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AN AMERICAN JEWISH – GERMAN INFORMATION & OPINION NEWSLETTER AMERICAN EDITION May 27, 2014 IN THIS EDITION THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT (EP) VOTE: A swing to the (extreme) right. THE AfD: WHAT KIND OF ALTERNATIVE? Extreme? LISTENING TO PUTIN – Carefully please! GERMANY & RUSSIA: REDUX – Implications for Jews & Israel? COST OF REUNIFICATION – E. Germany & “The Old South”. Similarities? ANTI-SEMITISM STUDY: GERMANY – The ADL Study. What it says. THE SINS OF THE GRANDFATHER – How about the grandson? ENVY & HOLOCAUST – Was this the real cause? Dear Friends: While the warm and beautiful weather has finally come to the Lower Hudson Valley, enough in the way of awful news has put a damper on what should be a wonderful and invigorating time. The murders at the Jewish Museum in Brussels and the attack on Jews outside the synagogue in Paris were enough to bring about a psychological black cloud. In addition, the swing to the extreme right in the European Parliament voting only poured gasoline of the fire of depression at this troubling time. However, on the good side of the ledger I had a great time at AJC’s impressive Global Forum in Washington a couple of weeks ago. It was a tour de force with 2,000 people in attendance and impressive presentations by many speakers including Hillary Clinton. Since there is a lot to report, enough from me, let’s get on with the news… 1

THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT (EP) VOTE What pray tell is the European Parliament? If you know (really know) you’re more informed than almost everybody else in the U.S. or the rest of the world including many in Europe itself. Why am I asking? Well, they’re just had an election incorporating a lot of new members – including, of course, Germans and it didn’t turn out all that well. Before going further, let’s try and understand what the EP is. According to Wikipedia, “The European Parliament (abbreviated as EU Parliament or the EP) is the directly elected parliamentary institution of the European Union (EU). Together with the Council of the European Union (the Council) and the European Commission, it exercises the legislative function of the EU and it has been described (by its own members) as one of the most powerful legislatures in the world. The Parliament is composed of 766 members, who represent the second largest democratic electorate in the world (after the Parliament of India) and the largest trans-national democratic electorate in the world (375 million eligible voters in 2009). It has been directly elected every five years by universal suffrage since 1979.” If you want more details click here. By any test the European Parliament is important. Now down to the election itself. Throughout much of Europe there was a very troubling swing to the right, much of it extreme, in the voting. It is best explained in an Atlantic Institute press release. It reported, “The AJC Transatlantic Institute expressed its great concern over the success of extremist parties in a number of member states in the European Parliament elections. While the center-right European People’s Party projected to finish first with 214 seats, followed by the center-left Socialists & Democrats with 189 seats, several parties that promote hatred had strong support. Jobbik became the second biggest Hungarian party in the European Parliament with 14.3% (4 seats). Despite being under criminal investigations and with several party leaders in prison, Golden Dawn entered the European Parliament for the first time, coming in third place in Greece with about 9% of the vote (projected 3 seats). In France, the far-right National Front became the strongest party with 25% (projected 25 seats) and the far-right FPÖ in Austria came in a notable third with 20.5% (4 seats). “The extent to which these parties will be able to unite to influence European policy remains to be seen,” said Daniel Schwammenthal, Director of the AJC Transatlantic Institute. “Nevertheless, their mere presence in the legislature for the next five years will, at a minimum, provide a soapbox from which to propagate their vile hatred.” 2

