in trying to solve the Crimea Crisis. But that
doesn’t mean that Berlin alone can push Moscow to alter its stance, as some media
Reading analytic pieces by influential international press outlets these days ( , and ) one
gets the impression that Berlin is the sole arbiter on Russia and can somehow just wave
a magic wand that will make Vladimir Putin reconsider his actions.
It's a catchy idea whose only problem is that it is overly simplistic and thus wrong.
To be clear, Germany has a unique relationship with Russia. As the EU's largest
country and biggest economy situated in the center of Europe, it is only natural that
Berlin would play a key role in any discussion between the EU and Russia on how to
overcome the current crisis.
Beyond that, Germany's own experience in dealing with its eastern half after the fall of
Berlin Wall and its close economic and political ties with Russia give it added clout and
a big stake in the crisis. Germany imports roughly 40 percent of its oil and gas from
Russia, which makes it Berlin's largest energy supplier.
But it's not just Germany that needs Russia. The dependence is mutual. Germany is
Russia's third largest trading partner; some 9 billion euros in direct investments and
more than 6,000 German companies active in Russia play an important part in the
Notwithstanding that influence, Berlin is simply not the singular external player with the
power to persuade Russia to rethink its game. It does not have the economic and
political leverage to unilaterally make Moscow change tack anytime soon. Imposing
economic sanctions would not only hurt Russia, but also hit the German economy,
Europe's growth engine. What's more, sanctions would take time to have an impact,
and as important as Germany is economically for Russia, only concerted Western
sanctions would do the trick.
"I don't think Germany alone can do this," James F. Collins, US ambassador to the
Russian Federation from 1997 to 2001 told DW.
"Honestly, Putin is the only one who can make this crisis go away and he has been
remarkably resistant to listening to anybody," noted Olga Oliker, a senior Russia expert
with the Rand Corporation in Washington.
While both underscored Germany's central role in solving the Ukraine crisis, they
dismissed the narrative that Berlin in and of itself could influence Moscow to change
"Germany will need to bring along colleagues in the EU and be part of a larger
community to be influential," said Collins. "And I think it will also be influential to the
extent Washington and Berlin are on the same page."
The claim made in recent press coverage that the US has abdicated its leadership role
on Ukraine to Germany is as naïve as is the idea that we are on the brink of a "Russo-
The more sober, if less juicy description, of how Europe and the US deal with Russia
and the Ukraine is that of close cooperation that involves a division of labor as
evidenced this week.
While German Chancellor Angela Merkel discussed the crisis with Polish Prime Minister
Donald Tusk on Wednesday, US President Barack Obama hosted Ukraine's interim
prime minister in a high profile Oval Office meeting. And in what has been billed as a
last chance to avert a further escalation of the crisis before the Crimea referendum, US
Secretary of State John Kerry met his Russian counterpart in London on Friday.
Washington is deeply engaged in the Ukraine crisis diplomatically and militarily. But the
fact is that Ukraine and Crimea are simply not geopolitical priorities for the United States
and that Washington's economic exposure to Russia and the region is considerably
weaker than that of Germany and the EU.
"For the United States Ukraine is far from a vital interest," notes Oliker. "For Europe and
for Germany it is much more of one due to proximity, due to gas pipelines and due to
just a much closer economic relationship with Russia. For the United States it's a matter
of principle and certainly Europe as a whole is a vital interest of the United States."
Neither Germany, the EU nor the US have a silver bullet that can coerce Russia to
change course on Ukraine anytime soon. In the long-run however, a joint, coordinated
effort that may well involve meaningful sanctions by all three parties is the best option to
make Moscow reconsider its game.
That is now happening. Both the EU and the U.S. have raised the stakes with sharper
sanctions – mostly against individuals and some banks that are Russian owned. The
tightening of the economic noose seems to be the only real weapon the West has.
However… Keep reading.
TAKING THE HIT?
While economic sanctions seem to be the weapon of choice today, for Germany there
may be a better and longer range solution. However, it would cause a lot of economic
pain in Germany.
The Local.de reported, “The Spiegelsuggested that European fears of Russian
sanctions leading to economic problems should be turned around.
"Russia is dependent on exports from the EU, in particular from Germany. But more
painful than export restrictions would be if the EU were to stop, or at least convincingly
threaten to stop, gas and oil imports from Russia. Income from this supply is the hook
on which the Russian state hangs - and also Putin's military machine.
"The missing Russian gas and oil could be compensated for by deliveries from other
sources. Of course such steps would push up energy prices in Germany and the EU.
The growth rate, which is in any case weak, would suffer. But if we Germans are
serious about taking on more responsibility in foreign policy, we must be ready to pay
The strings which Putin is pulling in the post-Soviet region will sooner or later lose their
power, the Mittelbayerische Zeitung in Regensburg said.
