DuBow Digest american edition feb. 8, 2011 (2)

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A newsletter on American Jewish - German relations.

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DuBow Digest american edition feb. 8, 2011 (2)

  1. 1. AN AMERICAN JEWISH – GERMAN INFORMATION & OPINION NEWSLETTER dubowdigest@optonline.netAMERICAN EDITIONFebruary 6, 2011Dear Friends:What nerve the Egyptians have in starting their revolution just when we’re gettingready to focus on the Super Bowl! The ups and downs in Egypt have everyoneglued to the TV and will probably hurt the ratings that the NFL and thecommercial sponsors count on. Hamburgers, beer and chips just don’t go wellwith people getting beaten up by goons. Football beatings are more acceptable.Thus far, the possible outcome in Egypt is more difficult to figure out than today’sfootball orgy. By 10:00 pm (EST) we’ll have a winner in Arlington, Texas. Nosuch luck in Cairo.The German government, the rest of the EU and, indeed, Pres. Obama are alllooking forward to the same result in Egypt. Mubarak has to go, a peacefultransition of power has to take place and, most important, stability has to returnand be maintained.In-depth reading of the media tells me that there are about two or three millionpossible outcomes. My evaluation is that nobody knows anything. What willhappen will, indeed, happen and the rest of the world will then try to shift gears todeal with it.The major questions for the readers of this journal have to do with Israel’s futureand how Germany and Europe react to the new events, power structures, etc.Political upheaval is always a problem whether it is called for or not. Those thatfigure it out first will be on the cutting edge of the new reality. Those that do notor cannot move forward will wind up behind the curve. Let’s hope that Israel, theU.S. and the rest of the Western World are in the former boat. 1
  2. 2. With that piece of wisdom, let’s get on with the other news…IN THIS EDITIONTHE MERKEL VISIT – The Chancellor & Cabinet visit IsraelMASS GRAVES IDENTIFICATION PROJECT – An important Holocaust projectTHE WOMEN – Female power in German governmentINTERNATIONAL HOLOCAUST REMEMBRANCE DAY – When, where, who.OBERMAYER GERMAN JEWISH HISTORY AWARDS – They become a regularpart of Holocaust remembranceAN “INDUSTRIAL” HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL – The makers of the ovensEDWARD SEROTTA – His Centropa is making its mark regarding EasternEuropean JewryEDITOR”S NOTES – Errors rectified.THE MERKEL VISITChancellor Merkel visited Israel with members of her cabinet in the third annualsuch meeting. Israel is the only country outside Europe with which Germanyholds joint cabinet sessions, although it does so regularly with France.These cabinet “get-togethers” are a visible sign of the closeness of the twocountries even though differences remain between them especially on MiddleEast issues. The Chancellor’s visit came at a particularly difficult time – just asthe demonstrations in Egypt had broken out. According to D-W World, “(she)appealed to Israel to take constructive steps toward reinvigorating the MiddleEast peace process.Afterwards, both sides said the talks were held in a very “businesslike manner”with Netanyahu outlining how he sees the next steps in the peace process.Merkel urged Israel to halt its settlement policies in the West Bank, saying thesewere a serious problem for a peaceful resolution of the conflict.Both leaders agreed that the current situation in Egypt and other parts of theArab world was “very difficult” and a concern for Israel. Netanyahu said Israel 2
  3. 3. was watching the situation with "vigilance" and "worry" and that he feared Egyptcould wind up with a radical Islamic regime, like Iran.Cabinet ministers from both sides also signed a variety of bilateral agreements toboost cooperation in the fields of research, environment, climate protection,energy, development aid and education.In a private meeting before the session, Netanyahu and Merkel reportedly spentmuch of the time discussing the current unrest in Egypt. Merkel also called onIsrael to stop building in West Bank settlements, saying it was hurting the peaceprocess, Haaretz reported.Meeting with PeresChancellor Merkel also met with Pres. Peres. The President wisely reminded herthat, (Y-Net News) "the world must learn from what happened in Gaza.Democracy begins with elections – but does not end with elections. Democracyis a civilization, and if you choose the wrong side you bring about the end ofdemocracy. We must ensure that human rights are guaranteed in a realdemocracy."Peres reminded Merkel that Hamas took over Gaza following democraticelections. "The world saw what happened in Gaza when they pushed fordemocratic elections and a radical and dangerous movement, which wont givethe Gazans one day of democracy, rose to power.Merkel said she agreed with Peres remarks on the Iranian threat, saying that thiswas a problem which threatened the entire world and not just Israel. "Israels security is a global matter, not a bilateral matter," she said, adding that"in light of the recent events, its time to speed up the peace process." She clarified that the Palestinian Authoritys leadership was strong. "I believe Ihave arrived in Israel at a very important time. Time is essential to guarantee thatIsrael remains an independent state within its borders. The concept of two statesfor two people cannot remain a statement – it must be seen on the ground."Meeting with LivniThe Chancellor also met with Israeli opposition leader Tzipi Livni. Haaretzreported, “According to a member of Merkels entourage, Livni voiced fears to theGerman chancellor that Iran may exploit the current instability in the region, 3
