glossen: feuilleton

Jews in Germany
Susan Stern


In 2000, I was commissioned by Inter Nationes to update my 1997 brochure on Jews in Contemporary Germany. I submitted the following article in early 2001. Unfortunately, Inter Nationes felt that my new version was too long and too inflammatory; they felt that it might end up annoying too many people. So the Inter Nationes version which has since appeared in several languages is greatly abridged. This ‘original’ version reflects my own opinions, and has not been ‘politically corrected’. I believe, however, that it presents a more comprehensive, better balanced and ultimately more positive picture of Jews in Germany today.

The following brochure does not claim to be exhaustive. On the contrary, each of the three sections, which I call question complexes, warrants not just a book, but many volumes. Indeed, many volumes have been written, so I have given a very condensed suggested reading list at the conclusion of my remarks. My intention here is to give a brief overview of what is a highly complex and emotionally-charged topic – Jews in contemporary Germany, their history and their internal and external relationships.

I do not claim to be objective, because I am not able to be. As a Jew who has lived in Germany for three decades, at different times I find myself taking all sides, and none. For it is difficult not to be partial, not to identify with one group or the other – and there are so many groups. My sympathies and frustrations, my fears and my optimism do not need to be searched for between the lines – they all hang out, as the saying goes.

I do not once mention the German Democratic Republic (GDR) in the pages to come. There were Jews who settled there after the war, they have their own often poignant history. But this brochure does not dwell on history, even though I give some background on Jews living in West Germany before unification. I apologize if I appear to have slighted the small but by no means insignificant Jewish population of East Germany. (Four of the best-known former East Germans are Jewish or partly Jewish: Gregor Gysi, Marcus Wolf, Stephan Heym and Wolf Biermann.)

Finally, I do not say anything about Israel, since I consider that Israel and its relationship with the Jews living in Germany (and vice versa) to be a completely separate chapter. In the same way, the German-Israeli relationship has little to do with my topic. In fact, Israel confuses the picture, because it is a nation-state, and as such, has political and commercial ties with Germany, another nation-state, which have nothing to do with the dominant religion of either nation. Germany and Israel have a remarkably good relationship, something many (American Jews, for example) are largely unaware of. Ironically, one of the few discords in the German-Israeli relationship has been caused by the refusal of Germany to turn away Jewish immigrants from Russia – Israel wants every immigrant for itself.


An Overview

Statistics can be notoriously misleading, as Mark Twain and others have pointed out. However, an article such as this would risk not being taken seriously unless it contained ‘hard facts’. So, while I shall try to put numbers and percentages into clear context, I ask my readers to bear in mind that statistics are always relative.

In the past ten years, the increase in the number of Jews living in Germany has been dramatic – no other country in the world, including Israel, has experienced a similar percentage growth of their Jewish population. In 1990, at the time of German unification, there were approximately 30,000 Jews residing in the merged country. Today, there are probably well over three times as many, and the Jewish population continues to grow by around 10,000 immigrants a year. A 300 percent increase in the number of Jews is dramatic growth indeed. But dramatic for whom? Certainly not for German population as a whole – in a country of 82 million, 100,000 people constitute less than 0.01 percent of the total. In other words, within Germany, in purely numerical terms the Jewish community is completely insignificant. The dramatic aspect of the Jewish population explosion, then, has impact only on the Jews themselves, those already settled in Germany, those who arrived after the Second World War and built up the postwar Jewish community, for they are attempting to absorb (or perhaps they are simply being swamped by) newcomers at an unprecedented rate. And if there were around 30,000 postwar Jews a decade ago, there are now perhaps only 20,000 of these same Jews left, since emigration and natural causes have considerably reduced the ‘established’ community. The post-1989 newcomers, therefore, outnumber the ‘old-timers’ by around five to one, and the ratio is changing by the month.

The Question Complexes

There are so many aspects to the ‘Jews in contemporary Germany’ theme that I find it practical to group them into three complexes. The first complex concerns Jews among themselves, and I call it ‘Germany’s Jews’. Who are the Jews living in Germany now, the remaining ‘establishment’ (the postwar, pre-unification community) and the newcomers? How and how well do they coexist? What are the major internal issues confronting the Jewish community today, and what is likely to be the future of Jewry in Germany?

It is the second question complex which tends to attract the most attention, both within Germany and outside the country: ‘Jews and non-Jews in Germany’. How come there are still any Jews at all living in Germany after the Holocaust? How do these Jews get along with the Germans (a loaded question if ever there was once, since it assumes that Jews are not Germans, and Germans are not Jews) and vice versa? What role does anti-Semitism play in Germany, assuming that it does play one? What do the Jews living in Germany perceive as the major issues confronting their relationship with the ‘outside world’ – that is, with anybody and everybody who is not a Jew living in Germany, and in particular, with Jews living in the United States?

And this last question brings us to the third complex, since we are back to considering Jews among themselves, this time not just within Germany but across the Atlantic. I call this complex ‘the American factor’ and extend it to include the current state of the so-called German-Jewish dialogue. This too is a loaded concept, complicated by the fact that the ‘Germans’ in this case are automatically non-Jews, and the ‘Jews’ are usually American Jews.

In the pages to follow, I shall try to give a brief overview of all three complexes. The first is probably the most interesting, if only because only the people concerned, the Jews living in Germany, know anything much about it. Certainly, the internal Jewish complex is generally little known to, and even less understood by, the rest of the German population. For the most part, the rest of the world, including other Jewish populations, either have no interest in the topic, or have erroneous ideas based on myth and prejudice. I shall therefore start with the Jews among themselves.

The First Complex: Germany’s Jews

Right after the Second World War, few people could imagine that a Jewish population would ever again settle on German soil, establish roots and survive. To some extent, it was unimaginable to the very Jews who found themselves in Germany in the postwar era and who did end up staying. For staying was never their intention. They were not the same pre-war assimilated German Jews who had felt so entirely at one with their country that they were completely unprepared for the Holocaust unleashed upon them, reducing their population from well over half a million to about 15,000 after the war. German Jewry had all but disappeared, either decimated or living in Palestine or elsewhere in the Diaspora. But in one of the many supreme ironies of history, within months of the end of the war, a wave of Jews flowed into the very country which had sought to purge itself (and the rest of Europe) of their presence. These were displaced persons (DPs), Eastern European Jews who had somehow managed to survive the war and had been liberated from concentration camps by the Allies. Driven by the lack of a home to return to, the civil war and anti-Semitism in Poland, the desperate search for their missing families (almost all of whom had been killed), and a complete lack of any choices, these destitute and desperate people ended up in internment camps in the land of the enemy, while they waited to move on to friendlier climes. In the end, around 200,000 DPs found themselves living on German territory, mostly in the Western-occupied zones, between 1945 and 1948. Their primary occupation was applying for visas to the U.S., to Canada, to Australia – to wherever they thought a better life might be waiting. Israel did not yet exist at first, but many of the DPs migrated to Palestine. However, none of the other countries was overjoyed at the thought of taking in people too sick and broken to contribute to society. Only the healthy were welcome. And so DP families were often faced with a tragic dilemma – leave Germany to start a new life, but without a family member who had been denied a visa on health grounds or who was simply too frail to move, or else remain as a family in the land of the perpetrators. Some of the individual stories are heartbreaking. Nevertheless, by the end of the decade, the vast majority of the DPs had emigrated to new homes, and only 15,000 were left.