"The simple truth is that Russia is not strong. Outside of Moscow and St Petersburg, the
enormous empire is rotten. The regime can cushion structural weaknesses with energy
billions, but in the medium-term Putin will fail," it predicted.
The Saarbrücker Zeitung said Europe had a problem in that answering yesterday's
aggressive annexation policy with diplomacy today looked weak. "Europe, after its long
hesitation, must isolate Putin politically, step by step, and if necessary, push him in a
"That will take time and takes effect more slowly than a military sensation. But at the
end of the day, it would be an effective modern answer to the Kremlin's Cold War
demeanour. And it could strengthen Europe by demanding unity."
I think you get the idea. If Germany could somehow start doing away with the need for
Russian gas the situation would dramatically change. However, don‟t count on it
happening. No one, especially, middle class Germans (In the U.S. it would be the same)
is willing to give up earned comforts for some long range political gain. I just don‟t
believe it will happen. Therefore, the U.S. Germany and the rest of the EU will have to
see how the current sanctions bite. There is still room to raise the stakes.
Stay tuned! The situation continues to boil.
GREEK JEWISH HOLOCUST CLAIMS
According to The Local.de, “Germany … rejected a fresh Nazi-era reparation claim by a
Greek city's Jewish community but offered the group cooperation on future projects.
The Jewish community of Thessaloniki said … it had sued Germany at the European
Court of Human Rights for compensation over a forced ransom paid to Nazi occupation
It said Jewish residents had paid 2.5 million drachmas to a Nazi commander in July
1942 to secure the release of thousands of Jewish men submitted to brutal forced
Despite the payment, raised from donations and property sales, most of the victims
were later transported to the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp in Poland where they
"It's our express proposal to pursue forward-looking projects with the Jewish community
of Thessaloniki," he told reporters.
The finance ministry spokesman said Germany has always indicated an awareness of
its historical responsibility for World War II crimes.
"In the relationship with Greece, questions about the future play the fundamental role,"
Greece has said in recent years it reserves the right to claim more wartime reparations,
arguing it was forced to accept unfavourable terms during negotiations with Germany in
One can understand the injustice done to the Thessaloniki Jews. According to
Wikipedia, “Thessaloniki lost 94 percent of its Jewish population in the Holocaust.”
On March 15, 1943, the Germans began deporting Jews from Thessaloniki. Every three
days, freight cars crammed with an average of 2,000 Thessaloniki Jews headed toward
Auschwitz-Birkenau. By the summer of 1943, German authorities had deported 46,091
Several factors contributed to the loss of such a large number of Jews from
Thessaloniki. Thessaloniki was under direct German occupation. The Jewish
community was highly concentrated in the city. Jews had no idea that they were going
to killing centers; they believed the German subterfuge that they were going to work in
Poland. Moreover, the controversial head rabbi, Zvi Koretz, reportedly assisted the
Germans in organizing efficient roundups. Because Ladino was the first language of
Thessaloniki Jews, their spoken Greek was easy to distinguish. While the possibility of
escape existed, most Jews, fearing separation from their families, did not take
advantage of the available options.
A genuine horror story. However, these sorts of matters dealing with Holocaust
restitution were legally settled years ago and the German government does not feel that
every time a claim is made they should have to re-open what has already been
previously taken care of..
On the other hand, “A German foreign ministry spokesman said on Wednesday that
Berlin was ready to work on unspecified new projects with the city's Jewish community,
independent of the legal bid”..
My guess is that the German government will underwrite a particular project or even
multiple projects. The issue for them is the danger of re-opening long ago settled legal
issues that might open a Pandora‟s Box for other claims.
Some time and somehow the claims will end but I do not think that we‟re near that time.
Such is the legacy Hitler left for his country.
LOOTED ART: AN IMPORTANT CASE
Not every legal case on looted or stolen art brought before the authorities in Germany
winds up in a positive finding for the heirs of the original owners. A recent case has
implications for the future of looted art restitution.
The Times of Israel reported, “A German panel ruled against the heirs of four Jewish art
dealers Thursday in a complicated case of a monumental collection of medieval
religious art known as the Welfenschatz, or Geulph Treasure.
Valued at some 200 million euros, the Christian jewel-encrusted, gold devotional icons,
altars and reliquaries, 44 in all, are currently housed within Berlin’s Prussian Cultural
Heritage Foundation (SPK) museum system. After Thursday’s verdict from the mid-
January hearing by the Advisory Commission in connection with the return of Nazi-
confiscated art, especially Jewish property, the SPK will apparently retain possession
The heirs maintained that their ancestors had no choice but to sell the Christian artifacts
in 1935 to the Nazi government for less than their value.