  4. 4. reiterating the oft-repeated Israeli calls for tougher sanctions over Tehransnuclear program.Many Israelis share Livnis fear that a weaker Egypt could mean greater Iranianinfluence in the region.In their meeting, Livni and Merkel also discussed Israels stalled peace processwith the Palestinians. Livni was quoted saying that negotiations were in Israelsnational interest and not a favor to the Palestinians or Europeans.SO?One might be inclined to think that nothing much happened during the two daydiscussions. Maybe one might be correct. However, just the fact there werethese meetings and the Israelis were able to voice their point of view on Egyptand Iran to the leader of the EU (She is that!) has to be of some importance.In addition, the Israeli cabinet heard a re-statement of the European Union’sMiddle East stance – stop building settlements, get back to the negotiating tablewith the Palestinians and make some sort of peace agreement. What Europeneeds is stability and the current situation is not helping.My assumption is that the members and leaders of both delegations are smart,knowledgeable people. They all know now that the Israel – Palestinian situationis not the major cause of instability. If it ever was, it is not that any longer. TheEgyptian situation and the one in Tunisia change everything mostly not in Israel’sfavor. So, whatever was said between them must have an Egyptian asteriskattached to it. Today’s reality, in all likelihood, will not be tomorrow’s.An immediate question facing Germany and the EU is the upgrading of theirdiplomatic relations with the Palestinians as Ireland has already done. WillGermany follow?It will take some time for the implications of the tumult in the Arab world to befigured out. Israel will need the friendship of the EU nations as the dramaunfolds. When that happens the test of Germany’s oft-stated friendship will begiven a real test. I’m sure we’ll all be tuned in to see how it turns out.(This article as is will also appear in the Germany Edition of DD)MASS GRAVES IDENTIFICATION PROJECTDuring World War II the German military and the SS killed many Jews (andothers) by shooting them and then dumping their corpses into unmarked massgraves. 4
  5. 5. According to JTA, “A project to save Holocaust-era mass graves from oblivion inEastern Europe has received about $400,000 from the German Foreign Ministry.Thousands of sites of mass shootings, in fields and forests across the region,have been neglected and the stories of what happened there nearly forgotten,Andrew Baker, Director of International Jewish Affairs for the American JewishCommittee, said Jan. 21 in Berlin, marking the first anniversary of the project.The project is coordinated by the AJC, the Central Council of Jews in Germanyand the German War Graves Commission.The stories must be preserved and told to the next generation, sites themselvesmust be marked, and the record must be corrected where Soviet ideology erasedthe fact that victims were Jews, Baker said.The funds will enable further documentation of sites and collection oftestimonies. Preservation work will require further funds, he added.A team coordinated by the AJCs Berlin office, under the direction of DeidreBerger, surveyed several sites in 2010. Among them was Kysylyn, where about500 Jews were shot to death in a field 68 years ago.The project was inspired by the work of the French Catholic Priest PatrickDesbois, who since 2001 has visited sites of mass shootings of Jews in Ukraineand collected eyewitness testimonies.Few people are left who could point the way to such sites, William Mengebier ofYahad-in-Unum, Desbois Paris-based organization, said during the newsconference in Berlin on Jan 21.He described interviews with elderly Ukrainians who may not recall dates ofkillings, but who offer to take researchers by the hand to the sites themselves.Others participating on the missions include Rabbi Joe Shik of the London-basedConference of European Rabbis, and its cemetery project, Lo Tishkach; theCommittee for the Preservation of Jewish Cemeteries in Europe; and theUkrainian Center for Holocaust Studies.More than one million Jews were murdered by mass killing units during WorldWar II; in all, about six million Jews were killed by shootings, gassings in deathcamps, and through slave labor.The major actors in getting Fr. Desbois’ project the recognition it deserves aremy AJC Berlin colleagues Deidre Berger and Jan Fahlbusch. They brought Fr.Desbois to Berlin a couple of years ago for meetings with government officials. Ihappened to be there at that time and sat next to him at dinner. You rarely find 5
