AN AMERICAN JEWISH – GERMAN INFORMATION & OPINION NEWSLETTER firstname.lastname@example.org
AMERICAN EDITION April 10, 2012 Dear Friends: I hope you are enjoying Passover. I trust that during the Seder the message of freedom came across clearly, especially to young people. For those of you who celebrated Easter I sincerely hope it was uplifting. What a great time of year! The Seder offered me an opportunity to see my family, family friends and eat all that matzoth stuff that I love. In addition, it has remained warm and so the threat of winter snow has passed over (pun intended). To make it even more perfect the basketball team of my alma mater, the University of Kentucky, won the national NCAA championship. I think I’ve mentioned this before, however it bears repeating. My mother used to say, “Everybody is entitled to one “Mishagas” (a craziness)” Mine is UK basketball. If you didn’t know that about me before, now you do! This edition is long. The poem of Günter Grass, so critical of Israel, engendered a great deal of press commentary in the U.S., Israel and Germany. It merited a lot of coverage. So, without further delay, let’s get on with the news… IN THIS EDITION GÜNTER GRASS – The cultural icon of Germany writes an awful poem. THE GRASS RETORT – He thinks it’s not so awful. That in itself is awful THE SAARLAND ELECTION – A small state has a big result for the Chancellor. ARE THE PIRATES FOR REAL? (NOT THE PITTSBURGH PIRATES!) – Some 1
Pirates fare better than others. GERMANS: EAST & WEST – Sometimes the twain doesn’t meet. BARAK, THE SUBS & GERMANY – The deal is sealed. It is ideal – for security purposes. GERMAN RAIL, THE HOLOCAUST & WASHINGTON LOBBYING – The Germans discover K Street. ISRAEL, IRAN & GERMAN YOUTH – The kids “get it”. Sometimes the politicians don’t. GÜNTER GRASS One of the most beloved icons of German culture these days is Günter Grass. Unfortunately he has become an outspoken enemy of Israel though he claims to be a friend. As Petra Marquardt in The Jerusalem Post noted: “In an awkward, cliché-laden “poem,” German Nobel laureate Günter Grass has announced to the world that he had to break his silence about an issue that has burdened him for too long: even at the risk of being labeled an anti-Semite, he simply had to sound the alarm about the terrible threat to world peace posed by Israel… There is already a huge outcry against Grass’s strange poem, and many of the responses refer to the last time Grass broke a very long silence – and also caused a huge outcry: In August 2006, shortly before the publication of his autobiography, Grass revealed in an interview that he had served in the Waffen SS. Below you will find some of the criticism that appeared. Spiegel On-Line reported, “Günter Grass, Germany's most famous living author and the 1999 recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature, sparked outrage in Germany on Wednesday with the publication of a poem, "What must be said," in which he sharply criticizes Israel's policies on Iran. "Why did I wait until now at this advanced age and with the last bit of ink to say: The nuclear power Israel is endangering a world peace that is already fragile?" Grass writes in the poem. The 84 year old also criticizes the planned delivery of submarines "from my country" to Israel, a reference to Germany's plan to deliver Dolphin-class submarines to Israel that are capable of carrying nuclear-armed missiles. At the same time, Grass also expresses his solidarity with Israel. In the poem, published by Germany's Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper and other
European dailies on Wednesday, Grass also calls for an "unhindered and permanent monitoring of Israel's nuclear potential and Iran's nuclear facility through an international entity that the government of both countries would approve." It is widely believed that Israel possesses nuclear weapons, although it has never been proven. In response to the publication, the Israeli Embassy in Berlin issued a statement offering its own version of "What must be said." "What must be said is that it is a European tradition to accuse the Jews before the Passover festival of ritual murder," the statement reads. "Earlier, it was Christian children whose blood the Jews allegedly used to make their unleavened bread, but today it is the Iranian people that the Jewish state allegedly wants to annihilate. What also must be said is that Israel is the only state in the world whose right to exist is openly doubted. That was true on the day of its founding and it remains true today. We want to live in peace with our neighbors in the region. And we are not prepared to assume the role that Günter Grass is trying to assign to us as part of the German people's efforts to come to terms with the past." The Central Council of Jews in Germany has called the poem an "aggressive pamphlet of agitation." Ruprecht Polenz, the chair of the German parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee and a senior member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats, told the daily Mitteldeutsche Zeitung that, while Grass is a literary great, "he has difficulties whenever he comments on politics and is often wrong." Polenz's CDU colleague Philipp Missfelder said "the poem is tasteless, ahistorical and demonstrates a lack of knowledge about the situation in the Middle East." Henryk Broder, a journalist at the newspaper who is the country's most prominent Jewish writer. The Berlin-based polemicist, who himself is famous for his outspoken views, attacks Grass in an editorial. "Grass always had a problem with Jews, but it has never articulated it as clearly as he has in this 'poem'." He writes that "Grass has always had a tendency toward megalomania, but this time he is completely nuts." Grass, Broder writes, "is the prototype of the educated anti-Semite, who is wellmeaning when it comes to Jews. Haunted by feelings of guilt and shame and also driven by the desire to settle history, he is now attempting to disarm the 'cause of the recognizable threat.'" There is much more to Broder’s reply which you can read by clicking here. http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/0,1518,825712,00.html David Harris of AJC chipped in with, “Grass pulled the wool over the eyes of the German people and the world for 60 years, hiding his participation in the Waffen SS. Now he is trying to pull the wool over the world’s eyes about an Iranian regime that
