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About this book

From the very moment of the liberation of camps at Auschwitz, Belsen and Buchenwald, Germans have been held accountable for the crimes committed in the Holocaust. The Nazi regime unleashed the most systematic attempt in history to wipe out an entire people, murdering men, women and children for the simple 'crime' of being Jewish.

After the war ended in 1945, the Jewish State of Israel was created and Jewish communities were re-established in a now divided Germany. Germans have engaged actively with their Nazi legacy and the Jewish communities have remained and grown stronger, but neo-Nazism has also persisted. Young Germans have learned the horrific deeds of the past at school, and throughout the world, people of all nations have tried to learn the lesson 'never again', while Germany has become 'Israel's best friend in Europe'.

Pól Ó Dochartaigh analyses the ways in which Germans and Jews alike have attempted to come to terms with the Holocaust and its terrible legacy. He also looks at efforts to remember – and to forget – the Holocaust, movement towards recompense and reparation, and the survival of anti-Semitism.

Table of Contents

The Pity and Stupidity of it All: Jews in Germany before 1945

1. The Pity and Stupidity of it All: Jews in Germany before 1945

Abstract
There have been Jews in Germany since the fourth century, and probably earlier.
Pól Ó Dochartaigh

Germans and Jews 1945–1990

Frontmatter

2. Survivors on Blood-soaked Soil (1945–1949)

Abstract
In May 1945 there were probably no more than 15,000 German Jews left alive in Germany, compared to a population of more than 500,000 in 1933, and some 80,000 remaining as late as 1942.1 This included those whom the Nazis had designated ‘half-Jews’ (those with two Jewish grandparents), ‘quarter -Jews’ (one Jewish grandparent) and so on. Many had emigrated, and most of those who remained had been murdered in the concentration camps. Those few who survived had done so either in hiding, sometimes thanks to help from non -Jews, or because they had a non-Jewish spouse who refused to divorce them, or because they belonged to one of the Nazi categories of ‘half-Jew’ or ‘quarter-Jew’ that had not been automatically sent to the concentration camps. They had survived the most systematic attempt to wipe out an entire population ever carried out in history. Now, following the defeat of Germany and the ideology that had for 12 years permeated every stratum of German life, they found themselves a small, isolated remnant of a once thriving community.
Pól Ó Dochartaigh

3. Jews and West Germany I (1949–1967)

Abstract
The new West German state created in 1949 was one of two German states to emerge in the aftermath of the Third Reich, but it claimed from the start sole rights to the title ‘Germany’ and to be the legitimate successor of German democracy, while also accepting that this entailed obligations that related to the succession from Nazi Germany. The Third Reich, according to the dominant historical narrative propagated by Friedrich Meinecke as early as 1946, was a Betriebsunfall, an ‘industrial accident’, after which everything could go back to normal, though he did also argue that Prussian militarism, rapid industrialization and a weak middle class had to take their share of the blame.1 He also blamed Jews for bringing anti-Semitism upon themselves.2 Later, in the 1950s, West Germany reinforced its singular claims on legitimacy with the so-called Hallstein Doctrine, by which it ended diplomatic relations with any state (other than the Soviet Union, for obvious geopolitical reasons) that diplomatically recognized the GDR. It is an understatement to say that the obligations of the German people and their states were great in the wake of the Holocaust, both to humanity in general and to the Jewish people in particular.
Pól Ó Dochartaigh

4. Jews and the GDR I (1949–1967)

Abstract
The history of Jews in the German Democratic Republic is the story of two essentially different but not mutually exclusive groups. On the one hand there were the officially recognized Jewish congregations, subsidized by the state but, like all religious communities in the 1950s and 1960s, subjected to varying degrees of discrimination in this atheist, Marxist state. On the other hand there were Jewish communists, supporters of the system to a greater or lesser degree, who were liable to become victims in any of the purges that erupted within the Communist Parties of Eastern Europe at different periods in post-1945 history. A small number of communists were active in the Jewish congregations, at least in the early years, not as religious Jews but generally for reasons of solidarity in the wake of the Holocaust. Yet the purges took their toll, and at least one of them had distinctly anti-Semitic overtones. Ironically, the name most closely associated with this purge is that of a non -Jew.1
Pól Ó Dochartaigh