It was these East European Jews, then, who formed the core of the new Jewish community – now no longer a community of German citizens of the Jewish faith, but a community of Jews forced through lack of other possibilities to live in Germany. (Note: Germany henceforth refers to the Federal Republic.) And over the years, this community, vastly different from the pre-war community, slowly established itself. It was periodically bolstered by the immigration of thousands of Jews from Eastern European countries – Hungary, Romania, Czechoslovakia – who feared ever-recurrent anti-Semitic violence and somehow managed to escape from behind the Iron Curtain, as well as by Jews from non-European countries such as Iran and even Israel, and a very small number of German Jews – no more than a few thousand – who decided to return to their country and culture of origin. By the beginning of the 1950s, there were around 30,000 Jews living in the western part of Germany, and over the next four decades, this number remained fairly constant, despite the advanced age of the community, the (consequent) low birthrate and steady emigration.

A Change in Mind-Set

During the four decades to 1990, a considerable change in the self-image of the Jews in Germany came about. At first, hardly any Jews could contemplate the possibility of living permanently and voluntarily in the country of the perpetrators: traumatized, they sat on metaphorical packed suitcases while they nourished the hope (which eventually became a desperately cultivated illusion) that they were in transit, on their way elsewhere. In the meantime, they kept to themselves as much as possible, fearful of the world surrounding them and taking no part in the rebuilding of German society. Some of them had children, and brought them up in an environment which they considered fraught with danger, but which, because of their own trauma, they made no attempt to influence or change. Children of that time (the 1950s through the 1970s) tell stories of growing up in German cities where they were ‘taught’ (not necessarily explicitly) that the only ‘safe’ houses were the homes of other Jewish families, the synagogue and other Jewish establishments if any. The rest of the city was enemy territory, where hostile streets had to be negotiated during transit between one safe house and another. Few survivors actually told their children of their wartime experiences. A ‘veil of silence’ prevailed, due in part to what has become known as ‘survivor guilt’ – guilt at having lived when so many millions died. This guilt was common to many survivors, not just to those living in Germany. However, the latter had an extra guilt to bear: willy-nilly, they were living in the forbidden land, no matter how short they planned their stay to be. Whenever possible, they sent their confused children to schools outside the country, to vacation camps in Israel, and did what they could to keep them within the Jewish fold (that is, away from ‘ordinary Germans’) at home. Fraternization with the Germans was problematic; special friendships, dating and god forbid! marriage were the cause of untold family strife and grief. And yet, of course, no amount of self-ghettoization could prevent the unthinkable from happening, and mixed partnerships and marriages became increasingly frequent.

Time heals, time brings about change. The 1980s turned out to be a turning point in the lives – or at least in the self-awareness – of the Jews in Germany. A subtle change in their mind-set started taking place, a conscious realization that Germany was indeed their home and that in fact, their metaphorical suitcases were already unpacked and their closets full. This all-important difference in attitude gave the Jewish population a new feeling of self-confidence, a new willingness to raise their voices in mainstream German society when they felt the need, and in general to make their opinions heard outside the confines of their own community. Thus, when Chancellor Kohl invited President Reagan to honor the war dead (including SS officers) at a cemetery in Bitburg, the Jews of Germany let their outrage be known. When an attempt was made to stage what was considered to be an unacceptably anti-Semitic play Garbage, The City and Death by the German author Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Jews from around Germany congregated in Frankfurt to physically prevent the theater performance from taking place. When the City of Frankfurt came upon remnants of a medieval Jewish ghetto during excavations for the building of a new Stadtwerke (the gas-and-electricity headquarters), Jews mobilized round-the-clock volunteers to physically stop the dredging machines. And when the historian Ernst Nolte tried to relativize the Holocaust and reduce it to just one more horrible chapter in the history of the world, the Jews were incensed and made their feelings widely known. The Jews did not win all of the battles I’ve just mentioned – President Reagan did visit Bitburg, for example – but the winning was far less important than the fact that the Jews were finally able to make a public stand to defend their interests and broadcast their concerns.

The Jews in Germany were becoming more integrated, more active participants in their country. For like it or not, Germany was their country, and by now, most of the Jews were German citizens. The children of the survivors started having their own children (accepted by the community as Jewish only if the mother was Jewish), and these second-generation children grew up with a different sense of self. Their concerns were not the concerns of their parents or grandparents. They were no longer wholly concentrated on surviving in an environment perceived as hostile, their identity as Jews was no longer primarily defined by a common enemy, the people in whose midst they lived. Instead, they had to re-define themselves as Jews, and ask the age-old question: Who are we?

The new awareness of the 1980s was accompanied by a corresponding new awareness among the mainstream Germans. They too were emerging from behind a veil of silence which for decades had prevented them from effectively dealing with their recent history. Now, it seemed, they were hungry to atone – at times going overboard in their philosemitism. As a result, from being an invisible community, the tiny Jewish population became something of a media phenomenon, with its spokespeople constantly in demand for opinions and commentaries on current events often only tenuously connected to Jewish issues. De facto, the Jews became ‘special’ people, deferred to and treated with kid gloves, at least in terms of political correctness. And it cannot be said that they did not come to enjoy this new, albeit difficult to define, privileged status.

The Russians are coming!

It was this status – and the resulting ease with which exceptional requests or demands emanating from the Jewish community were not just given a hearing but were more often than not granted by the authorities, for example – that led to perhaps the most significant development in postwar Jewish history in Germany. Towards the end of the 1980s, the then head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany (see box below), Heinz Galinski, asked the Kohl government to allow Jews from the Soviet Union to immigrate practically unhindered to Germany. Given that Germany was and still is not an immigration country (only ethnic Germans from Eastern Europe can ‘return’ to Germany), the request in itself was exceptional. That it was granted was positively (sic) revolutionary, and indicative of the historical debt that Germany considered it owed to the Jews. Over a period of a few years, an agreement was worked out whereby Soviet Jews could immigrate to Germany together with their families, who were often not Jewish in any sense, particularly not according to the Halakhah (Jewish law). Few Jews in Germany at the time foresaw the consequences of the new policy – not only was the Iron Curtain still firmly in place when negotiations began, but it simply didn’t occur to most of them that significant numbers of Soviet Jews might want to live in Germany even if they could.

