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November 17, 1989 - Image 38

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1989-11-17

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38

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 17, 1989

Jews Have Misgivings
Over Events In Berlin

J.J. GOLDBERG

Special to The Jewish News

L

ike mourners at a wed-
ding, Jews active in
communal and
organizatonal work have
watched the last week's
stunning events at the
Berlin Wall with deep sense
of misgiving, as the vision of
freedom reborn collided with
a dark spectre of a resurgent
Germany.
"I think any Jew, certainly
a survivor of the Holocaust,
looks at the events in Ger-
many today with mixed feel-
ings," said Abraham H.
Foxman, national director of
the Anti-Defamation League
of B'nai B'rith and a
Holocaust survivor.
"On the one hand, it's a
banner day for freedom
because the walls are com-
ing down," Foxman said.
"But Germany, in Jewish
history and I believe in
Western history, isn't just
any country. So one looks at
these events with a sense of
anxiety mixed with a feeling
of welcoming democracy."
The anxiety is not limited
to Jews. Observers here and
in Europe report a wide-
spread sense of foreboding in
Poland, Hungary, France
and elsewhere over the pro-
spect of a reunited Germany.
Even .Johnny Carson noted
in a monologue that the way
had now been cleared for the
re-emergence of Germany as
the strongest nation in
Europe. "Now there's a
dream come true," Carson
said to the nervous laughs of
his audience.
There were reports from
Berlin that the opening of
East Germany's borders had
sparked a wave of nation-
alist pride among Germans,
reviving memories of the
rampant chauvinism that
lay at the heart of Nazism.
Moreover, some observers
recalled that territorial
unification has sparked
almost mystical nationalist
revivals in several countries
in this century. But the
danger from Germany, they
agreed, is not immediate —
if, indeed, such danger exists
at all.
"The United States is not
prepared to see West Ger-
many move out of NATO,
and the Soviet Union is not
prepared to see East Ger-

J.J. Goldberg writes for the
New York Jewish Week.

many move out of the War-
saw Pact, so it's going to
take a long time," said
Lawrence Rubin, associate
executive vice-chairman of
the National Jewish Com-
munity Relations Advisory
Council.
"I don't think that unifica-
tion of Germany is on the
agenda or even close to being
on the agenda," said Ambas-
sador Uriel Savir, Israel's
consul-general in New York.
"Should it be raised, un-

Abraham Foxman: Mixed feelings.

doubtedly it will raise in the
Western world and in Israel
a variety of feelings, not
necessarily all to the
positive."
Still, the very fact that
German reunification has
been been revived, even as a
distant possibility, appears
to have sent shockwaves
through the Jewish foreign-
policy community. Many of
those interviewed were
reluctant to discuss the issue
on the record, noting
postwar West Germany's
close ties with Israel and
world Jewry.
"I can't separate my per-
sonal views from those of my
organization," said one top
official in New York's
Jewish institutional net-
work. "I have so many
relatives who were killed in
Germany, I can't deal
dispassionately with the
question. The idea that
Germany could re-emerge
and become a power again —
you have to shudder at the
thought."
"The processes of
democratization and open-
ing up are, of course,
positive," said Hebrew Uni-
versity political scientist

Shlomo Avineri, currently a
visiting professor at Queens
College- CUNY. "On the
other hand, I have no doubt
that what is happening will
lead ultimately to some form
of reunification. And a
strong Germany in the
center of Europe has always
been a destabilizing factor in
modern European history
because there are no
countervaling factors."
German dominance is not
merely theoretical. Even in
its current, fragmented
state, West Germany is the
world's fourth largest
economic power with a Gross
National Product of about
$900 billion, ranking just
behind the United States,
the Soviet Union and Japan.
East Germany, while weak
by Western standards, has
the most powerful economy
in the Soviet bloc with a
GNP of about $200 billion,
putting it easily in the
world's top 20. Should the
two German economies
become a single unit, it
would easily overshadow its
closest competitors in
Europe, France and Britain,
each of which have GNPs of
about $760 million.
"Inevitably, it provokes
apprehensiveness in every-
one," said Phil Baum, asso-
ciate executive director of
the American Jewish Con-
gress. "But on the other
hand, there's nothing
genetic about it."
Not everyone was
prepared to be so kind.
"For me, the Germans are
Germans," said Benjamin
Meed, chairman of the
World Gahhering of Jewish
Holocaust Survivors. "No
matter East or West —
they're Germans When they
were in German uniforms
going through Europe kill-
ing and murdering, I didn't
know whether they were
from East or West. For me as
a survivor, Germany has
something to do with Ger-
many as a totality."
Even Holocaust-
remembrance activists,
however, are far from
unanimous over the dangers
of a reunited Germany.
"I'm very concerned by it,
but I never saw the concept
of a divided Germany as be-
ing the safeguard of future
German democracy or a
viable European communi-
ty," said Menachem Z.
Rosensaft, founding chair-
man of the International
Network of Children of

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