Golden Dawn and Jobbik are openly racist, blaming the economic ills of their countries on minorities like Jews, Roma or immigrants. Their anti-Semitism also often spills into vicious attacks against the state of Israel. “These radical parties have been able to grow in their respective home countries for quite some time and are now cementing their presence also at the European level,” said Schwammenthal. “They must be confronted head-on or the danger will only continue to grow.” Jobbik’s European success follows an even stronger showing in April’s national election, where it received 20% of the vote (up from 16% in the previous poll) and 23 of the 199 seats in the Hungarian parliament, making it the third largest party. Other parties, like France’s National Front and the FPÖ in Austria, are hoping to use the momentum from the European elections to increase their presence on the national political scene. “MEPs from the shrinking pool of mainstream parties in the coming legislature will face the challenge of standing up firmly to any statements of hatred in the European Parliament,” said Schwammenthal. “Some European leaders, like Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, have already taken courageous stances, but only a strong, unified voice against hatred can truly stem this dangerous tide.” In Germany the results were not as bad. DW reported, “Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives won the EU elections in Germany with final results putting them at 35.3 percent. But other parties had reason to jubilate - such as the euroskeptic AfD [Alternative for Germany]. For the first time, Germany's contingent of 96 European Parliament deputies will include euroskeptics: The Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) was estimated to have won six of the 96 German seats, as they won 7 percent of the vote. Party leader Bernd Lucke was triumphant: "This is springtime in Germany," he said. The AfD campaigned on a platform which included demands to expel weak southern European economies from the eurozone, end bailouts and return central powers from Brussels to the national level. It is "necessary to correct Europe," Lucke said Sunday. "It is important for the electorate in Germany that there is such a party that will review critically the results of policies which have been implemented in the past," Lucke told DW in an interview. The AfD has ruled out working with extreme right groups such as those in France and The Netherlands or the euro-skeptic UKIP in Great Britain. Lucke and his party will most likely seek allies within the conservatives and reformists in Europe. The second-largest share of the German vote went to Merkel's Social Democrat (SPD) coalition partners, who won 27.3 percent of the vote, gaining seven percent on their 2009 result. 3

The SPD's top candidate, Martin Schulz, who is currently the president of the European Parliament, is still hoping to get enough support in parliament to become head of the European Commission in Brussels, succeeding Jose Manuel Barroso. Voter turnout in Germany was high, rising by 5 percentage points to 48 percent in comparison to 2009. Merkel's bloc won 35.3 percent of votes, significantly lower than its general election result of 41.5 percent last year and it's worst-ever result in an EU poll. The losses were largely confined to Bavaria, where the CDU's 'sister party', the Christian Social Union CSU won only 40 percent of the vote - a record low. Germany's two largest opposition parties, the center-left Greens and Left Party, won 11 and 8 percent of votes respectively. Parliamentary thresholds were abolished by a court in February, which meant that fringe parties have won seats, including the far-right, anti-foreigner National Democratic Party, NPD. The NPD? Yes! That’s the neo-Nazi party. While they will have only one seat it is dangerous enough that they’re on the inside. It’s something to worry about. THE AfD: WHAT KIND OF ALTERNATIVE? Last year following the German national election I wrote about a new political party, Alternative for Germany (AfD) which barely missed getting the needed 5% of the vote in order to win seats in the Bundestag. At that time it was described as very conservative with its main focus being against the Euro currency. With the EU Parliament election just having taken place, AfD did better this time and won seats. O.K.! So they’re an alternative but what kind? Spiegel On-Line recently ran an article about Bernd Lucke, a Hamburg economics professor who founded the party only a little more than a year ago. In it, it stated, “One thing that is clear is that Lucke doesn't want the euro -- at least not the common currency as it exists at the moment. He also wants highly indebted Southern European countries to leave the common currency zone and rejects the mechanisms in place for bailing out the euro. He is striving for a different Europe -- or at least a different EU. He has also launched a master plan, a draft for a future society that evokes a lot of suspicion about just how far to the right Lucke and his party really are. Although Lucke only founded the AFD one year ago, it has already attracted 18,000 members, with the party hovering between five and seven percentage points in public opinion polls. Many people were surprised that a party politically to the right of


Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats could establish itself so quickly in Germany. It is one of several parties using the idea of Europe to mobilize nationalist sentiment. The UKIP of Britain's Nigel Farage, the Vrijheid of Holland's Geert Wilders and the National Front of Marine Le Pen are all harnessing feelings of threat and loss in order to attract voters to their movements. There is considerable speculation about the extent to which Lucke's party is similar to those others. To be honest, AfD has tried to stay away from being seen as an extremist party. It cannot be identified as anti-Semitic. However, one of my informants noted, “This is the first time that a German right-wing party has scored so well in European elections. They are not - yet - comparable with the Austrian Freedom Party or the Front National, as they have focused more on economic issues and seem nationalist but not racist. However, there have been some adherents on the margins who have made anti-Semitic comments.” The problem here is that extreme right parties always seem to become the resting places for active anti-Semites. We will have to see what sort of a leader Prof. Lucke is. Will he reject those kinds of people or will he try to have them blend in? We’ll try to keep an eye on it for you. LISTENING TO PUTIN I recently came across an article wherein the Chief Rabbi of Russia (a Chabad rabbi) talked about Pres. Putin being a great friend of the Jews. Maybe he is – but anybody who says what he says and acts as he does raises a lot of questions in my mind. I read somewhere that Putin’s program is “Fascism without anti-Semitism”. I’m no political scientist but I wonder if that is possible. Fascism always contains extreme nationalism and populism and, somehow, anti-Semitism usually pops up as a force when countries go down that road. Of course, Germany is close to Russia geographically and economically so it is not surprising that the German media is loaded with pieces about Putin and Russia’s future. Recently Jan Fleischhauer, a noted German conservative columnist writing in Spiegel On-Line opined, “Some like to idealize Vladimir Putin as the ideological successor to the left-wing Soviet leaders, but that's sheer nonsense. His speeches offer clear evidence that his points of reference originate in fascism. In order to understand Vladimir Putin, you have to listen to him. You have to read what he wants. More importantly, though, you have to see what it is that he is seeking to prevent. Often, a politician's fears and aversions can be more telling than his or her plans and promises. So what is it that drives Putin? The central theme of all his speeches is the fear of 5

encirclement -- the threat represented by powers that want to keep the Russian people down because they fear its inner strength. "They are constantly trying to sweep us into a corner because we have an independent position, because we maintain it and because we call things like they are and do not engage in hypocrisy," he said in a March 18 speech before the Duma. In a television interview in April, he said: "There are enough forces in the world that are afraid of our strength, 'our hugeness,' as one of our sovereigns said. So they seek to divide us into parts." There remains a tendency to view the Kremlin's foreign policy primarily from a geopolitical perspective -- namely that the country is seeking to recover some of the territory it lost when the Soviet Union dissolved. But when Putin speaks of the enemy of the Russian people, he is speaking about something deeper and more basic. The forces against which he has declared war are not only seeking to expand their influence further and further into the East -- they are also going after the Russian soul. That's what he means when he says that Russia must put up a fight against the West. But what's at the heart of this soul? Putin has provided some insights here as well. "It seems to me that the Russian person or, on a broader scale, a person of the Russian world, primarily thinks about his or her highest moral designation, some highest moral truths," he said in the interview. In contrast to this is a West that is fixated on personal success and prosperity or, as Putin states, the "inner self." In the view of its president, the battle Russia is waging is ideological in nature. It is a fight against the superficiality of materialism, against the decline in values, against the feminization and effeminacy of society -- and against the dissolution of all traditional bonds that are part of that development. In short, against everything "un-Russian." Even today, many are having trouble recognizing the true nature of a man who is currently in the process of turning the European peace order on its head. Perhaps we don't have the courage to make the right comparisons because they remind us of an era that we thought we had put behind us. Within Germany's Left Party and parts of the center-left Social Democrats, Putin is still viewed as a man molded in the tradition of the Soviet party leader, who stood for an idealized version of Socialism. The old knee-jerk sense of solidarity is still there. It is based on a misunderstanding, though, because Putin isn't post-communist. He's post-fascist. When they were first introduced one year ago, people also failed to recognize the true meaning of Russia's new anti-gay laws. But today it is clear that it marked the emergence of the new Russia. What began with an anti-gay law is now continuing at another level: The logical progression of the belief that certain groups are inferior is the belief in the superiority of one's own people. And when Putin evokes the myth of Moscow as a "Third Rome," it is clear he is assigning the Russian people with an historic mission. Responsibility is falling to Russia not only to stop Western decadence at its borders, but also to provide a last bastion for those who had already given up hope in this struggle. But he is also saying that Russia can never yield.


