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November 17, 1989 - Image 6

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

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A New Germany?


ast week witnessed one of the most astounding, exultant
scenes of the postwar era: the effective dismantling of the
Berlin Wall. As East Germans streamed to the West, there
were champagne, tears and laughter. It was, for all purposes, a
holiday, one that Germans on both sides of the wall had been hop-
ing to mark on their calendars for years and which finally, almost
miraculously, came about.
The wall has been an insult to humanity — to all humanity, not
just to Germans — since it was erected in 1961. It was built as a
barrier to the human spirit, as a refutation to aspirations that, it
was apparent to all, the Communist system could not satisfy.
But as one observer noted, the wall is coming down for the same
reason it was built: to keep people from leaving East Germany.
One senses now a mixture of joy and anxiety, a note of triumph of
the human spirit mingling with concern about the challenges
These heady days in Berlin have renewed speculation that Ger-
many will be reunited. It is an idea that throws into confusion the
nations of NATO and the Warsaw Pact, and geopolitical experts
and economists. The postwar military alignments were largely a
reaction to a divided Europe. Now, almost every day, we hear that
these divisions aren't quite on the verge of disappearing, but they
certainly seem more tenuous than at any moment since their crea-
More ambivalent than confused are several European nations —
and many of the Jews of the world. The English, French and Poles,
in particular, are fearful of reuniting a nation that began the most
destructive conflicts ever on this planet, this century's two world
wars. And many members of the European Community privately
worry that a unified Germany would surpass the economic success
that West - Germany has achieved on its own and become the
economic magnet of western Europe.
Meanwhile, many Jews are torn between their very visceral re-
membrances of the Holocaust and their acknowledgement that the

post-war generation of Germans is innocent of this genocide. In
Israel, leaders spoke with concern and caution about the spectre of
a unified Germany, perhaps envisioning, without articulating, the
fear of a Fourth Reich.
As ambivalent as these observations may be, no one can be im-
mune to the heady atmosphere in the two Germanys today. It is,
after all, democracy, not repression, that may prevail after long
years of repression; it has been a virtually leaderless people in
East Germany that has not only been allowed to speak, but whose
wishes have been heeded by a government not known for being
What follows now will be a test of good will on both sides — one
that will require a careful, judicious reading of history and of



A New Eastern Europe: Is It Good For The Jews?


Special to the Jewish News


can distinctly recall that
evening 20 years ago
when man first set foot on
the moon.
I was amid a mixed group
of my friends. Ten seconds
after that "small step for
man" was taken, my friend
Murray — something of a
cross between Timothy
Leary and Lenny Bruce at
the time — turned to me
with a wry smile and said:
"But is it good for the Jews?"
It is, of course, a deliberate
and often humorous
caricature of the Jewish at-
titude toward the wide world

Adam Garfinkle is the
coordinator of the political
studies program at the Foreign
Policy Research Institute; a
contributing editor to its
journal, Orbis; and teaches
political science at the
University of Pennsylvania.



to put even the most globally
salient events in parochial
"Jewish" terms. In this case,
however, what has been
happening in Poland,
Hungary and East Germany
— and what will surely pro-
ceed in Czechoslovakia,
Romania, and perhaps even
Bulgaria before very long —
does have meaning for Jews
on a number of levels.
On perhaps the most
pedestrian level, the rapid
liberalization of some com-
munist regimes (East Ger-
many) and the more pro-
tracted collapse and
transformation of others
(Poland and Hungary) mean
that the constraints against
the normalization of diplo-
matic ties between these
governments and Israel
have been largely removed.
Hungary re-established
diplomatic relations with
Israel on Sept. 19, and other
states will likely follow. The
Soviet Union seems unwill-
ing, and perhaps unable, to

stop them — and may soon
join them.
The re-establishment of
East European and possibly
diplomatic ties with Israel
will lessen Israel's interna-
tional isolation to some
degree. But since Israel has
maintained diplomatic ties
with Romania throughout
the last 20 years, and decent
de facto relations even with
East Germany as well, in
more recent times, the
significance of these formal
changes is probably modest.
In the late 1940s and early
1950s, Jews were still
prominent in the communist
parties in Eastern Europe,
but ineluctably, they were
displaced by native ethnic
cadres. This generational
transition of political elites
largely explains the anti-
Semitism of East European
communist parties in the
1950s, 1960s and beyond.
Now these cadres are be-
ing defeated and driven from
power throughout Eastern

Europe. This does not mean,
however, that anti-Semitism
has been completely van-
It is a moot point for most
East European countries
because there are very few
Jews left in them, but

There is reason for
all people who love
liberty to rejoice in
the new light
shining upon the
societies of
Eastern Europe.

Hungary is an exception.
There are as many as
100,000 Jews in Hungary,
and while Stalinist forms of
anti-Semitism will surely
wane, the old nationalist
forms may wax.
In the new politics of
Hungary, Jews may become
political scapegoats in much

the same way they were in
Poland as recently as 1970.
If that happens, we may ex-
pect a modest level of Jewish
emigration from Hungary to
Israel, to Western Europe,
and to Canada and the
United States.
There is also an economic
lesson that Israel can learn
from these dramatic events.
Except in the East German
case, political reform in the
communist world has been
driven by economic collapse.
Israel's basic economic
architecture is not very
different from the failed
models of Eastern Europe,
with which it shares a
historical kinship of sorts. It
has been and remains so-
cialist in design, heavily
oriented toward public sec-
tor employment, and the re-
lationship of its leaden bu-
reaucracy to the Israeli
economy can only be com-
pared to that of a boa con-

Continued on Page 10



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