threatens to destroy Israel, and is building the capability to achieve its aim,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “Which country – democratic Israel or authoritarian, bellicose Iran – is the real menace to regional and world peace? It is Iran that has called for a world without Israel, not the other way around,” said Harris. “Why can’t Grass see what is so painfully obvious?” In his poem, Grass charges that “Israel’s nuclear power endangers world peace,” and claims that Germany, due to the Holocaust, refrains from criticizing Israel. “Grass already has a published record of hostile positions on Israel,” said Harris. “The new Grass poem confirms that his thinking is inverted. He has reversed the aggressor and the intended victim. In doing so, he is totally out of step with his own country, and most of the world, when it comes to Iran’s nuclear program and designs on Israel.” The poem, by the overly self-importance and puffed-up ego of the morally questionable Günter Grass should be criticized in the strongest possible terms. However, the poem itself and the articles surrounding it (even those that are critical of Grass) have appeal for those in Germany that market themselves as “peace loving” but have underlying feelings of hostility for Israel and for Jews. However, it is not the “anti” people that I am worried about. There is a strong feeling of pacifism in Germany in the general population as well as affection for Grass. Being opposed to Israel because of the Palestinian issue and now because of a possible Israeli strike against Iran does not help in strengthening support for the Jewish state. Not a happy thought during the Easter season when love for Jews is frequently at an all time low. No matter! What will happen politically will happen! However, when something so vile appears, especially from a person with a soiled past, outspoken criticism is the appropriate course. You should also read another commentary in Spiegel On-Line by Sebastian Hammelehle. Click here to read it. http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/0,1518,825818,00.html THE GRASS RETORT You may be “Grassed out” by now but in the interest of fairness you should know what Günter Grass said after he and his poem received the criticism it did, History tells us that once you’ve written and published something – it’s yours! You may wish you’d never put it out there but something written and published is indelible. It’s there for good. You may want to retract it but it’s too late. You may want to say you were misunderstood and maybe you were. However, why didn’t you
think about how it might be taken before you put it down in black and white? If all else fails – blame the media. A time honored political dodge. It’s equal in untruthfulness as, “I’m leaving office to spend more time with my family”. The Local.de reports, “Grass, a longtime leftist activist, said in separate interviews that the media had piled on him without understanding his message and although he found the personal accusations against him "hurtful," he had no plans to back down. "The tenor throughout is, 'don't focus at all on the content of the poem' but rather, conduct a campaign against me and claim that my reputation is now damaged for all time," Grass told public broadcaster NDR. "I have noticed that in a democratic country with press freedom that people are expected to toe the line and that there is a refusal to address the content and the questions I raise here." Grass said he was particularly stung by the widespread accusations of antiSemitism against him in the German media. "That is quite hurtful and not worthy of a democratic press," he said. In a separate interview with public broadcaster 3sat, he said he was being "pilloried" but had "no plans to recant" what he said in the poem. He acknowledged however that it would have been better not to speak of Israel but rather "the current government of Israel", he said, according to excerpts released by the channel. He said a closer reader of the poem "would recognise my concern about the future of this country which has a right to exist." In addition, Deutsche Welle (DW) reported, “Günter Grass appears hurt by the massive condemnation of his poem. He said he feels that the German press has denounced him. Its position on Israel is monolithic and there is no objective debate, he said. He had predicted the knee-jerk accusations of anti-Semitism, the writer said told the public broadcaster NDR. "Old clichés are applied. As expected, the term 'anti-Semitism' is put to immediate use," Grass said. In his literary work he extensively confronted the German past, the 1999 Nobel Prize winner said in his own defense in an interview with radio station 3sat. "In my books 'The Tin Drum' and 'Peeling the Onion' I bring the burden of my generation, the confrontation with the German responsibility for atrocities, forward to the present day," he said. "And that's why this accusation of anti-Semitism is hateful venom, without parallel."