In the event, the communist bloc crumbled even before the immigration agreement had been fully worked out, there was no longer any hindrance to Jews leaving the now ex-Soviet Union, and people who became known simply as ‘Russian’ Jews began to pour in. ‘Pour’ is again a relative word. Russian Jews have been entering Germany steadily by about 10,000 a year and have been dispersed around the country, either to existing Jewish communities, or to greenfield sites where they have been given the wherewithal by the German government and help from the Jewish community (see below) to set up their own communities. And by now, the start of the 21st century, the so-called Russians number around 80,000, not counting the non-Jewish family members (the German authorities leave it to the Jews to determine who is Jewish and who is not, so the government immigration figures do not correspond to the Jewish community figures). The drama, if indeed drama is an apt word here, lies primarily in the numerical relationship between the pre-1989 ‘establishment’ Jews whose numbers have now dwindled through emigration and natural causes to around 20,000 and the 80,000 plus post-1989 Russian newcomers, the socio-cultural, professional and, of course, religious differences between the groups, and the inevitably ensuing political power struggle between the minority establishment and majority immigrants.

The Organization of Jews in Germany

To understand some of the internal issues facing the Jews living in Germany, a few words about the institutional organization of Jewish life may be helpful. The circumstances surrounding the re-constitution of Jewish life in post-Shoah Germany were extraordinary, and for very obvious reasons, the Jews felt a great need to band together closely to provide each other with mutual support. Partly as a result of this, and partly because the Jews themselves were Eastern European and not German Jews – that is, they were people with a very different cultural background – the Jewish community which gradually evolved was very different from the prewar community. Indeed, it is debatable whether the prewar Jews can be considered to have formed any kind of cohesive community at all, for just as in contemporary America, the prewar Jews of Germany were both highly assimilated into the socio-political and cultural mainstream, and diverse in the practice of their religion. Many were entirely secular and practiced no form of religion – one reason they could not imagine that they would be singled out for persecution: they considered themselves simply German. The different branches of Judaism (Orthodox, Conservative and Reform) which German Jews had ‘exported’ to the United States in the mid-19th century thrived in Germany up to the war, but were reintegrated into a non-tripartite religion after the war, when it was believed that significant religious diversity could only weaken a community as tiny as that of the Jews. The prevailing religion therefore became Orthodoxy as practiced by Eastern European Jews. Within the so-called unified community, which claimed to embrace a broad spectrum of Judaism but didn’t, only Berlin had a more liberal or progressive rabbinate. Reform Judaism was for the time being effectively non-existent.

This monolithic religious situation has changed somewhat in the intervening decades, but not as significantly or radically as some Jews in Germany would like. The tripartite system has still not been reestablished. So-called breakaway groups of more liberal-leaning Jews (as well as one or two ultra-orthodox groups) are struggling for equal rights – and this because of a peculiarity of the overall German church-state system which itself requires a word of explanation. The churches recognized by the federal state – these include the main Christian denominations and the Jews, but not Islam – receive taxes from everyone who belongs to one of these churches. Most people do: belonging to a religious denomination is the norm, since it takes an official act to withdraw from a church and declare oneself a non-member. The church tax is a percentage of income tax (around 9 percent) and is automatically collected by the Finanzamt, the German equivalent of the IRS. The Finanzamt is remunerated by the churches for performing this collection service. The money thus obtained is passed on to the churches, and relieves them of the necessity of seeking financial support from their faithful. The tax money, supplemented by money from the state, is used to cover the expenses incurred by each church, and is also put to charitable use. The state, in turn, relies heavily on the welfare organizations run by the different churches.

The system is complicated and comprehensive. The federal state requires the religious denominations to organize their communities in local state associations (there are 16 states in Germany). The state associations distribute the tax revenue to local communities. Suffice it to say that the Jews in Germany are beneficiaries of this money-collection procedure insofar as the various and varied Jewish institutions do not have to rely on the goodwill and donation-friendliness of the declared Jews living in the country, and can maintain their local communities, which now number close to 100. Moreover, it becomes very easy to assess the number of Jews in the country, since most, whether religious or completely secular, feel sufficient solidarity with the community of Jews to pay the tax and be counted. The German authorities are delighted to have only one ‘Jewish church’ to deal with. But as a result of this system, which lets the state associations decide how to distribute the funds, the money from all tax-paying Jews tends to flow to the Orthodox establishments, and not to the breakaways. Until recently, the lack of financial support from the ‘establishment’ led to the non-Orthodox communities having to meet in private homes and raise money to import rabbis (usually from the United States) from private sources. Since, however, the non-Orthodox Jews in question were paying church taxes, they felt that they were being discriminated against by the ‘official’ Jewish organizations.

The progressive movement is nevertheless making rapid headway, and there is an increasing number of non-Orthodox communities (still American Conservative rather than Reform) which receive (grudging) help from the establishment. For example, the Jews of Oldenburg in the state of Lower Saxony asked for, and were granted, a Conservative female rabbi. The state rabbi in Lower Saxony introduced more liberal elements into the service – and allowed women to be treated equally (something which Orthodoxy does not permit). Progressive Jews are joining forces and in 1997, founded the Union of Progressive Jews in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. There are now active progressive Jewish movements in quite a number of German cities. I should add that this development is attracting considerable support from progressive movements outside the country, and from the United States in particular. This in turn is leading to conflict and ‘bad blood’ between the Jewish community in Germany and American Jews – for more on this subject, see below under ‘American Jews, leave us alone!’

The 16 state associations send delegates to the Central Council of Jews in Germany, an umbrella organization which considers itself the voice of all declared (that is, tax-paying) Jews in Germany. The head of the Central Council, a lay as opposed to religious position, is currently Paul Spiegel. His predecessor, Ignatz Bubis, achieved high profile both at home and abroad and was outspoken on a wide range of issues. Indeed, because of his almost daily presence in the media, his public appearances and speeches, he became a household figure in Germany and to many, his face was as familiar as that of the chancellor. Paul Spiegel is not (yet) as public a figure as Ignatz Bubis, but he is still relatively new to the job.

The Russians in Residence

Where do the recently-arrived Russians fit into the picture? From a religious perspective, most don’t, since coming as they do from a secular Soviet background, they tend to be completely non-religious. Relatively young, relatively well-educated, but reliant on welfare (read: support from the German authorities as well as charity from the Jewish establishment), they have little choice but to band together for moral support, just as the DPs did after the Shoah. They receive free language classes, and learn German fast. They also learn how to administer themselves and form their own Russian-speaking communities. And finally, they learn the ways of democracy, namely that officials in the smallest of communities are elected, and that when a group is in the majority, that group can elect its own to represent it. This is bad news for those members of the establishment who are unwilling to relinquish control and all the privileges pertaining thereto, and find it difficult to accept that in a situation where they are vastly outnumbered, they can cling onto power for only a limited time. So far, by controlling the number of newcomers assigned to any particular community and exploiting all the advantages that experienced, canny incumbents always have, the establishment is still managing to hold sway in most of the larger communities: in Berlin, with around 12,000 Jews, the majority of whom are Russian; in Frankfurt with around 6,000 members, in Munich with 5,000, and in Düsseldorf, Hanover and Hamburg, each with around 2,500. The writing is on the wall, however, and considerable bitterness exists on the part of those who see themselves as the backbone of the postwar community. Many find the Russians foreign and ‘different’, unable and unwilling to adapt to the ways of the old-timers. Moreover, they are often considered ungrateful spongers: for as long as they need help, they turn to the community, but as soon as they become gainfully employed, many leave the community in order to avoid paying the church tax. Resentment abounds. The situation bears some resemblance to the turn-of-the-20th-century situation in U.S. cities with high Eastern European Jewish immigration – but the ratios are different. The Jews living in the United States at the time still outnumbered the newcomers.