"Death is horrible, isn't it?" Putin asked viewers at the end of his television appearance. "But no, it appears it may be beautiful if it serves the people: Death for one's friends, one's people or for the homeland, to use the modern word." That's as fascist as it gets. Perhaps Mr. Fleischhauer is extrapolating a bit too much from some of Pres. Putin’s statements – but maybe he’s not. It’s obviously important to understand Putin so that the West’s counter programs can effectively deal with him. I think it behooves the Jewish community to do the same. There are at least 190,000 Jews in Russia today – perhaps even many more. Getting political movements started (like wars) are easy as compared as to where they might lead. If things should turn for the worse, I don’t think the EU, or even Germany, will be able to help much. Vigilance and a watchful eye are what are needed at the moment. GERMANY & RUSSIA: REDUX In last month’s newsletter I included a NY Times article about Germany & the Jews by Clemens Wergin who is the foreign editor for the German newspaper group, Welt, including Die Welt, Welt am Sonntag, Berliner Morgenpost and Hamburger Abendblatt. In addition to overseeing the newspapers’ foreign policy coverage, he writes the foreign policy blog Flatworld. Now writing regularly for the NY Times, he has written an important piece on Russia and Germany entitled “Why Germans Love Russia”. In it he notes, “…Russia’s actions were not the only surprise. If you have followed the German debate about the Ukraine crisis, you have witnessed another strange phenomenon: a parade of former politicians and public figures going on TV to make the case for Russia. You thought that Germans were the champions of international law and a rules-based world order? Think again. There is a blatant hypocrisy here. At times the same people who had relied on international law to attack the American invasion of Iraq are now, as newborn realists, excusing Russia’s need to infringe on the sovereignty of other nations. Some of this pro-Moscow sentiment is the work of Russia-sponsored propaganda: A recent investigative report by the newspaper Welt am Sonntag revealed how a shady network of Russia supporters has shaped public discourse in Germany. Even dialogue forums with Russia, co-sponsored by the German government, are full of friends of Mr. Putin, even on the German side. But there is also a disturbing undercurrent among ordinary Germans that harks back to old and unfortunate German traditions. We have come to think of Germany as a Western European country, but that is largely a product of Cold War alliances. Before then it occupied a precarious middle between east and west. Twenty-five years after the end of the Cold War, German society may well be drifting away from the West again. In a poll last month by Infratest/dimap, 49 percent of Germans said they wanted their country to take a middle position between the West 7

and Russia in the Ukraine crisis, and only 45 percent wanted to be firmly in the Western camp. This anti-Westernism is coming from both sides of the political spectrum. There is the part of the left that is instinctively anti-American and takes the side of whatever international actor happens to challenge the status quo and the leading Western power. Then there is Europe’s populist right, which agrees with Russia’s propaganda that Europe has become too gay, too tolerant, too permissive in its morals and too unChristian, and which welcomes an authoritarian leader challenging Europe’s fuzzy multilateralism. Both versions of anti-Westernism have been around for decades; until now, though, they have been confined to the political fringes. These days they are accepted by parts of the elite and sections of the political center. That, combined with the enormous investment by German companies in Russia, is placing constraints on how aggressively the government of Angela Merkel, Germany’s strongly pro-Western chancellor, can act against Russia. For anyone who has grappled with Germany’s Nazi past, it should have been easy to call right from wrong in this case, instead of finding excuses for Russia’s actions. It’s a test that too many of my compatriots have failed. To be fair, in a recent poll 60 percent of Germans said that their country should stand with the West in the Ukraine crisis. So Russia’s ongoing aggression is having some effect on public opinion. But that still means that nearly half of all Germans do not feel a deep connection with the West and its values — which is precisely what Mr. Putin wants. There is a bit more to the article but I think the above gives you enough of an idea about Mr. Wergin’s thinking. Troubling to be sure. Israel and Jews are not mentioned by Mr. Wergin but the security of both is intimately invested in a Western-oriented Germany. The implications for a Germany leaning toward neutrality and, worse, Russia, are dire indeed. Thus far the present government and especially the Chancellor can be counted on, however, if German politics drift toward the East all bets are off. To read the entire Wergin article click here. COST OF REUNIFICATION It’s been 25 years since the Berlin Wall came down and slightly less than that since the two Germanys were reunited into the Federal Republic of Germany.


