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December 20, 1968 - Image 18

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1968-12-20

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

,
German Jewry's Tragic Transformation Recapitulated; Communists
Role
of the Politburo. In addition to

By ALFRED WOLFMANN

(Copyright 1968, JTA Inc.)

The Jews of Germany are al-
most a forgotten community today
—forgotten in the sense that their
lives are not the substance of
which news stories are made. Un-
like the Jews of Russia, they are
not culturally repressed and unlike
those of Poland, they are not the
victims of a cynical, officially in-
spired anti-Semitic campaign.
They are not players in a drama
of major conflict as are their
brethren in Israel, nor do they
have a role in German national
life remotely approaching that of
the Jews in the United States and
other Western countries. In num-



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bers they are a pitiful remnant,
not a shadow but a ghost of Ger-
man Jewry as it was before the
Hitler era. Moreover, since there
are two Germanys, there are two
German Jewries, insulated and
isolated from each other and lead-
ing completely different lives.
Last Nov. 9 the news spotlight
was focused briefly on German
Jews. It was the 30th anniversary
of the notorious "Crystal Night"
when well-organized Nazi mobs
burned down 191 synagogues and
looted and destroyed Jewish shops
all over the Reich; 36 Jews were
killed and more than 21,000 were
arrested. The night got its euphe-
mistic name from the tons of shat-
tered glass that littered German
streets after the event. "Crystal
Night" was a calculated reprisal
for the assassination of the Ger-
man consul, Von Rath, in Paris,
by a young Jew, Hershel Gryn-
span, who was driven out of his
mind by the Nazi treatment of his
parents. It was more than the
worst pogrom in German history
—it was the forerunner of Hitler's
"Final Solution" for the Jews of
Europe. Every German alive at
the time was a witness to the
event — in virtually every case a
silent witness.
It spurred Jews in Germany
to get out; many who had hesi-
tated or had hoped wistfully
that the Nazis would moderate
their anti-Semitism once they
consolidated their power decided
to depart. Those who could not
or would not went eventually via
the gas chamber route. The one
promise that Hitler kept after
his 10-year Reich collapsed
concerned the Jews: Germany in
1945 was "Judenrein."
It may seem remarkable that
any Jews live in Germany today
There are 30,000 in West Germany
who are registered as members of
Jewish congregations and an esti-
mated 10,000 more who are un-
affiliated—a total of 40,000 out of
600,000 before the war.
Not all of them were German-
Jews originally. Some came from
Eastern Europe in the wake of
advancing Soviet armies. They
lived at first in displaced persons
camps and their intention was to
immigrate to the United States or
other Western countries. After
1948 many decided to go to Israel.
Many did leave. But others were
indecisive, waited too long, were
too weary to move on. They estab-
lished businesses, and as the West
German economy began its post-
war boom these Jews decided to
stay.
The "economic miracle" of West
Germany, its glittering prosperity.
its widely touted cultural revival
and the cosmopolitan atmosphere
of its bustling cities started an im-
migration movement in reverse
among so m e former German
Jews. Many who had found re-
fuge in Israel decided to re-
emigrate. They had their pensions
and their reparations and restitu-
tion money which they felt they
could enjoy better in West Ger-
many than in Israel. They bad al-
ways yearned for the lost German
"Kultur." German was their
mother tongue and Hebrew the
foreign language learned with
much difficulty. They chafed
under Israeli "provincialism" and
the restrictions of the early aus-
terity years. For the older German