Grass said he made an error by referring to Israel generally in his poem and not specifically the Israeli government. He added that he feels sympathy for the country, while expressing concern about its development. A preemptive strike against Iran could cause a nuclear disaster, even World War III, the 84-year-old said. "This is not just a small military action. As if it a couple of missiles could be fired with only a few deaths, as Barak and Netanyahu claimed," Grass said. "This is a military action that will have consequences. The situation is getting worse. The danger is increasing that it will come to acts of war that will then further escalate." Grass remained firm in his criticism of the German government. He said Berlin pays "dishonest reparations" by delivering and partly financing submarines to Israel. Three of these subs are already in operation and two more are to follow later this year. In March 2012 an agreement was reached to provide a sixth submarine, onethird of which will be paid for by Germany. These submarines can be equipped with conventional torpedoes, but also with nuclear warheads. Grass said that means Germany is "drawn into sharing responsibility." Grass warned against unilateral Israeli action and the growing isolation of the country in diplomatic circles. "Until now, after the experience of the Second World War, we tried hard - even with rogue states - to use diplomatic means," Grass said. "These attempts are currently also being made with the Israeli government. This high-handedness, to decide for themselves, no matter what others say, is a break with the hitherto successful tactic: As long as we are talking, we are not shooting." Grass said he sees it as a duty to stand by Israel, even as a critic. Israel cannot be spared criticism; this would be "cowardice before a friend" - here the author employs a Cold War-era quotation from former Chancellor Willy Brandt. I think that’s enough for you so that you can make up your own mind in deciding about what Günter Grass truly believes. What he wrote is there to be read. It won’t go away. THE SAARLAND ELECTION State elections in Germany have a much greater impact on the national scene than they do in the U.S. Recently the smallest of the states, Saarland, held one when the government collapsed after internal bickering. Spiegel On-Line reported, “Angela Merkel's conservatives won Sunday's state elections in Saarland by a surprisingly large margin. But the Free Democrats, their junior coalition partner in Berlin, were resoundingly punished by voters, securing just
over 1 percent of the vote. The real winners were the upstart Pirate Party, who will now enter the state parliament after getting over 7 percent. Many observers had expected that the result would be yet another expression of voter frustration with the national government of Angela Merkel's center-right CDU, its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union, and the business-friendly Free Democratic Party. But in the end, the CDU won a surprisingly clear victory, gaining 35.2 percent of the vote, according to preliminary official results, a gain of 0.7 percentage points over the last election in 2009. The incumbent state governor, Annegret KrampKarrenbauer, will continue in her position. The center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) came second with 30.6 percent, a gain of six percentage points from 2009, when they got 24.5 percent. Kramp-Karrenbauer announced on Sunday evening that she would quickly begin negotiations with the SPD to form a so-called "grand" coalition government. On Sunday, voters punished the FDP, who received just 1.2 percent of the vote, falling far short of the 5 percent hurdle that is necessary to get seats in the state parliament. The result represents a major collapse of support for the party, which got 9.2 percent in the 2009 Saarland election The real winner of Sunday's election was Germany's newest political force, the Pirate Party, which campaigns for political transparency and Internet freedom. They won 7.4 percent of the vote, despite having had to rush to cobble together a campaign after snap elections were called. They will now be represented in the 51seat state parliament with four seats. No doubt that Chancellor Merkel is breathing a little easier with a CDU victory though her natural coalition partner, the FDP (Free Democrats), was practically erased. More and more it’s looking like she is planning on a 2013 national “Grand” coalition with the Social Democrats (SPD), her natural competition. However, there is still a long way to go. What’s the implication for those interested in German – Jewish/Israel matters? Well, Chancellor Merkel is about as a good a friend as Israel has had in Germany in a long time. Would an SPD Chancellor be as strong on Israel’s important issues? Maybe, but it would certainly be a question. Perhaps it is better that it is not answered. ARE THE PIRATES FOR REAL? (NOT THE PITTSBURGH PIRATES!) If you read the item above, you know that the new Pirate Party got 7.4% of the Saarland vote and four seats in the state parliament. So, the question is, “Are they for real?” “Can they be some sort of a national force?”