I have often wondered how much the folks in the former West Germany had to pony up in terms of taxes, etc. in order to bring their poor relatives into a united Germany. I’ve thought about it and guessed – billions! I was way off. A recent article in The fixed the cost at Two Trillion Euros. Since the Euro is valued at about 1.3 dollars to the Euro – well, you figure it out. In a study commissioned by the Welt am Sonntag, economists at the Berlin-based research association SED-Staat added up all transfers to East German states and individuals since reunification to come up with the astronomical figure. The difference between the social benefits collected by East Germans and their tax contributions made up the bulk of the price tag at about 60-65 percent of the total, the study showed. East German states spent about €1.5 trillion more than they would have earned independently, according to the study. Another €560 billion went straight to East German states and municipalities in the form of direct transfers, such as the German Unity Fund, the Solitary Pacts and the State Financial Equalization system. Bild newspaper argued on Monday the €2 trillion spent was “worth every cent”. And criticism of the study came from the state premier of East German state SaxonyAnhalt. Instead of recognizing and valuing this as a great feat of solidarity that we have accomplished in Germany, the discussion is being reduced to a one-sided transfer balance sheet," Reiner Haseloff (CDU), told the Mitteldeutschen Zeitung. But even after 25 years of support, the economic strength of East Germany remains far short of the West. The Gross Domestic Product per capita (GDP) of East German states remains stuck at two thirds the rate of the West, according to national statistics office Destatis. And many experts do not expect this situation to change in the near future. "We're going to have to face up to a future of greater economic differences within Deutschland," Karl-Heinz Paqué, economist and former Finance Minister of SaxonyAnhalt, told the Welt am Sonntag. Nonetheless, the transfers have allowed poorer states to maintain balanced budgets, invest in infrastructure and assure a higher standard of living to their populations. I have a couple of thoughts about reunification. First of all we Americans should understand the difficulties of “coming back together”. We went through that 149 years ago and, God only knows, how much that cost us in terms of dollars over the last 9

century and a half. Even to this day, wealth-wise, the Old South has remained relatively poor when compared to the Northern States. I don’t think I’m out of line when I say that the States of the Old South have remained politically more conservative than those in the North. The same thing has happened in the former East Germany (DDR). It is there that the neo-Nazi NPD party gets most of its votes and has elected a couple of state representatives into the state legislature. If the U.S. is any example it will take many generations for those living in the former DDR to be brought up to the economic level of their relatives in the West. However, while they’ve turned out a pretty good political leader in Chancellor Merkel so I’m not complaining. However, it’s troubling to think that “The Old East’s Gonna Rise Again”. ANTI-SEMITISM STUDY: GERMANY A few weeks ago the ADL (Anti-Defamation League) released the results of a massive world-wide study of anti-Semitic attitudes. In reporting on it The noted, “Based on a worldwide survey of 53,100 adults across 101 countries, a global average of 26 percent of people can be classed as antiSemitic, the Anti-Defamation League said. ADL researchers classed respondents as anti-Semitic if they answered 'probably true' to six out of 11 statements classed as "anti-Semitic stereotypes" in their questionnaire. The most common anti-Semitic belief was "Jews are more loyal to Israel than to [this country/the countries they live in]", which was seen as 'probably true' by 41 percent of respondents worldwide and 45 percent in Western Europe. "For the first time we have a real sense of how pervasive and persistent anti-Semitism is today around the world,” said Abraham Foxman, the national director of the USbased non-profit ADL. In the Middle East and North Africa, the proportion of those deemed anti-Semitic was 74 percent, whereas the Europe-wide average dropped to 24 percent. Within Europe, the highest number of anti-Semites were recorded in Greece, with 69 percent of adults agreeing with six or more of 11 sentiments in the survey. France received Western Europe's worst result, with 37 percent of surveyed adults agreeing. Germany, where one percent of the population is Jewish, came in the middle of European countries, with 27 percent of those surveyed deemed anti-Semitic. The German result was high when compared with other northern Europeans such as Netherlands (five percent), Denmark (nine percent), Sweden (four percent), the United Kingdom (eight percent) and Norway (15 percent).