Another serious problem for the establishment is the black market in forged passports, which makes it possible for non-Jewish Russians who have no immediate Jewish family member to get into Germany and profit from the benefits reserved for Jews. It would seem that a Russian Mafia is busily at work, and that ‘Jewish’ passports are available (at a price of course). The German authorities are aware that they are allowing in some Russians who have no ‘right’ to enter the country, but they – the authorities – are not about to get into a debate about who is Jewish and who not. So they pass the buck to the Jews themselves. Since genuine Russian Jews very often have no way to prove their heritage, since many of the men are not even circumcised, it is not easy for the Jewish community to decide who is kosher, but try they do. The resulting hick-hack is unpleasant and undignified.
The Russians, then, are causing the establishment sleepless nights. Until recently, however, the last thing the establishment felt it could do was ask the German government to close its doors to the unwelcome immigrants. They could not even be openly spoken of as unwelcome, for lip-service had to be paid to the notion of increasing the size of the Jewish presence in Germany. Ignatz Bubis said cryptically on a number of occasions, “We don’t encourage (the Russians) to come, but once they are here, we do our best to help them settle in and become integrated.” Integrated into what? It is somewhat absurd to think that a dwindling population of 20,000, despite the fact that it controls the money and therefore wields the power, can integrate a very much larger population which is continuing to grow. From a strictly religious perspective, there are not enough teachers around to educate the establishment in matters of Judaism, far less the ‘ignorant hoards’ from Russia. The severe lack of qualified teachers (no new problem) is being addressed by such institutions as the now well-established and respected Center for Jewish Studies in Heidelberg (in business since 1979) and the brand-new Progressive rabbinical school in Potsdam. However, the huge teacher deficit will continue to plague the perpetuation of religious life in Germany, and make the religious education of 100,000 Russians an impossible undertaking. Indeed, this is the secret and slightly schizophrenic hope of the establishment: that the Russians will simply abandon all pretense of being Jewish and simply assimilate into the German mainstream, leaving the balance of power (etc.) in the hands of the establishment and leaving the Jewish community more or less the way it was. The schizophrenic element of that hope lies in the fact that the Jews are desperately in need of more religious Jews to be able to continue to hold regular services – a Minyan, or minimum of ten men, is required for a service, and minyan men already have to be begged and bribed to show up. The Russians come in useful here. And, of course, an influx of Jews is needed just to ensure the future of Jewish life in Germany. So a few Russians (certifiably kosher, of course) are okay ...

The power struggle between the establishment and the Russians has now come to a very unpleasant and public head with a recent appeal by establishment leader Paul Spiegel to the German government to slow down the flow of so-called Russian Jews into the country to not more than 25,000 over the next four years. In one of Germany’s most widely-read weekly news magazines, Der Spiegel, Paul Spiegel accused 30,000 of the recent Russian immigrants of not being ‘real’ Jews (under Orthodox Jewish law) and said that they should not have been allowed into Germany. The establishment wants to be able to vet prospective immigrants and have their own ‘experts’ determine who should be let in and who not. (Note: I was once present at crisis discussion of establishment community leaders trying to determine how to establish ‘real’ from ‘phoney’ Jews, since few Russians possess any kind of written proof that their maternal family line is strictly kosher. Among the criteria being discussed were whether the candidates knew Jewish jokes and ‘looked and sounded’ Jewish.) The Paul Spiegel statement has caused a furor among many Jews, who consider it entirely beyond the Pale. The Jerusalem Post came out with a broadside, expressing the displeasure of the Israeli government at Spiegel’s words. “The fact that that the head of German Jewry is providing ammunition for anti-Semitism in such a blatant manner simply horrifies me,” Knesset member Yosef Lapid is quoted as saying. “It’s bad enough that some Jews in Israel try to negate the wonderful immigration from Russia this way. But it’s even worse when a German Jewish leader imitates them and brings the war against the Jews to Germany.”

Non-Observant Orthodoxy

In case I have created the impression that Jews in Germany are essentially religious, I should hastily correct that impression. They may pay lip-service to Orthodoxy, but most Jews in Germany are fairly to completely non-religious, giving rise to a phenomenon known as non-observant Orthodoxy. The Jews of Germany go to Schul (synagogue) on high days and holidays, but rarely in between, unless there is some occasion such as remembrance service for a respected leader, or the commemoration of Kristallnacht (for example). These later events attract as many high-level non-Jewish Germans as Jews. Many Jews freely admit that they eat pork and other non-Kosher foods – very few keep Kosher, and in fact, it is difficult to almost impossible to do so, since Kosher shops are to be found only in cities with ‘large’ communities. Religious life for many is an extension of their social lives. The spirit of religion appears to be more alive in the more liberal breakaway communities fighting for their existence.

There is an old joke which says that wherever you have two Jews, you have three opinions. The Jews have always taken great pride in their multifold diversities, and the situation in Germany since the war has been an unnatural one, in that Jews have felt the need to present a united and harmonious front to the outside, while happily squabbling away among themselves behind the scenes. It is my personal opinion that squabbling is healthy, and that the differences and diversities which so characterize Jewish culture should not be hidden, they will not weaken the community, but on the contrary, will strengthen it. Religious as well as intellectual pluralism cannot be suppressed, and differences between the establishment and the newcomers need not be hidden from the non-Jewish public. The Jewish community today is, again in my opinion, in very good shape.

The Second Complex: Non-Jews and Jews in Germany
The German Burden

The relationship between German non-Jews (henceforth for simplicity referred to simply as ‘Germans’) and the Jews in their midst has been mentioned occasionally above, for indeed, the development of postwar Jewish life in Germany did not take place in a vacuum. The Germans had their own burden to bear after the war, albeit a very different one and from a macro perspective, incomparable in magnitude to the burden of the Jews. From a micro perspective, however, many German families were destroyed by the war, and in terms of personal history, the loss of loved ones was just as tragic. However, individual German suffering was not likely to attract much outside sympathy; the Germans as a population were the villains, the perpetrators, and anything bad that happened to them was what they deserved. I mention this, because I believe it has played a role in the German-Jewish relationship that is devolving today.