The center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung reported, "These Pirates, who owe some of their image to their racy name, have now established themselves in provincial Saarland following their grandiose success in big city Berlin. Until recently, they didn't even have political platforms. Ahead of the general election, the other parties can now safely assume that the success of the Pirates is more than just hype. The Pirate Party evidently satisfies a trusting, impartial, heartfelt, grassroots desire for politics. This desire has become alien to an increasingly frumpy and jaded FDP, and the Greens have lost this desire in the daily grind of parliamentary politics. Everyday politics will catch up with the Pirates too at some stage, but it hasn't yet." The business daily Financial Times Deutschland wrote: "The significance of this election for national politics shouldn't be overestimated. But it does offer some interesting insights. The Pirates are continuing to seize fresh territory. They have proven for the first time that they can capture more than a big metropolis, and can also appeal to voters in the gentrified provinces. The newcomers will remain a force to be reckoned with in the upcoming state elections. Baseball’s Pittsburgh Pirates have had 19 consecutive losing seasons. Their German namesakes seem to be starting out life on a distinctly different footing. I’ve looked and asked about the Pirate Party’s program. I haven’t gotten any satisfactory answers. A Russian news website RT (Russia Today) at least reported something that made some sense. It noted, “Many people do not know where to put us, what we really are,” the party’s political leader, Marina Weisband, explains. “But many people say: ‘You're something new and we like that’, because many Germans believe that politics are rusty at this time.” As the big players struggle with the key economic and political issues, the Pirate Party does not even have an official stance on the eurozone crisis or on the Arab Spring. Nevertheless, it continues gathering supporters – a mere coincidence or an alarming signal for mainstream politicians? The Free Democrats Party, which is Angela Merkel's federal coalition partner, was the first to feel the voters’ change of heart, losing that Berlin vote along with another five local votes across the country. “Mainstream politics are losing attractiveness, because there's often too little distinction between different parties from different fields or areas,” Dr. Leonhard Dobusch, a researcher at the Free University of Berlin, explains. “Sometimes it's difficult to see the difference between conservatives and social democrats.” Experts say the Pirate Party's key success tool is the Internet. They see it as the new driving force, changing politics much in the manner that TV did over half a century ago.