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Jews who found it hard to inte-
grate into Israeli life, return may
have been the right decision. But
for those with children born in
Israel, it turned out to be a fam-
ily tragedy.
The youngsters were Israelis.
Israel was their homeland and
Hebrew was their native tongue.
They had no memories of Ger-
many and no attitude toward
Germans unless it was one of
resentment for the treatment of
Jews. They were brought back
to Germany unwillingly, and it is
small wonder that they hated
the place and wanted to return
• to Israel as quickly as possible.
Many of them did and families
were thus broken up. A few have
stayed, and one wonders what
future there is for them.
There is not much overt anti-
Semitism in West Germany today.
But Jews have watched with con-
cern the growing political power of
the "extreme right-wing, ultra-
nationalistic National Democratic
Party (NPD). The party cunning-
ly stays within the letter of West
German law prohibiting anti-
democratic activities and disavows
anti-Semitism. But its resemblance
to the early Hitler Brownshirts is
too close for comfort.
West Germany's Jews are most-
ly middle-aged or old. With a few
notable exceptions, they play little
Part in national life. Among those
exceptions are Ludwig Rosenberg,
60-year-old head of the trade union
movement, and Herbert Welch-
mann, lord mayor of Hamburg,
Germany's largest port city.
Rosenberg is highly respected for
his courageous stand against neo-
Nazi elements. Mayor Weichmann
is extremely popular and was re-
cently elected president of the
Bundesrat, West Germany's Upper
House. This post ranks second
only to the president of the Fed-
eral Republic and is higher than
that of chancellor. But it carries
no executive power. The Bundes-
rat is composed of the ministers
and representatives of the Ger-
man Laender (states) and it is the
president's duty to preside over
its sessions.
In the nation's cultural life,
the only Jews of national stature
are the actors Ernst Deutsch,
Leonhard Steckel, Michael De-
gen and Curt Bois.
If Jewish life in West Germany
is uneventful and undistinguished,
in East Germany it is almost non-
existent. There are only 1,500 eld-
erly Jews in the Communist Peo-
ples' Republic and most of them
live on small pension. East Ger-
many has consistently refused to
pay indemnification for losses suf-
fered under the Nazi regime. The
Jews have no religious or cultural
life to speak of. Yet Jews—a few
of them — rank high in the Com-
munist hierarchy and are among
the most rabid Stalinists and na-
tionalists of the regime. They are
all-out supporters of East German
Communist boss Walter Ulbricht
and zealously follow his "anti-
Zionist" line and defend East
Germany's role in the Soviet-led
invasion of Czechoslovakia.
Within the Politburo of the Social-
ist Unity Party (SED)—the Com-
munist Party—are three powerful
Jews, though they no longer con-
sider themselves Jews. One is Al-
bert Norden; son of a Katovice
(Poland) rabbi, who is in charge
of "agitation and propaganda."
Another is Kurt Hager—born Felix
Albin—who is in charge of ideolo-
gical matters. He returned to Ger-
many from England after the war
and has since become one of the
most intolerant supporters of
hard-line Stalinism. He was one of
the principal attackers of Czecho-
slovakia's moderate Communist
leader, Alexander Dubcek, and has
denounced the Italian Communist
Party because it opposed the So-
viet occupation of Czechoslovakia.
The third Jewish member is
Herman Axen, a former inmate of
Auschwitz. He is actually only a
candidate for membership but is
credited with commanding as
much power as the full members

these three there are a number of
Jewish journalists and party func-
tionaries in East Germany. Most
of them carry on their pro-Stalin
and anti-Israel activities to the
extreme, obviously to prove they
are no less faithful than their non-
Jewish colleagues.
There are many Jewish names
under a resolution denouncing
Israel for aggression after the
June 1967 Arab-Israel war. But
a few outstanding East German
Jewish figures refused to go
along with it. One was the
author, Arnold Zweig, who died
in November. Herr Zweig, won
world prominence for his novels
dealing with the experiences of
German soldiers at the front in
World War I. He and his wife
went to Palestine when the Nazis
came to power. But Herr Zweig,
an ardent Socialist, returned to
Germany in 1948 and cast his
lot with the Communists. His
death removed the last East
German Jew of any stature out-
side of the country.
Before the Hitler era, German
Jews were among the most dyna-
mic elements in that country's
life. They were leaders in almost
every field of endeavor and they
produced such a towering figure
as Albert Einstein. That is all
past. Even under the most ideal
circumstances German Jewry will
never achieve its former great-
ness. They are too few in numbers.

Nixon Taps Herbert Stein
as Economic Adviser

NEW YORK (JTA)—President-
elect Nixon announced Tuesday
appointment of Herbert Stein, his
chief adviser on fiscal policy dur-
ing the campaign, to be a member
of the Council of Economic Ad-
visers. Dr. Stein, 52, a native of
Detroit, is a senior fellow of the
Brookings Institution.

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