The veil of silence on the part of the Germans, occasionally punctured in the 1960s, was not completely destroyed until the end of the 1970s. Until then, the war was not discussed more than necessary, and then on an institutional level (the various war trials, the negotiations on reparations for example); on the part of the population as a whole, the discussion was abstract, there was little attempt to indulge in personal or national soul-searching. Anti-Semitism was prevalent – but then, this was still primarily a generation which had been raised on horror stories about avaricious, power-hungry Jews. Deep down, there was apparently still the uneasy feeling that there might have been – surely must have been – something to the tales of Jewish aspirations to take over the world. And although every German knew about the concentration camps and other atrocities, there was still the suspicion that the accounts had been exaggerated. The horrendous descriptions, the unimaginable figures – they simply couldn’t be true.

The breakthrough came in 1978/79 with the showing in Germany of the American television mini-series Holocaust. This film managed to vividly substantiate the persecution of the Jews. Somehow, what had not been accepted as reality before suddenly hit home. Those Germans who had been too young to know about the war first hand as well as those who were born afterwards turned on their parents, their relatives and the entire war generation, and demanded explanations. Their stunned and often guilt-ridden elders, even those who had had no involvement whatsoever in the war but who had lived passively through the terrible years, were unable to give satisfactory answers. Many were simply speechless. The younger generation were relentless, they provoked what I can only call a national emotional breakdown. Granted, this was not on a dramatic scale, but as a teacher at Frankfurt University at the time, I was confronted with students who came to class in hysterics, swearing that they would never speak to their parents, grandparents, again. For most of them, I was the only Jew they had ever encountered. Some had been my students for semesters – suddenly, they no longer knew how to face me. After all that their parent’s generation had done to my parent’s generation ...

The Mea Culpa Era

The national broadcasting of Holocaust (and in Germany at the time, there were only a few public television stations and no private ones, so almost everybody watched the series) led to a more concerted national attempt to come to terms with recent history. Holocaust education became mandatory on the curriculum of all state schools – and practically all schools in Germany are state schools. The Germans became obsessed by their past, they needed to re-live it constantly. It was no longer ‘in’ to as much as harbor anti-Semitic thoughts, and absolutely not politically correct to express any. Now philosemites became the bane of many Jews – and led many to claim that philosemitism was just the flip-side of the anti-Semitism coin, and almost as bad. Be that as it may, few Jews living in Germany would have denied that they were a lot better off living in the midst of a nation of philosemites. Everything to do with Jews became fascinating, the media were desperately eager, hungry, to produce yet another story about Jews past and present in Germany, Israel, the United States; to put together documentaries on rise of National Socialism, the war, the Shoah. Things Jewish became daily fare, Yiddish culture, and in particular Klezmer music, underwent a renaissance. The place to visit was Israel, and young Germans rushed to offer their services to the nearest Kibbutz.

I do not mean to sound flippant, nor do I mean to suggest that all was sweetness and light between the Germans and their fellow Jewish citizens. The 1980s was a time of re-assessment for both the Jews (see above) and Germans; incidents such as Bitburg, the Fassbinder play and the Historians’ Debate which evolved around such Holocaust relativists as Ernst Nolte clearly showed that there was still disagreement and disaccord. However, all in all, the Germans did their utmost to make better what could not be made good.

So it continued until the end of the 1990s. Anti-Semitism certainly continued to exist in Germany, but required definition. On an overt level, it was certainly very low. On a more subconscious level, it was probably far more prevalent. The opinion polls taken in the early 1990s can be interpreted any which way (see my caveat about statistics at the start of this brochure): Allensbach estimated that 8 percent of the German population were ‘serious’ anti-Semites, whereas Emnid found that 39 percent of Germans harbored anti-Semitic feelings. For Emnid, anti-Semites started with those who considered that Jews were exploiting the Holocaust for their own ends (something quite a few Jews might have agreed with). Certainly, there was far more general knowledge about the Holocaust in Germany than anywhere else, and less anti-Semitism than in most other countries including the United States. Shortly after German unification in 1990, there was a wave of extremely ugly and sometimes fatal xenophobic incidents which shocked the world, but this was not aimed at the Jews. The Jews of Germany led by the indefatigable Ignatz Bubis were, of course, extremely vocal in their outrage at the incidents, expressed their solidarity with foreigners and deplored the vandalism of Jewish cemeteries (something that hooligans and skinheads seem to enjoy doing, mainly, so it would appear, to break taboos – few know what a Jew is) . Still, anti-Semitism was not a real issue.

A Change of Climate

The last few years of the 20th century saw a subtle shift in the socio-political climate in Germany. This had nothing to do with Jews per se, but ended up having an effect on the German-Jewish relationship. The 20th century was not a glorious one for the Germans and as a result, the dawning of not just a new century, but a new millenium seemed to have particular significance. The relief at casting off the old and welcoming the new was palpable in a number of ways. In 1998, the country decided to get rid of its trusty old chancellor, a man they had regarded as Big Daddy for 16 years. The Germans are a culturally conservative people, they prefer what they know to what they don’t. The unambiguous rejection of the ruling (conservative) coalition and Helmut Kohl in favor of a more ‘modern’, lefter-leaning coalition led by Gerhard Schröder was a sure sign that the Germans were looking forward to a really new future, and not just more of the same. The move of the seat of government from small, sleepy Bonn to Big, Bad Berlin in 1999 was not just physical but also represented a shift in mind-set. The Bonn Republic, inevitably identified with the aftermath of war and defeat, was being replaced by the Berlin Republic – whatever that would turn out to be, and nobody to this day quite knows. But it was welcomed as a chance for Germany to get back on its feet again. Whatever that might mean.

In the eyes of the rest of the world, Germany had and has been back on its feet for a long time, ever since the Economic Miracle days of Ludwig Erhard in the 1950s. At the end of the 1980s just before German unification, Germany was clearly the economic motor of Europe. Unification added another 16 million Germans to the population, making it the most populous, if not the geographically largest country in Europe. No matter that unification put a severe drain on resources, and that until the mid-1990s Germany was not doing at all well at meeting the challenges of globalization. No matter that its economy slowed down and for a while, the country teetered on the brink of recession. As far as the rest of Europe and the world were concerned, Germany was and is a major force to be reckoned with. Germany, whatever it does or doesn’t do, was and is seen as cocky, arrogant, pushy and enviably successful.

Only the Germans fail to see themselves as particularly successful. That is, they do see themselves as pretty good at a lot of things, but they don’t really like to admit it. The expression of patriotism – simple pride in being German – has been a no-no since the war. The German flag is waved only at sports events and by right-wing radicals. An economic giant but for many decades a political dwarf, Germany has been chasing after a positive identity like a cat after its own tail. Or at least it did until around 1998, when a new, more confident, more assertive, and sometimes more aggressive mood began to set in. Germany began acting the way others thought it had been acting for decades, while in fact it hadn’t. And when it did, the rest of the world (led by the British press) complained about the ‘Hun-forgivable Germans’ with the greatest of glee. For Germany, a no-win situation.