Observers of Germany’s disillusioned electorate believe that unless the mainstream parties adapt and change their tactics, it may not be too long before they become the ones sitting on the margins. So, where the Pirate Party stands on the various issues still remains a mystery. Not a word yet about Israel, the Palestinians, Iran or any issue of international importance. The amazing thing, of course, is that many people are willing to vote for them knowing that their issues agenda is a blank page. One coincidence though. One of my closest friends in Israel, Howie Weisband, a dyed in the wool Pittsburgh Pirate fan and the Pirate Party leader Marina Weisband share a last name. So far Marina is 2-0 and Howie is 0-19. I’ll probably hear from him about this. Incidentally, (actually not so incidentally), Marina is Jewish (So is Howie). According to Wikipedia “Marina Weisband grew up in Kiev. In 1994 she and her family moved to Wuppertal in Germany as Kontingentflüchtlinge (literally "Quota refugees"—these are foreigners admitted to Germany on humanitarian or compassionate grounds. Most Kontingentflüchtlinge from the former Soviet Union are Jewish.) She finished school in 2006 and studied psychology at the University of Münster. She describes herself as a devout Jew and lives in Münster. Who knows? Maybe someday Germany will have a Jewish woman Chancellor. Could happen! GERMANS: EAST & WEST Back in the 1980’s when I started visiting Germany I was able to bring an AJC group to East Germany (DDR) and emanating from that I established a relationship with the Jewish community in East Berlin. I traveled a bit in the DDR and was struck by the physical differences between East and West Germany. It seemed that the former had hardly recovered from World War II. Many buildings still needed extensive repair. Since the DDR was relatively poor and paint was expensive, most were grey and unpainted. The people seemed compliant and accepting of their government and economic situation. Certainly, no one was starving. The Berlin Wall came down in 1989 and so ended communist rule. The people in the West were heavily taxed for the rebuilding of the East (roads, a new telephone system, transportation, etc.) and today, on the surface I find that it is difficult to tell East from West. The physical rebuilding, the opening of stores, etc. is really quite amazing considering it’s only been a little over 22 years. Much has changed and, as DW points out, “For the first time ever, both Germany's chancellor and president are from the former East Germany. But otherwise, German society has been dominated by western German elites – is a sea change at hand?
What do US President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have in common? They both belong to minorities. The most powerful man in the world is the first black head-of-state in a white-majority country, while the most powerful woman in Europe is the first eastern German head-of-government in a western German-dominated Germany. And just as black-white relations have changed very little in the US since Obama's election in 2008, so too the relationship between eastern and western Germans has barely altered since the start of Merkel's chancellorship in 2005. By the same token, the election of Joachim Gauck - raised in the communist GDR to the German presidency is unlikely to change much either. Having two East Germans in the two highest political offices in the country is one thing, but the reality of life and the perceptions of the people who live in the former East Germany is very different. One glance at the statistics shows how slowly the situation has changed, both subjectively and objectively. Unemployment in eastern Germany is, at 12 percent, nearly twice as high as in the west (6.9 percent). The big economic differences have only deepened since the early 1990s. There is still a huge income gap between East and West, some 22 years after German reunification. Those living in the land between the Baltic coast and the Czech Republic receive only around 85 percent of the salary of those living between Hamburg and Munich. "On the other hand, the pension level in eastern Germany has now reached nearly 89 percent of the West," the government said with a note of pride in its annual report on the "status of German unity 2011." But many of those affected still feel a sense of injustice. This disappointment regularly emerges in opinion polls. Since the mid-1990s, around two-thirds of people living in eastern Germany have consistently complained of a sense of social injustice. As many as 42 percent still feel like second-class citizens, a figure that has not changed since the beginning of Angela Merkel's chancellorship in 2005. The conclusion after 22 years of reunification is as clear as it is sobering: former East Germans don't get into elite positions. Chancellor Merkel and President Gauck are little more than exceptions to the rule. In light of the importance of their offices, of course, they are very significant exceptions, but that shouldn't lead to false conclusions. They have not made the country any more East German than it was. The â€œdisappointmentâ€? has, as one might expect, led to the rise of a populist, nationalistic feeling among some of the youth who do not feel they have much of a chance to move ahead economically. The neo-Nazi movement is especially strong in