The foundation that oversees Berlin’s museums said the collectors weren’t forced to sell
the treasures, arguing among other things that the collection was not even in Germany
at the time of its sale.
In its recommendation, the commission wrote that, after thoroughly investigating the
sale process, it came to the conclusion that it was not a “forced sale due to
persecution.” It said it can “not recommend the return of the Welfenschatz to the heirs of
the four art dealers and other possible former co-owners.”
The president of the museum foundation, Herrmann Parzinger, welcomed the panel’s
conclusion and praised it as a “thorough recommendation … that considers all the
Drawing ire from Jewish community leaders and art restitution experts, Germany,
currently in the spotlight for the high-profile $1.4 billion Cornelius Gurlitt trove of
suspected Nazi-tainted art in Munich, does not have a legislated system for restitution
In the case of the Guelph Treasure, the heirs of four German-Jewish art dealers have
been in negotiations with the SPK since 2008 over the allegedly forced sale. The
commission, commonly known as the Limbach Commission after its head Judge Jutta
Limbach, represents the culmination of the arbitration battle. But its decisions are not
Markus Stoetzel and Mel Urbach, the lawyers for the heirs of the Jewish art dealers, told
The Times of Israel Thursday they were shocked and saddened by the decision.
“Our clients, the heirs of the Jewish art dealers, are disappointed about the outcome of
the claim, after so many years of fighting for justice. We, the lawyers, are currently
analyzing the recommendation of the Limbach Commission and are going to discuss it
with our clients,” said Stoetzel.
Over the past decade eight cases have been heard by the commission and six were
awarded in favor of the claimants. An additional case was taken through the German
court system which eventually ruled in favor of the Jewish heirs. The Guelph collection
is the eighth case.
Ahead of the mid-January Limbach Commission hearing, The Times of Israel spoke
with both sides of the Guelph case and with several experts in the field of art restitution
in a thorough look at the issues surrounding the claims on the fantastical gold Medieval
The consensus among experts is the current recourse available in Germany is not
sufficient, nor is it always impartial.
Even the “winner” of the Guelph case, president of the SPK Hermann Parzinger, spoke
in January of the need for better redress for restitution cases and told The Times of
Israel he would not be against a restitution law.
“Now we try to solve in the sense of moral responsibility,” Parzinger said. ”The solution
is not easy and even if there is a law there still needs to be investigation. The only
difference is that the courts would take a definite position.”
“We always try to find a solution because we know very well, unfortunately, what our
history was, but when we are convinced, we defend [our art],” said Parzinger. Though
originally the foundation had refused, the professor said the Guelph Treasure case was
the first time the SPK had agreed to go before the Limbach Commission.
“We said we have no reason to go [before Limbach], but in our eyes the case is quite
clear. So if one has good arguments, one should present them,” said Parzinger.
One expert who spoke with The Times of Israel in January said he would never take a
case before Limbach. Unlike in the current ruling against the Jewish art dealers’ heirs,
most commission decisions have been “barely explained” and “more unpredictable than
the previous one,” he said.
The basis on which the commission makes its decisions is not clear, said the expert,
and it has no terms of reference or rules of procedure — the fundamental elements of
There are also accusations of political motivations. Those who sit on the commission
are not impartial, said experts, and as in the case of the task-force dealing with the
mammoth Gurlitt trove, may have connections with museums
Additionally, in a system in which the Limbach Commission is the highest level of
arbitration, there is a huge power imbalance: Massive government-funded institutions
essentially hold the right to refuse to negotiate on claims from individuals, as the SPK
initially did in the Guelph case.
With world media attention focused on the Gurlitt trove of suspected Nazi-looted art
worth $1.4 billion, found in Munich in 2012 (and made public only in November 2013),
Jewish community leaders such as Ronald Lauder are calling for an independent
international tribunal to impartially hear Holocaust restitution cases.
In January, ahead of the Limbach Commission hearing, Anne Webber from the UK-
based Commission for Looted Art in Europe said, “What the Guelph case shows is the
urgent need for the creation of a national claims process in Germany, as set out in the
1998 Washington Principles, dedicated to providing fair, just and expeditious solutions.”
“Creating a national claims process would reflect Germany’s commitment that, despite
the late hour, claims will be handled consistently, fairly and justly in every case and that
works of art found to be looted will be returned speedily to their rightful owners,” said
The entire matter of looted art and restitution is one charged with great emotion and, of
course, has important financial implications. Anne Webber‟s suggestion seems
reasonable and, to me, long overdue.
The article also quotes Monika Gruetters, Germany‟s Culture Minister. It notes, “…she
hopes the Jewish heirs will accept the recommendation.
She said it “does not change … the fact that the German government will continue to do
everything to shed light on to the Nazis’ art thefts and, when in doubt, will press for
Perhaps Minister Gruetters should be the one to push forward with the Webber
suggestion. I hope she does.