Issues at the End of the Century

Around 1998, a number of ‘Jewish topics’ were high on the public agenda. This was nothing particularly new, but had Jewish-related issues featuring in even more newspaper articles and more talk shows than usual. There was the seemingly endless debate about the proposed Holocaust memorial in Berlin: for about a decade, arguments had been raging as to whether Germany, a country which is not just full of Holocaust memorials (the concentration camp sites among others) but which some consider to be a Holocaust memorial in itself, should have a central monument. The idea was first muted by a non-Jewish journalist, and it seemed to be a strictly German issue – to have or not to have a monster memorial the size of several football fields in the center of the capital. But after years of intense and less intense discussion, an expensive and unsuccessful competition to find the ‘right’ memorial design, and much acrimony on the part of those in favor of the monument and those against, the discussion heated up again in 1997 when a group of German intellectuals expressed their reservations. The arguments are not relevant here – but the ‘Jewish question’ was once again in the limelight, and the voices against the memorial (mine was one) found themselves in sometimes uncomfortable company. Some Germans, it appeared, were getting fed up with the Jews.

The Goldhagen debate – discussion about the thesis proposed by the Harvard scholar Daniel Goldhagen that the Germans were Hitler’s willing executioners, was no longer making headlines, but the tone subtly shifted. When Goldhagen had come to Germany in 1996 to present his book, he had been hailed as a hero and awarded prizes, and not showered with rotten tomatoes (as I had predicted he might be). Here was a man who was in effect condemning an entire generation for unspeakable crimes (he did modify his charges slightly during his tour) and the Germans loved him. Not so by 1998. Goldhagen, who was being increasingly discredited in scholarly circles in the U.S., was less of a hero in Germany. German intellectuals felt freer to debunk his thesis. All very healthy, I thought – and a sign of the times.

Then there was the fuss over the Wehrmachtausstellung, the travelling exhibition ‘War of Annihilation: Crimes of the Wehrmacht’. This exhibition enraged many Germans, who accused the organizers of falsifying documents (there were some questionable provenances attributed to some of the more gruesome photos) and of defaming the entire Wehrmacht in the same way Goldhagen had defamed the entire German nation. Protests were mounted in a number of cities where the exhibition was shown. The counter-protesters accused the protesters of being closet Nazis, anti-Semites ... and so it went. But one thing was clear: it was okay to express sentiments which did not fit into the national and blanket mea culpa.

In late 1998, the prestigious German Peace Prize was awarded to the normally uncontroversial writer Martin Walser. At the award ceremony, a packed audience of Germany’s most prominent burghers listened to Walser make a long speech. At the end of the speech, everybody stood up and applauded – everybody, that is, but Ignatz Bubis, the then head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany. For Bubis was taken aback – appalled – by one short section of the speech in which Walser had expressed his feelings about having Auschwitz used as ‘moral club’ against Germany. He said that when he heard the word, he sometimes turned away. The essence of his message was that the Holocaust was being instrumentalized ‘as a permanent exhibit of German shame’, and that he, Walser, had had enough. Whether the audience present approved of what he had said, whether they had slept through it, or whether they had simply failed to grasp the significance/enormity of his remarks is not clear. Everybody did catch on to the fact that Bubis, the representative of all the Jews in Germany, had taken umbrage. And since Bubis was highly esteemed for his tireless efforts to promote tolerance and mutual understanding, for his commitment to a renaissance of Jewish life in Germany, everybody realized that what Walser had said was, at the very least, controversial.

The discussion as to whether there can ever be a line drawn across history (a Schlußstrich) so that Germany can call an end to the Holocaust chapter and make a fresh start was not a new one in 1998. However, it was not politically correct to express such a notion in public. Moreover, it was generally accepted that ‘normalization’ in German-Jewish relations was a topic better skirted than confronted head-on. The theme of countless symposia, conferences, lectures and papers in the last years of the 1990s was rather ‘the future of memory’, responsibility versus guilt on the part of the Germans (few talk about the Austrians ...), how to preserve memory for all time, learn from the past and still move ahead without recriminations. Walser opened up Pandora’s box and launched a debate which continues to reverberate several years later, well after the untimely death of Ignatz Bubis. For Walser refused to modify his statements, which he claimed Bubis had misunderstood, and the two men (and thereafter, two camps) grudgingly agreed to disagree. Walser claimed he had simply expressed the sentiments of the majority of his countrymen. This may well be true, because ever since his speech and a television debate between the two men (watched by almost the entire country), it has become politically acceptable, if not entirely correct, to make similar statements, which then escalate into yet stronger statements ... Bubis accused Walser of ‘intellectual arson’ (Bubis later retracted the accusation), and certainly, Walser’s remarks appear to have inflamed young hooligans to go on the rampage. Anti-Semitic incidents are on the increase, synagogues are being defaced and even bombed, vandalism of cemeteries and the hurling of anti-Semitic epithets is an everyday occurrence, and in the summer of 2000, nine Jews were severely injured in a Düsseldorf bomb attack which to date remains unsolved. Since xenophobia and xenophobic violence have reached alarming proportions, there is obviously a serious social problem to be dealt with. Anti-Semitism is just a part of it.


The Germans are good at agonizing over who they are – this is a trait they certainly have in common with many contemporary Jews, who, having lost much of their sense of religion, wonder what they have in common and what makes them Jews. A new dimension was added to the German identity quest during 2000, when the opposition party, the Christian Democrats (CDU), decided either by mistake or design to launch a controversial concept – that of Leitkultur. This means defining, guiding or dominant culture, depending on the choice of translation. The CDU wants foreigners who live in Germany to adapt to a German way of life and accept ‘German culture’ – whatever that might be. Language, certainly, but also values and religion ... In the United States, this discussion would probably be redundant and/or harmless – immigrants to America accept unquestioningly that there is an ‘American Way of Life’ and are perfectly willing to adopt it, whatever it is. However, in Germany, the notion of a national culture lacks an automatic positive connotation – on the contrary, proponents have to keep explaining defensively what they are taking about. And with fierce opposition from the ruling Social Democrat (SPD) and Green coalition (which has gone as far as to suggest that the CDU is reverting to Nazi values), the CDU has been more or less obliged to go from the defensive to the offensive, and talk of national pride and the concept of a German Fatherland. Heavy stuff indeed. Especially since these notions as they are being bandied about are alarmingly exclusive. Multiculturalism is out: foreigners should accept Christian values, say members of the CDU and its sister party in Bavaria, the CSU. This is explosive, since over 2 million of Germany’s ‘foreigners’ are Muslim. So far, the Jews have not been included in the discussion, partly because their culture is in the Judeo-Christian tradition, partly because Jews are not foreigners (ah, but some 80,000 Russians still are), and partly because nobody would dare.