5. Jews and West Germany II (1967–1990)

Abstract
At the end of June 1967, just a few weeks after the Six-Day War, the 19-year-old Micha Brumlik joined his friends in the Zionist Youth movement at a Frankfurt demonstration of solidarity with Israel, a demonstration that reflected the dominant political sentiment in West Germany. The war had been a success for Israel and an unmitigated disaster for its Arab enemies, and most West Germans welcomed the result. The liberal and conservative press was delighted at Israel’s success and used enthusiastic though at times dubious language in its reporting: the conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) published an editorial on its front page on 7 June entitled ‘Der Blitzkrieg Israels’ (Israel’s Lightning War), thereby using a term most closely associated with Nazi Germany’s attack on France and the Low Countries in 1940.1 The respected weekly newspaper Die Zeit repeated this usage on its title page two days later,2 while on 12 June 1967 Der Spiegel, created after 1945 as a weekly news magazine modelled on Time, put the headline ‘Israels Blitzkrieg’ on its title page above an image of an Israeli troop carrier and soldiers in the desert.3 Der Spiegel went further still on its inside pages: in an article entitled ‘Blitz und Blut’ (Lightning and Blood) it described how Israeli soldiers
Pól Ó Dochartaigh

6. Jews and the GDR II (1967–1990)

Abstract
The East German reaction to the Six-Day War was one of singular hostility to Israel. The language used was intemperate, and Israeli soldiers were compared to the ‘fascist torturers’ of Lidiče and Oradour, scenes of two gruesome Nazi atrocities during World War II.1 The Nazi-hunter Simon Wiesenthal analysed the use of language in the GDR in reports on Israel and noticed the similarities between it and the language used by Nazis. Investigating further he discovered, somewhat embarrassingly for the GDR authorities, especially in the light of their anti-West German rhetoric in the late 1950s and early 1960s on the subject of former Nazis in high positions, that some of those working in the GDR media had earlier worked for the Nazi media. Wiesenthal saw a direct connection between this fact and the use of language towards Israel.2 Formally at least, there was a unified anti-Israeli position in the GDR.
Pól Ó Dochartaigh

7. Germany and Israel (1949–1990)

Abstract
When the State of Israel, 50 years or more in the planning, came into existence in May 1948, just three years after the end of Hitler’s ‘Final Solution’, Jews finally had a state of their own at a time when the Germans had none. Technically, the German Reich still existed, but the Reich of 1937 had at that time been carved up into 14 administrative territories, a Frenchman’s dream.1 And though two German states were created in 1949, Israel in that year passed a law declaring Israel and Germany to be enemies and, officially at least, it boycotted Germany and its representatives:2 Israeli passports even bore the legend ‘Valid for all countries except Germany’. The Jewish Agency, too, closed its offices in Germany in that year, arguing that no Jew could any longer have any good reason, or indeed any right, to stay in Germany.3 Yet no such clear-cut break was to prove possible. Instead, slowly but surely, sometimes in public but often in secret, Israel and West Germany developed a relationship which over time became so strong that in 1989 the Jerusalem Post described West Germany as Israel’s most important ally after the USA.4 The GDR, by contrast, remained hostile to Israel for 40 years, a situation that only changed when that state was already in its death throes following the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989.
Pól Ó Dochartaigh

German–Jewish Themes

Frontmatter

8. Reparations and International Jewish Organizations

Abstract
Just a few weeks after the start of the Second World War the first proposals for German reparations to Jews were made. Discrimination against Jews had been part of the Nazis’ electoral programme throughout the 1920s and early 1930s, and they had begun to act on their programme almost immediately on seizing power in January 1933, with dismissals of Jews from their jobs under the guise of laws such as the euphemistically titled ‘Law on the Re-establishment of the Professional Civil Service’ in April 1933, the Nuremberg Race Laws passed in November 1935, and other measures such as the boycott of Jewish businesses proclaimed in March 1933 and the violent and deadly Kristallnacht pogrom in November 1938, but it was not until October 1939 that the first public demands for reparations were made. Shalom Adler-Rudel, who had worked in Berlin and then in German — Jewish organizations until he was forced to emigrate in 1937, was working in London in 1939 as Director of the Central British Fund for German Jewry. On 10 October 1939 he circulated a memorandum to a number of Jewish friends and acquaintances on the subject of collating information to be used for future compensation to Jews from Germany.1 Most dismissed the idea, while only Chaim Weizmann agreed with him, but no practical steps followed.
Pól Ó Dochartaigh

