Photo by E lle n Ber nste in
Mr. Kanal spoke at the Jewish cen-
ne irony of the current
German situation is that ter in downtown Berlin. Oddly, the fa-
the 40,000 Jews who live cility looks like a Jewish community
in that country have not been targets center in any prosperous American sub-
of the current wave of violence — at least urb — except for the banks of security
cameras near the front door, and the
While Jewish cemeteries have been sliding steel gate meant to keep poten-
desecrated, and neo-Nazi skinhead tial attackers at bay.
"This is something we have to see as
groups have increasingly used anti-
Semitic slurs as part of their campaign a threat," said Mr. Kanal, a Holocaust
of hate, both the violent street gangs survivor who lost most of his family dur-
and the far-right political parties have ing the war. 'Whenever someone says
directed most of their wrath against that foreigners should leave Germany,
groups such as the Gypsies, Turks and we know that this could also apply to
the refugees from Africa and the Mid- the Jews. We are not immune."
The German Jewish community, he
Forty-seven years after the Holo- said, agrees that "some controls" on the
caust, most Germans have learned a influx of asylum seekers will probably
measure of tolerance for the relative- be necessary. "But a severe limiting of
ly few Jews left in their midst. Or at asylum will probably not be possible,"
least they have learned not to express he said. "We are very much against
deleting the right of asylum (from the
Nevertheless, the Jewish communi- constitution), or watering it down, and
ty is feeling the strain of recent events. we have spoken out about it."
Mr. Kanal said that Germany's Jews
"Jews are already involved," said
Jerzy Kanal, the new head of Berlin's — which includes a large number of Is-
9,000-member Jewish community, by raeli ex-patriots and Jews from the for-
mer Soviet Union who have come for The Remnant: Worshippers leaving Berlin's Pestolozzi Street Synagogue following recent services.
far the largest in Germany.
economic reasons, as well as a
"Sometimes even a harder line is tak-
few Holocaust survivors such taro they belong in the land that en by the children of the victims," he
as Mr. Kanal and their descen- butchered millions of Jews in this cen- said. "They don't feel well; they feel vic-
dants — are indeed nervous.
"It is not particularly conducive to timized."
"We have spent some bad
Rabbi Stein does not hesitate to con-
life to live in a cemetery," said
days and nights recently," he
this grim message to congregants
said. "We were very surprised Rabbi Ernst Stein, who serves as chief at the four Berlin synagogues under his
by the violence in recent days."
Jews in Germany, he said, Stein was born in Germany in 1929 and purview.
"I don't really care if they want to
play an especially important fled to Shanghai in 1940. After living hear it; I have to say it," he said. "We
role as the nation begins to deal in New York, Miami and London, know that given the opportunity and
. with the revival of intolerance where he was ordained by the semi-
given the framework, we could be in the
nary, he returned to Berlin 12 years
same position as (the Gypsies), or any
"We have a very important ago to serve the Jewish community.
Today, German Jews cannot escape other non-German national group to-
guardian function," Mr. Kanal
feeling of living among the perpe- day."
said. "Often we find that we are
The recersurge of anti-foreigner
of the Holocaust and their de-
the only community to speak up
he said, has made it harder
on questions about minority scendants — an emotionally destructive for German Jews to ignore the fact that
situation, according to Rabbi Stein.
And that unhealthy psychology has they are strangers in a potentially dan-
But German Jews are an
passed on to a new generation of gerous land.
anomaly; even among them-
— James D. Besser
Jerzy Kanal: Bad days and nights for German Jews.
selves, they are not entirely cer-