The Leitkultur debate is far from over, and it could become ugly. Germany needs to figure itself out, and in light of recent history, this cannot be easy. Going too far in one direction (philosemitism, abject shame) or another (anti-Semitism, xenophobia, nationalism) is possibly an inevitable part of the process. One can only hope that the pendulum will come to rest in the middle sometime soon.

Dangerous Germany?

There are Jews in Germany today who no longer consider it safe to live in the country. Paul Spiegel, the very same man who is trying to slow down the flow of Russian Jews into the country, has been making pessimistic speeches about the future of Jewry in Germany. He is particularly enraged by a current discussion on the need for foreigners to adapt to the German way of life if they want to settle here, although he considers it absolutely necessary for all incoming Russians to know German. (See box on Leitkultur). Paul Spiegel wants to know if the persecution and murder of foreigners as well as growing anti-Semitic violence is part of German Leitkultur. The fact is that while the truly nasty incidents are the work of a very few hooligans, a lot more ordinary Germans need to protest far more loudly than they have been against discrimination and prejudice. There are a number of movements that have been started to get people to show solidarity and take immediate action whenever they witness a xenophobic or anti-Semitic act – to demonstrate Zivilcourage, civic courage. Whether or not this happens will, I believe, depend on the degree of resentment on the part of the ‘ordinary’ Germans at having been treated as pariahs for so many decades. For if you tell people often enough that they come from rotten stock, that their genes are tainted, will they not eventually express their anger?

And this thought leads me directly into the next complex, namely:

The Third Complex: The American Factor
The All-Powerful American Jews

There is a belief held by many Germans that Jews in the United States are enormously influential and have shaped American policy towards Germany (indeed, American policy towards the rest of the world) since the end of the war. As Schlomo Shafir points out in his book Ambiguous Relations: The American Jewish Community and Germany since 1945, this is a lot more myth than reality. Particularly after the war, American Jews were singularly unsuccessful in persuading their government to dismantle Germany and reduce it to an agricultural nation for all time. Some Americans who happen to be Jews have certainly influenced the course of events in American politics, but not because they were Jews. This vital fact is not always understood in Germany – that an American’s religious affiliation does not have to play any role whatsoever in his/her public life. The Clinton Administration contained quite a number of people who just happened to be Jewish, but could just as well have been anything else. However, the declared Jewishness of Joseph Lieberman simply confirmed the feeling in Germany that Jews are not just any old Americans ... A recent German study indicates that 33 percent of all Germans consider that Jews have too much power in the world – and these powerful Jews are Americans. American Jewry is seen as a cohesive power structure with Jewish (as opposed to American) interests at heart.

This misapprehension has led to a number of ‘peculiar’ and sometimes paradoxical phenomena. At least until recently, many prominent and influential Germans have been of the opinion that the way to the American heart was via its Jews. Since Germany has been desperate for American love, the wooing of American Jewry has been an underlying cornerstone of German policy. But the Germans have difficulties understanding that American Jewry isn’t a cohesive body, that it doesn’t have one address, that on the contrary, it has almost as many addresses as there are Jews in the United States (around 6 million, or 3 percent of the population). In the New York area alone, there are over 60 different Jewish organizations, albeit under one umbrella, and all 60-plus have their own, often very different, interests and agendas. This admittedly confused and confusing situation doesn’t help the Germans at all, so they have been tremendously grateful to one particular American Jewish organization – the American Jewish Committee, AJC – for proving them with an address. The AJC has a long history of trying to improve relations between American Jews and Germans, and has for years been extremely active in maintaining a dialogue between top policy-makers on both sides of the Atlantic. When in early 1998 the AJC opened an office in the center of Berlin – an office, it must be said, staffed by one man and a couple of secretaries – the media had a field day. The celebrations surrounding the opening made headline news. The AJC delegates who were flown in from around the U.S. were feted like plenipotentiaries, entertained by President Herzog in his residence, given a gala celebrity ball where the only notably absent person was Helmut Kohl himself (he sent a belated and obviously insincere apology). In the past two years, the AJC office, now directed by Deirdre Berger with a minimally larger staff than her predecessor had, continues to be feasted and feted, and referred (even deferred) to whenever an issue concerning American Jews ... or simply Jews, or perhaps foreigners or immigration policy ... arises in government or media circles.

‘American Jews, leave us alone!’

This does not sit well with the ‘native’ Jewish community – the establishment – in Germany. They are outraged that American Jews are ‘interfering’ in what they consider their bailiwick. They used to be the kingpins, the ones courted and consulted – now, or so they feel, the Americans have taken over. This is not quite true: the Central Council of Jews in Germany is not ignored, its spokespeople are still listened to. Nevertheless, they feel their power base is being further eroded – as if the Russians weren’t bad enough.

Resentment on part of the Jewish establishment in Germany against American Jews is not new, it has simply escalated. A significant reason for the bad feeling has to do with the attitude of (mainly young) American Jews towards all Jews who choose to live in Germany. Many American Jews are vocal in their opinion that no self-respecting Jew should ever set foot in Germany, much less voluntarily live there. They – the Americans – are critical of everything about Jewry in Germany, including the way they practice their religion. Some (among those who at least accept that there are Jews living in Germany) are active in promoting the cause of Reform Jewry. And so on. The establishment in Germany perceives all of this as outright meddling. ‘American Jews (and particularly the AJC), leave us alone’ was the tenor of a recent front-page article in the Central Council newspaper, the Allgemeine Jüdische Wochenzeitung.

Old Rivalries

There is another underlying reason for the resentment. Within the community of Jews in the world, there has always been a pecking order, a hierarchy of ‘white and black’ Jews (Ashkenazim and Sephardim), as well as an intellectual hierarchy. For centuries before the war, German (and Austrian) Jews always considered themselves the cultural elite, while the Eastern European Jews were the tradesmen. After the war, what remained of the German intellectual elite was no longer in Germany – they were in Israel (the so-called Jaeckes, the Jews who wore jackets), in the Diaspora, and many ended up in the United States. The Jews in Germany were primarily Eastern European, primarily from Poland and had – still have – a huge inferiority complex. So any criticism from America is made that much worse because it is perceived as emanating from the arrogant, Germanic Jaekes.

Compensation to Slave Laborers

One matter on which Jews in both Germany and the United States do see eye to eye is that of compensation to the previously unrecompensed slave laborers – an issue which is not even a Jewish one, because only 20 percent or less of the people to be remunerated are Jewish, but is generally perceived as such. All Jews agree that compensation must be made. And the fact is that it was primarily the work of an American Jewish lobby (some prominent American Jewish lawyers) that forced a reluctant Germany to take any action at all. This had already been the case in the Swiss bank affair, and the Germans had seen how effective the lobby could be. Still, the negotiations over compensation to the forgotten people were extremely bitter and hard. The German government accepted to pay half the sum finally agreed upon, but German industry dug in its heels, and to date, has not been able to muster the necessary DM 5 billion, although it has been promised. The arguments over whether companies should pay after so many years, whether companies which did not exist at the time of the Third Reich should assume collective responsibility (and so on) have done considerable damage, since the spotlight is once again on the Jews and money, a fatal combination. The true issues – and the role of the Jews in the whole affair – are hardly discussed or understood.