9. Jews and German Culture

Abstract
Defining what constitutes German — Jewish culture is problematic, both before and after the Holocaust.1 Is it all writing, music and art in German only by Jews, whether the theme is Jewish or not? Or all writing, music and art with a Jewish theme, whether the writer is Jewish or not? The first definition would exclude from the concept of ‘German –Jewish culture’ G.E. Lessing’s eighteenth-century drama Nathan the Wise, a plea for enlightenment and toleration between the three dominant monotheistic religions of Christianity, Judaism and Islam, but include, for example, the World War I novel by Arnold Zweig, The Case of Sergeant Grischa, purely because the author is Jewish. The latter definition would include not only the 1925 novel Jew Süss by the German–Jewish novelist Lion Feuchtwanger, but also the vile, anti-Semitic rant that is the Nazi film of the novel, directed by Veit Harlan in 1940. The Nazis, of course, excluded everything Jewish from their concept of Germanness, but some Zionists insist on referring to ‘Jewish literature in German’ rather than ‘German –Jewish literature’, thereby coming perilously close to the exclusionism practised by the Nazis, albeit from a diametrically opposed political standpoint.2
Pól Ó Dochartaigh

Germans and Jews since 1990

Frontmatter

10. The Growth of Judaism in Germany since 1990

Abstract
Wladimir Kaminer, who has written in German since moving to the GDR just before its demise in 1990, informs us in Russendisko that in Moscow in the summer of 1990 everyone heard a rumour that Erich Honecker, the deposed GDR leader, was going to make up for never having paid reparations to Israel by giving GDR citizenship to all Russian Jews. Everyone heard the rumour except Honecker.1 The idea that Honecker could have done this is anachronistic, but Kaminer’s satire is not entirely rooted in fiction: he himself became a GDR citizen in summer 1990 and thus, automatically on unification, a German citizen.
Pól Ó Dochartaigh

11. The Past, Anti-Semitism and Neo-Nazism since 1990

Abstract
Fears that a united Germany might prove fertile ground for the rise of a ‘Fourth Reich’, as Conor Cruise O’Brien put it, have proven unfounded.1 German society and the party landscape have changed in many ways, and the certainties that pertained to the political consensus of the 1970s, when over 90 per cent of the population was in the habit of voting in national elections and 99 per cent of the votes cast went to the three main parties of CDU/CSU, SPD and FDP, are long gone. The federal system has remained, but election results twice, in 2005 and again in 2013, created a need to repeat the grand coalition government of 1966–1969, because neither the CDU nor the SPD was in a position to form a coalition with a smaller party. In both 2009 and 2013 the three main parties of the old West Germany secured just 71–72 per cent of the vote on a turn-out also of 71–72 per cent, which meant that half of the electorate either voted for other parties or stayed at home, a far cry from the mere 10 per cent who did this 40 years ago. The emergence of the Greens in the 1980s had begun to challenge the old consensus, and after unification the ex-communists of the SED, who became the ‘Party of Democratic Socialism’ (PDS) and are now known simply as ‘The Left’, added to the parliamentary diversity.2
Pól Ó Dochartaigh

12. Germany and Israel since 1990

Abstract
The German–Israeli relationship has evolved since 1990 largely as a consequence of changing attitudes to one single issue: the Israeli– Palestinian conflict. Germany’s formal neutrality in both Gulf Wars was the source of much criticism in Israel, the USA and elsewhere, but that passed and, as we shall see, Germany’s stance in the second Gulf War earned it plaudits in Israel. The Israeli–Palestinian conflict, by contrast, has remained an open wound (on both sides in the ‘Holy Land’), and Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians has been the subject of increasing criticism in the German population at large, even as Germany tried to make a contribution to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict by supporting nascent Palestinian institutions and Israeli–Palestinian dialogue. The result is a curious dichotomy whereby the official Israeli–German relationship has deepened at governmental level while German popular sympathies for Israel have waned. Criticism, never entirely absent, has become more frequent, while Israeli rejection of outside criticism has become more entrenched. It almost begins to seem normal. Almost.
Pól Ó Dochartaigh

13. Conclusion: No Normality

Abstract
‘The Germans will never forgive the Jews for Auschwitz’.1 This polemical formulation goes to the core of the issues that Henryk M. Broder raised in his book The Eternal Anti-Semite, namely that anti-Semitism persists despite Auschwitz, and that Auschwitz is a constant reminder to older Germans of their own role in perpetrating the Holocaust and to their children and grandchildren of its legacy for contemporary Germany. Few people are ever comfortable in the role of perpetrator when their guilt is known and, as Broder points out, there have been many attempts by Germans to compare Israel’s actions against the Palestinians to the actions of the Wehrmacht, a form of relativization that amounts to a failure to come to any reasonable terms with German guilt.2 Yet such comparisons, though they appear in the mainstream press from time to time, belong, in truth, to the margins of political discourse. Most Germans and Jews alike have attempted to develop a civilized discourse based on mutual respect while never forgetting the Holocaust. Nor can most Jews forgive, nor do most Germans expect forgiveness. The scale and organization of the Holocaust are beyond both forgiving and forgetting.
Pól Ó Dochartaigh
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