  6. 6. such a man these days. Dedicated, religious with a firm understanding of theresponsibility the world has to those murdered in the Holocaust whose lives areforgotten and whose deaths are unmarked.One must also credit today’s German Foreign Office for understanding theimportance of the project and their willingness to commit $400,000 to it.This Holocaust project has more to it than just recognizing those who weremurdered and who deserve a memorial. It is a reaffirmation of the event itself, thedenial of which is a main tool utilized not only by deniers but those trying todelegitimize Israel.Congratulations to all involved!THE WOMENIt’s no secret that women have become more important in German politics. Afterall, the Chancellor is a woman. What is not so apparent is that the ladies havebecome much more “front and center’ in the various States as well.Spiegel-Online reports, “As well as a woman chancellor, Germany will soon havea third female state governor, and two other women are also in the running forregional power this year. Is the country shedding its male-dominated politicalculture, and are women better suited to the new political challenges?When Angela Merkel took over as German chancellor in 2005, she may havebeen the first female head of the federal government, but all 16 of the countryspowerful state governors were men.That male face of regional power in Germany, however, has been slowlychanging. First the eastern state of Thuringia and then North Rhine-Westphaliain the west have since seen women take the helm. And now a third woman issoon to take the reigns of state power. This weekend, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, a member of Merkels Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party,was named as successor to Peter Müller, governor of western state of Saarland.Kramp-Karrenbauer, a 48-year-old mother of three, belongs to a new generationof conservative women politicians who have managed to pursue successfulcareers while having children, something not always taken for granted in whatcan still be a very traditionalist country. Another example is the popular LaborMinister Ursula von der Leyen, a mother of seven.It is a conundrum in Germany that while women are not well represented at all inthe higher echelons of business, they do surprisingly well in politics, ranking 18th 6
  7. 7. in the world for female participation in the national parliament, with just over 32percent of representatives in the Bundestag being women. In comparison, noneof the 100 top German companies has a female CEO, and only 2.2 percent ofthe members of their executive boards are women.Other women could soon be joining the ranks of state governors. In Berlin,Renate Künast, the Green Party floor leader in the Bundestag, is seen as aserious challenger to incumbent Klaus Wowereit of the SPD in the state electionthere this coming September. Meanwhile, the CDUs Julia Klöckner could givethe SPD governor of Rhineland-Palatinate, Kurt Beck, a run for his money in astate election in March.Whatever their path to power, there is little doubt that the increasing number ofwomen in German politics is shaping the countrys political culture. There is lessof the macho politics of old and more of a consensual approach.I think there is much truth in the last point. While they are more consensual (Ibelieve it!) they can be tough when political muscularity is called for. The twofemale politicians I follow the most closely, Chancellor Merkel and my wife, theMayor of South Nyack, NY both exhibit that when necessary. It makes for muchbetter government.INTERNATIONAL HOLOCAUST REMEMBRANCE DAYAccording to Haaretz, International Holocaust Remembrance Day was observedworldwide Thursday (January 27th) on the anniversary of the liberation ofAuschwitz death camp to commemorate the 6 million Jews annihilated by theNazis over 60 years ago.In Osweicim, Poland, the presidents of Germany and Poland gathered withHolocaust survivors at the site of Auschwitz-Birkenau Thursday for ceremoniesmarking the 66th anniversary of the death camps liberation.The anniversary of the camps liberation has been observed by different groupsand nationalities for some time, but it was only in November 2005 that the UnitedNations General Assembly passed Resolution 60/7, deeming January 27 aninternational day of remembrance.Before the commencement of the ceremonies Thursday, German PresidentChristian Wulff said that each generation must grapple anew with the questionsof how civilization broke down in the Nazi era and work to prevent such crimesfrom ever being repeated.Other commemorative events were held at sites formerly devoted to theextermination of Jews and other minorities, including the Buchenwald 7