The German-Jewish Dialogue

As a final item in this last complex, I should say a few words about the German-Jewish dialogue. In Germany, this is the ongoing interaction between Christian Germans and Jewish Germans. In addition to numerous individual initiatives, there are around 70 regional societies for Christian-Jewish Cooperation under the umbrella of a German Coordinating Council. Interestingly enough, important impetus to start up these organizations came from the American occupation forces after the war. The accent is on mutual understanding and although the dialogue is not completely free of the perpetrator-victim syndrome (guilt on the part of the Germans, generosity on the part of the Jews), it is undoubtedly a fruitful exchange.

In the United States, the German-Jewish Dialogue is somewhat different. The Diaspora Germans and the American Jews come together in countless dialogue groups organized by members of universities, libraries, archives, Jewish organizations such as the American Jewish Committee (etc.) and German associations, generally in urban areas where there is a sizeable Jewish population and at least a few Germans (often students, businesspeople and members of the local German consulate). The groups I have encountered – and in all fairness, I can only talk knowledgeably about those – are attended by penitent Germans and accusatory Jews. I have found it difficult at times not to react very strongly to the smugness and self-righteousness of certain American Jews, most of whom have no personal connection to the war, in that they did not lose family members and their parents and grandparents were not directly affected, but who refuse out of principle to inform themselves about Germany today. These Jews are almost always young. The older generations and survivors themselves are far more forgiving, they welcome good news issuing from Germany and are genuinely happy that Jews are once again able to live there. As a Jew myself who not just lives in Germany, but takes it upon herself professionally to ‘explain’ the country to non-Germans, I am cast on the German side, and my treachery is far worse than that of ‘ordinary’ – read Christian – Germans. At a fairly recent German-Jewish dialogue at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard (attended by a large audience, most of them Jewish), my presentation of Jews in modern Germany was greeted with accusations that it was obscene, that I was obscene. ‘How can any Jew live in Germany?’ I was asked rhetorically. It probably did not help much that I suggested that their negative, accusatory attitude could end up producing exactly the anti-Semitism they thought they were combating.

There should be dialogue, of that I am convinced. Young American Jews should take a closer look at Germany before they make their sweeping condemnations (or they should simply keep quiet). Young Germans should not be afraid to express pride in their country when pride is warranted, and to stand up to uninformed American Jews.

Says I. But as a Jew, I, of course, have it easy. I can say what I want. Another paradox of history.

Concluding Remarks

Jews are alive, and well, and living in Germany! They are not living in a perfect world, and in addition, they don’t always make life easy for themselves, but on the whole, they have little to complain about these days. One of the many shared cultural characteristics of the Jews and the Germans is that both groups love to jammern (moan and groan) and they are both champion worriers. The Jews in Germany today are worried about the increase in anti-Semitism, and I am the last to say that their worries are unfounded. The Germans are not comfortable with their Jews. But a repeat of history in this country in the foreseeable future strikes me as unlikely in the extreme. I do not agree with Paul Spiegel and others who are expressing concern about the safety of Jews. Any one of us can be the victim of a random act of violence wherever we go, but Germany in my opinion is not especially dangerous. I might not say the same if my skin were dark or I looked foreign. For the past 30 years, I have been wearing a prominent Star of David at all times, always visible. I have almost never encountered overt hostility, although the star is sometimes commented on (neutrally or positively) in the subway, on the street. Occasionally I’ll catch someone staring at it with a blank expression – this to me is not anti-Semitism. And yet I have Jewish friends who tell me they would fear for their lives if they openly wore a star or any other indication of their Jewish heritage. Currently, the Frankfurt Jewish football team, Makkabi, is making news because it is fed up with having nasty anti-Semitic epithets hurled at it during practice and games. The German Football Association is not interested in taking action, and claims that insults are hurled regularly at football teams. Be that as it may, the situation is unpleasant. What is heartening is that it is being discussed and deplored by the media and by people interviewed in the streets.

Nothing is simple, particularly not for the Jews. But they should enjoy their relative well-being in Germany these days – in many ways, they’ve never had it as good.

Suggested Further Reading
Benz, Wolfgang (ed.). Zwischen Antisemitismus und Philosemitismus in der Bundesrepublik. Metropol Verlag, Berlin, 1991
Bodemann, Michael (ed.). Jews, Germany, Memory: Reconstruction of Jewish Life in Germany. University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor, 1996
Brenner, Michael. Nach dem Holocaust: Juden in Deutschland, 1945-1950. Beck Verlag, Munich, 1995
Fisher, Marc. After the Wall: Germany, the Germans and the Burden of History. Simon and Schuster, New York, 1995
Goldhagen, Daniel Jonah. Hitler’s Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust. Knopf, New York, 1996
Golub, Jennifer. German Attitudes Towards Jews and Other Minorities. AJC Working Paper on Contemporary Anti-Semitism. New York, 1994
Kaufmann, Uri. Jüdisches Leben Heute in Deutschland. Inter Nationes, Bonn, 1993
Kramer, Jane. The Politics of Memory: Looking for Germany in the New Germany. Random House, New York, 1996
Pond, Elizabeth. Beyond the Wall: Germany’s Road to Unification. Brookings Institution Press, Washington D.C., 1994
Romain, Jonathan A. and Homolka, Walter. Progressives Judentum: Leben und Lehrer. Knesebeck, Munich, 1999
Shafir, Shlomo. Ambiguous Relations: The American Jewish Community and Germany since 1945. Wayne State University Press, Detroit, 1999
Stern, Frank. The Whitewashing of the Yellow Badge: Antisemitism and Philosemitism in West Germany, 1945-1952. Pergamon Press, Oxford and New York, 1992
Stern, Susan. Jews in Germany Today (1995 and 1997): Dynamic Growth, Dramatic Change. Inter Nationes, Bonn, 1997
Stern, Susan (ed.). Speaking Out: Jewish Voices from United Germany. edition q, Berlin, 1995
Tempel, Sylke. Legenden von der Allmacht: Die Beziehungen zwischen amerikanisch-jüdischen Organisationen und der Bundesrepublik Deutschland seit 1945. Peter Lang Verlag, Frankfurt, 1995
Wiessmann, Hans and Stern, Susan. From Horror to Hope: Germany, the Jews and Israel. German Information Center New York, 1996
Deutsche Juden – Juden in Deutschland. Bonn. Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung
Tribune: Zeitschrift zum Verständnis des Judentums (appears quarterly)
Allgemeine Jüdische Wochenzeitung (appears bi-weekly)
Frankfurter Jüdische Nachrichten (appears sporadically)