GERMANY‟S TEA PARTY
Why should we think that we‟re the only country with an alternative political party that is
ultra conservative?We‟re not! Germany has it‟s Alternative for Germany (AfD) which has
enough of a following that almost got some of its representatives into the Bundestag
during the last election. Of course, it‟s different than our Tea Party and it doesn‟t have
people showing up at their meetings in colonial dress. However, they are not
unimportant especially with the Euro elections taking place shortly.
DW recently reported, “New political parties never have it easy. Still less than a year
old, Germany's newest political party, hoping to win its first elected representatives at
the European elections in May and with a party conference looming this weekend, is
contending with all kinds of bad press. According to the media, the Alternative für
Deutschland, routinely described as Germany's "anti-euro" party, is far-right, nationalist,
paralyzed with in-fighting, bleeding membership, and unclear on what it really stands
In the most recent attack, Germany's well-respected conservative newspaper the
Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung (FAS) highlighted remarks made by Beatrix
von Storch, a leading candidate in the European election, about home-schooling and
referendums about mosques, and claimed that "Bible-loyal Protestants" were taking
over. The AfD, the paper said, was becoming "Germany's Tea Party."
But the similarity seems superficial: while the Tea Party sells itself as an ordinary
people's movement in opposition to detached elites, the AfD is largely made up elites
itself - it's image is white, male, middle class, middle-aged, and educated (two-thirds of
the initial membership held doctorates, with 86 percent of these male). Nigel Farage,
leader of the nationalistic UK Independence Party, once described them as "a bit
academic, but very interesting."
The party itself certainly does not take kindly to the comparison with the Tea Party, or,
for that matter, with UKIP. "It doesn't fit for many different reasons," spokesman
Christian Lüth told DW. "Firstly, because the Tea Party has fundamental religious roots -
that's not the case with us at all. We're a party of reason. That's not mutually exclusive,
but it is a very big difference."
"On top of that, the Tea Party is based on an arch-conservative movement from the
18th century - the AfD has absolutely no historical relation to anything like that," he
With so many academics in its ranks, the AfD likes to play its economic expertise as a
strong suit. The AfD's founding argument is that not only is the eurozone crisis being
mishandled, the single currency itself is fundamentally flawed. But confusingly, actually
scrapping the euro is not in the party's manifesto. This lack of a clear banner policy on
its main issue has somewhat undermined its popular appeal - a bit of a problem for a
so-called populist party.
In fact, the AfD's tone on social issues does seem to have become decidedly more
conservative recently - if not downright nationalistic. "Democracy only works nationally,
it doesn't work internationally," the controversial candidate Beatrix von Storch said in
her speech at the European party conference in January. "Democracy means the rule of
the people, not the peoples. There is no EU people."
O.K. I think that gives you enough of a taste of what AfD is all about. It may continue to
hang around or, like many other “alternative” parties, drift off into irrelevance like last
year‟s Pirate Party. However, for the moment, at least until the Euro vote, it remains an
entity that is pushing hard to win some representation in the European parliament. We‟ll
have to keep an eye on it to see whether it grows or becomes weak tea. We‟ll keep you
If you want to read the entire article, click here. http://www.dw.de/german-afd-tries-to-
How about some good news for a change?
The Forward recently carried a story which noted, “A publisher from Berlin is preparing
to launch the first German-language children’s edition of the Torah since 1964.
The first volume of “Tell your Children-The Torah in Five Volumes” is scheduled to be
offered for sale next month by Ariella Books, a German Jewish children’s publisher.
The previous edition was released half a century ago by Abrascha Stutschinsky.
The new volume is edited and written by Bruno Landthaler and Hanna Liss and
illustrated by Darius Gilmont.
The celebrated Stutschinsky work is out of print — he died in 1978 — and there were
not enough old volumes for all the children in Germany’s Jewish communities.
The lack of books “had been felt more painfully in the last few years ever since the
German Jewish communities have begun to flourish again and Jewish life has
experienced a strong renaissance here after the Shoah,” publisher Myriam Halberstam
said in a statement from Berlin.
According to the statement, the new book grew out of a Bible website called Parascha
that Landthaler and Liss have been running for several years.
The volume retells the Bible in what is described as child-appropriate language, and
includes introductions and commentaries addressed toward parents and other adult
The remaining volumes are due to come out over the coming two years.
No matter how dysfunctional the Berlin Jewish community is, the fact that a children‟s
Torah is being produced is certainly a good sign. It tells me that Jewish life in Germany
is progressing well enough that someone is investing in it. A true indicator of health.
See you in April. Don‟t eat too much matzohbrei at Passover. It‟ll take you all spring to
get the extra weight off.
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