  8. 8. concentration camp, where elderly survivors gathered as well as at a newmemorial in the former factory of the company that made the crematoria ovensfor the death camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau.In Berlin, the German parliament convened Thursday for a special sessioncommemorating the victims of the Holocaust. Parliamentary President NorbertLammert reminded lawmakers it is the duty of later generations to keep thememory of those murdered by the Nazis alive."To label people as unworthy and order their destruction and, finally, tosystematically murder millions in an industrialized fashion - that is unique inhuman history," Lammert said. "The memory of those events and aberrationsobliges us to respect all people equally ... and to confront violations of humanrights in Germany and everywhere else in the world."For the first time, a survivor representing Sinti and Roma (Gypsies) addressedthe body, reminding lawmakers of what he called the forgotten Holocaust against500,000 of his people. Political prisoners, gays and lesbians and Jehovahswitnesses were also killed en mass by the Nazis, along with nearly six millionJews.It seems to me that Pres. Wulff’s commitment to sensitive Jewish concerns isoutstanding. Whenever there is an occasion for the “moral voice” of Germany tobe heard Pres. Wulff is there with the absolutely correct and thoughtful words.Bundestag President Norbert Lammert is not far behind.You may think I’m insensitive and uncaring but I felt that having a Sinta & Romaspeaker at the Bundestag event as the major speaker was somehow the wrongnote to hit. No doubt! Five hundred thousand Roma & Sinta perished along withthe six million Jews. No doubt! They are entitled to recognition and sympathy forthe continuing discrimination against them. However, the murder of the Jews andall that went before it from 1933 on puts the six million in a very differentcategory. I don’t want to diminish a half million deaths but the entire Nazi killingestablishment was primarily focused on the Jews. Sinta & Roma, homosexuals,communists, etc. were secondary. Not less important but clearly secondary.I don’t want to make too much out of it, but the relativizing of the centrality of theJewish deaths in the Holocaust is what the Holocaust deniers are guilty of. And,the relitivization of the Holocaust makes the case for Israel as a Jewish stateweaker. In these days when the delegitimization of Israel is an importantmovement that must be dealt with, anything that even slightly moves the mostdirect relationship between Jews and the Holocaust should at least be noted.Now, I’m not accusing the Bundestag or the German government of insensitivity.Perhaps they did not understand the problem. However, someone should point itout. I elected myself. 8
  9. 9. If you disagree with me I’m sure I’ll hear from you. In fact you can write medirectly. Click here for a direct e-mail. dubowwdigest@optonline.netOBERMAYER GERMAN JEWISH HISTORY AWARDSFor about the last decade Arthur Obermayer of Boston whose wife and brotherboth served on the AJC Board of Governors, gives awards for outstandingcontributions for outstanding work in helping German Jewish history survive.JTA reports. “The Obermayer awards recognize Germans who preserve localJewish history and build contacts with Jews who fled during the Nazi years.Arthur Obermayer, an American Jewish businessman who was inspired by hiscontacts with historians in his familys ancestral town of Creglingen, created theawards.Awardee Brigitta Stammer helped raise funds to bring a tiny, 19th centurysynagogue from the village of Bodenfelde to her home city of Goettingen, inLower Saxony, where it is now being used by a Jewish community.“I wanted the new Jewish community to have a roof over its head, to have asynagogue, and be integrated in the society of Gottingen,” Stammer said.Filmmaker Sibylle Tiedemann, of Ulm and Berlin, was recognized for films thatexplore the dark side of local memory, including the recollections of her ownmother and her former Jewish classmates.Retired bookseller Barbara Staudacher and publisher Heinz Hogerledocumented the flight of Jews from Rexingen, in Baden-Wurttemberg, to then-Palestine. Today the Jews of Shavei Zion in Israel have a special bond to thenext generation of Germans in Rexingen.Journalist Peter Korner was honored for helping preserve the Jewish history ofAschaffenburg, Bavaria, and for his role in creating a website to search localJewish genealogy. Teacher Michael Heitz of Eppingen, Baden-Wurttemberg,who once faced closed doors when he asked what happened to the local Jewishcommunity, today inspires his own pupils to explore this history.Arthur is one of those unusual people. A Ph. D. chemist, he has started and soldcompanies and set up a foundation that does admirable things in Germany,Israel and Russia. His idea of giving German Jewish history awards have nowbecome a regular part of the Holocaust remembrance commemorations that takeplace in Germany every year.Congrats to Arthur.AN “INDUSTRIAL” HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL 9