the East where the neo-Nazi Party NPD has representatives in two state legislatures. There is a movement now, since a few the NPD members seem to have some connection to a string of murders of immigrants, to outlaw the NPD. I fear that such a move would only drive them underground and that might even be worse. No matter how that turns out the problem of having “two” Germanys is a genuine concern. The Germans are working on it and we will continue to watch it. BARAK, THE SUBS & GERMANY In late March Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak came to Berlin to sign a purchase agreement for the securing of the 6th Super Dolphin Submarine from Germany. The Jerusalem Post reported, “The signing ceremony with Barak for the contract to purchase a sixth Super Dolphin submarine for Israel's navy took place at the country's embassy and represents the crowning achievement of German-Israeli military cooperation. The advanced Dolphin possesses a second-strike nuclear weapons capability. Philipp Missfelder, the Christian Union Democratic deputy and foreign spokesman for Chancellor Angela Merkel's party in the Bundestag, told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday, "We stand strongly on the side of Israel. The military cooperation shows that Israel has a special status." "We cannot merely make nice speeches if we do not cooperate with Israel militarily. If Israel is in danger, Germany should stand by its side. It is right to advocate that the military option remain. I support defensive military supplies to Israel," he continued. Israel Hayom reported, “Israel already has three Dolphin submarines from Germany — one half-funded and two entirely funded by Berlin — and two more are currently under construction. Germany’s Parliament approved the purchase in November and agreed to pay some 135 million euros ($180 million) of the costs — about one-third of the submarine’s price. Barak said in a statement the submarine will “substantially increase the capabilities and the strength of ... Israel in the face of ever-increasing challenges.” Sources in Israel have said the deal has implications for the country’s strategic and security considerations. According to foreign press reports, Israel’s submarines are armed with long-range cruise missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads. If Israel were attacked with
nuclear weapons, these submarines would give Israel secondary response capabilities. The Dolphins can also be used to gather intelligence from distant places when great secrecy is required. They possess a variety of other operational capabilities as well.” I have said many times before (but I’ll repeat it) the subs are absolutely critical for Israel’s defense. Capable of carrying nuclear weapons and lying submerged within firing range of Iran, they give considerable credence to “second response capability”. Interestingly, German Defense Minister De Maiziere had previously talked about his “opposition to a preemptive strike against Iran's nuclear facilities. Nonetheless, Barak may have secured more military cooperation from Germany than was voiced in de Maiziere's anti-strike comments. ”In sharp contrast to de Maiziere's remarks, a Tuesday article in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, also known as FAZ, lends additional evidence that Barak has convinced the Germans to fulfill aspects of their pledge to champion Israel's security. The FAZ piece noted that the Merkel administration will "immediately" support Israel and provide rocket-defense systems and specialized personnel if requested by Israel in order to bolster its defenses during a conflict with Iran. The Jerusalem Post article continued, “While de Maiziere said at a joint meeting on Tuesday in Berlin that "a military escalation would bring incalculable risks for Israel and the region, to the detriment of Israel," the meetings among German ministries spoke a somewhat different language. The FAZ noted that the German defense ministry, foreign ministry and chancellor's office met to determine the meaning of Chancellor Merkel's statement about Israel's security interests being integral to German interests. According to the newspaper, the German government will "immediately" show support for Israel's defense measures. Concretely, the Merkel administration will supply Israel with Patriot rocket systems, mobile defense devices and technical personnel. The article also said that Germany's government would not expect additional military requests from Israel. I don’t have much more to add. Who knows what really went on behind closed doors? And, who knows that if and when the “chips were down” and Israel is in a shooting conflict with Iran, what Germany could and would do? The odds are even longer especially if there is a change of government and Chancellor Merkel is replaced. I hope we’ll never have to get to that point..
GERMAN RAIL, THE HOLOCAUST & WASHINGTON LOBBYING This is one for the lawyers. The German rail system, Deutsche Bahn, has hired both a lobbying and a law firm to safeguard it from possible lawsuits emanating and left over from the Holocaust. DW reported, “According to documents filed with US authorities and reviewed by DW, Deutsche Bahn late last year hired a strategic communications group and a law firm to advise and represent the company in its dealings with members of Congress and US government agencies. Deutsche Bahn’s lobbying efforts are related to the Holocaust Rail Justice Act which was introduced in the US Senate and the House of Representatives on March 17, 2011. The goal of the two identical bills, which specifically mention France’s national railway SNCF, is to enable Holocaust victims to file suits regarding the deportation by trains to Nazi concentration camps before US courts. There is disagreement among experts as to the scope of the bill in question. A lawyer lobbying for the Holocaust Rail Justice Act argues that the bill would apply only to SNCF. Richard Weisberg, a law professor and founding director of the Holocaust and Human Rights Studies program at Cardozo Law School at New York’s Yeshiva University disagrees: "The bill seems to reference specifically the SNCF, but when you get to heart of it it’s fairly clear that it could apply to other European railroads," he told DW. Morris Ratner, an associate-professor elect at U.C. Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco, is one of the attorneys who prosecuted Holocaust-era claims against German entities, participated in the negotiation of and was a signatory to the agreements resulting in the creation of the German Foundation agreement. He argues that the scope of the bill extends beyond SNCF, but that Deutsche Bahn wouldn’t be affected by it: "The bill is not country-specific," Ratner told DW per e-mail. "So it is not limited to SNCF." But, adds Ratner, "German entities are protected from Holocaust-era suits by the German Foundation Agreement, which recognizes that the German Foundation Agreement resolves all such claims involving German entities."
Deutsche Bahn, it appears, doesn’t want to take any chances and has hired two New York firms to lobby on its behalf. On December 13, 2011 Deutsche Bahn signed a three-month contract with New York-based communications group Strategy XXI Partners to "develop a Communications Plan related to Holocaust asset issues." On December 19, 2011, New York-based White & Case law firm confirmed in an email sent to Deutsche Bahn’s Berlin headquarters "that we have opened a separate billing number relating to potential meetings with members of the U.S. Congress and/or U.S. government agencies on potential legislation regarding World War IIrelated issues". There’s a lot more to the story which, if you are an attorney or just someone interested in Holocaust compensation, you’ll want to read all the details. What amazes me is that after all these years the legal questions surrounding the Holocaust are not yet settled. I guess the enormity of the crime is such that it leaves all sorts of questions, legal and otherwise, open for discussion and some sort of conclusion. Perhaps it will never end. You can access the article by clicking here. http://www.dw.de/dw/article/0,,15838460,00.html ISRAEL, IRAN & GERMAN YOUTH In the last edition of DuBow Digest I reported on the fact that the head of the Social Democratic Party (SPD), Sigmar Gabriel referred to Israel as an “apartheid regime” bringing into question where the SPD stood on the Israel – Iran issue. It looks as if the youngsters in the Party don’t quite go along with Gabriel’s kind of thinking. Benjamin Weinthal reporting in The Jerusalem Post notes, “ While Germany’s social democratic leader and chancellor hopeful Sigmar Gabriel recently termed Israel an ‘Apartheid regime’ during his visit to Hebron, the Berlin youth chapter of the left-liberal party, Jusos, broke ranks with, according to their comments, the anti-Israeli hostility of the party’s leadership. The Jusos passed, arguably, the most pro-Israel resolution in the history of the Federal Republic on Sunday at their party conference and their officials have voiced unconditional solidarity with the Jewish state in the major media. ‘If Iran continues to work on a nuclear weapon, we are arguing for a preventive attack,’ said the Berlin Jusos chairman Kevin Kühnert in the Munich-based Süddeutsche Zeitung. The roughly 4,000 members of the Berlin Jusos are under the age of 35. The organization serves as both a platform to cultivate future leadership and as an idea factory.
Fabian Weissbarth, the 24-year-old deputy representative of Jusos Berlin, told me on Thursday via telephone, that the resolution serves to jumpstart ‘a discussion within the party’ about support for Israel. When asked why Jusos Berlin launched the resolution, he said there has been a culture of ‘criticizing anti-Zionism and antiAmericanism’ within the youth group. As an example, he cited the Jusos decision in 2006 to defend Israel’s right to counterattack Hezbollah rocket attacks. In sharp contrast to a kind of naïve pacificism of most of Germany’s political establishment, including the defense and foreign affairs ministers, the Jusos Berlin section has redefined the debate about what constitutes meaningful solidarity with Israel. The decision to retain the military option conforms with the positions of the Dutch, British, US, and Israeli governments. Is there a generation gap unfolding in terms of supporting Israel’s security in Germany? It may be too early to know. What we do know is this: There has been no shortage of theoretical and abstract support for Israel in Germany. It is rather the concrete, practical support where the gaps—or better put, large holes—exist. As if to fill these gaps, the most recent Jusos resolution on Israel states, “Our selfconcept: Solidarity with Israel, theoretical and practical.” Will Jusos (and the Junge Union (Ed. Note: Part of the CDU) influence a radical change in the behavior of German political and civil society? Let’s hope that the kids will be taken seriously. ******************************************************************************************* See you again in a few weeks. DuBow Digest is written and published by Eugene DuBow who can be contacted by clicking here Both the American and Germany editions are posted at www.dubowdigest.typepad.com Click here to connect