  10. 10. De Spiegel reported, “For years, the site was little more than a typical industrialruin -- the kind of modernist decay that became synonymous with EasternEurope after the collapse of communism. The crumbling buildings just outsidethe city center of Erfurt were fenced off and left to the squatters who made thecomplex their home.But ever since the company which owned the plant went bankrupt in 1994,historians have had their eyes on the location. Its history, after all, is intimatelytied with the darkest chapter of Germanys past. The factory once belonged toTopf & Söhne, the company which supplied the Nazis with the ovens used atAuschwitz and other death camps to cremate Holocaust victims.… after years of planning, a memorial exhibit in the former administrationbuilding opened its doors -- just in time for Jan. 27, Holocaust RemembranceDay.The exhibit describes how Topf & Söhne, which began life in 1878 as a specialistfor industrial ovens, brewing equipment and chimneys, soon became a leadingmanufacturer of crematoriums. The SS first commissioned crematorium ovensfrom the company in 1939 for concentration camps in Dachau, Buchenwald andFlossenbürg.The company also designed ventilation systems to pump poison gas out of thegas chambers once the killing was complete -- and Topf & Söhne employeesvisited Auschwitz and other camps to help install their products. Ultimately, thecompany equipped Auschwitz with ovens capable of incinerating 8,000 bodieseach day."The company was not a place where people were tortured or murdered,"memorial head Annegret Schüle told DPA. "Rather it is a place where peoplethought and calculated how to incinerate as quickly and effectively as possible."I continue to be amazed at the German willingness to continue to reconstructHolocaust venues pointing out the darkest period of their history. I am particularlysurprised since younger Germans these days feel further and further away fromthis part of their national past. Of course, it is psychologically cleansing to admitthe faults of the past even if the young people of today had absolutely nothing todo with it. It is clear that Germans are willing to face the past and that I find to beadmirable.EDWARD SEROTTAI hope you won’t mind but I am going to digress for a few moments away fromGerman-Jewish relations and touch on Jewish life in Europe. In so doing, I wantto tell you a bit about a Vienna based organization called Centropa, its important 10
  11. 11. role and introduce you to its founder, Edward Serotta.Ed Serotta is a great talent! This American world class photographer (and lateran institution builder) has undertaken the major task of familiarizing Jews andnon-Jews with the world of European Jewish life before, during and after theHolocaust. Most of us know a great deal about Israel and American Jewry butfew, I am sure, know the inside story of what goes on in the various EuropeanJewish communities spread throughout the continent. Ed, quoted in Jewish IdeasDaily noted, “We need to redress the fact that American and Israeli Jewishteenagers go on trips to Europe and come away knowing more about Hitler,Himmler and Goebbels than they do about Freud, Mahler and Kafka,” Serottasaid. “We need to reclaim Jewish greatness in this part of the world.”I first got to know Ed in 1988 when I helped him get into East Berlin tophotograph East Germany’s 50th commemoration of Kristallnacht. In 1997 whenhe was moving from Berlin to Vienna to set up Centropa, I rented his apartmentand lived in it during my 2 ½ years there. (He was a very good landlord).Since 1997 Ed has built Centropa into a major cultural force. Through his ownaward winning photos, those saved by families devastated by the Holocaust,recorded interviews and films he has made Central European Jewish life “live”.Jewish Ideas Daily has a brief story about Centropa and a 10 minute film it hasproduced which you can view and listen to. You shouldn’t miss it. Click here tosee it. http://www.jidaily.com/OTk/eIn addition I want to encourage you to go into the Centropa website whichcontains an enormous amount of fascinating information. Click here to beconnected. www.centropa.orgKudos to Ed and his staff.EDITOR”S NOTESIt gives me the “willies” to know that some of you read every word I write. When Imake a mistake many are ready to pounce and let me know I made a boo-boo.Such was the case in the last edition when I got my Willies mixed up. In talkingabout the famous bank robber Willy Sutton I referred to him as Will Horton. Thelatter was a paroled prisoner in Massachusetts who committed another crime andwho George H.W. Bush used to criticize Michael Dukakis.A second issue I want to clarify has to do with what I write – and what I do not. Areader recently congratulated me by saying “You write very well”. I pointed outthat the vast majority of what appears in DD are quotes from various periodicals,etc. I try very hard to put into italics what is quoted. My own commentary is inregular script (I’m sure there is a better name for it but I do not know what it is). I 11
  12. 12. appreciate the pat on the back but, most frequently; it is someone else whodeserves it, not me.********************************************************************************************See you again later in the month.DuBow Digest is written and published by Eugene DuBow who can be contactedby clicking here.Both the American and Germany editions are posted atwww.dubowdigest.typepad.comClick here to connect 12

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