The fact that the percentage of Germans who hold anti-Semitic attitudes is high does not come as a surprise nor is it new news. For instance only a month or so ago Quartz (a news blog) reported, “A recent National Bureau of Economic Research working paper finds, sadly, faint echoes of anti-Semitic attitudes can still be found in Germany, especially in states where the Nazi party fared well in the elections of May 1928. (The party, which ran on an outright platform of anti-Semitism only garnered a sliver of the national vote.) This suggests that anti-Semitic sentiments continued to exist in local areas for centuries. We use this idea and include in some of our specifications a measure of local support of the Nazi Party in 1928. We find that people who reside in states that have provided above-median support for the Nazi Party in 1928 are more anti-Semitic today in comparison to those who live elsewhere. This provides evidence that local cultural traits in terms of anti-Semitism persisted over the last 80 years. Last year “AJC called a new study of anti-Semitism in Europe, showing a 30 percent spike in incidents, a wake-up call that should lead governments and civic organizations to step up efforts to address this growing danger.” “The Tel Aviv University report confirms our own fears, based on regular contact with Jewish communities across Europe,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “AntiSemitism not only threatens Jews, but the very fabric of democratic societies in which they live. There must be recognition of the extent of the growing threat, and a commensurate commitment to confront this age-old scourge.” In no way meant to denigrate the ADL Study which is amazing in its scope, at least in Germany, the fact that there is a high level of anti-Semitism does not come as a shock. It led my colleague Deidre Berger to set up the European Forum on Anti-Semitism. There are many efforts on many fronts to counteract this pernicious virus. From my perspective the most important goal is to keep it out of government public policy and to counter allowing it to color German – Israeli relations. If you want to know more about the ADL Study I’d advise you simply to “Google” “ADL Anti-Semitism Study”. There is much to read. THE SINS OF THE GRANDFATHER Ezekiel 18 states, “The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.”, and I’ll add –on no one else. That’ s the way it should be especially when one considers the life and actions of Rainer Hoess. Who is he? Well, unfortunately for him, he is the grandson of Rudolf Hoess, the Commandant of Auschwitz and the murderer of more than a million Jews. Y-Net News recently reported, “Rainer Hess [Ed. Note: Hess & Hoess are the same] didn’t learn about the extent of his grandfather's involvement in the Holocaust until the age of 12, 11

when one of his teachers told him the grim truth. Rudolf Hess had been the commander of Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland, responsible for the deaths of more than one million men, women and children. "I knew nothing of Auschwitz, I knew nothing of my family, I only knew that my grandfather had participated in the war like thousands of others," Hess told the AFP during a recent trip to Stockholm, the Swedish capital. Now 48 years old, Hess is at the head of a campaign fighting the rise of far-right, neoNazi parties in European elections… Run by the Social Democratic Youth of Sweden (SSU) the campaign is named, "Never forget. To vote." The SSU runs the campaign on the belief that the best way to stop the spread of far-right extremism across the continent is by speaking through the ballot box. Rudolf Hess was the longest serving commander of Auschwitz, where he tried various methods to accelerate Hitler's "Final Solution" before settling of the pesticide Zyklon B, thereby allowing soldiers at Auschwitz to murder 2,000 people every hour. Rainer Hess, wearing a Star of David pendant, has spent the last four years educating students about the dangers of racism and anti-Semitism in Germany and elsewhere. "The extreme right is not stupid," he said. "It increases its ranks, gaining ground slowly but very effectively. I am very aggressive towards them. Whenever I can act against them, I do." His research has led him to meeting many Holocaust survivors, and he has also participated in a documentary in Israel. "It was a little tricky as the grandson of a mass murderer of Jews going there," he said. When he met with a group of Jewish students, he was asked what he would do if he had met his grandfather. Today Hess says that his reply was slightly "too impulsive" but responded at the time, "I would have killed him." I’ve included this story because in many ways the life of Rainer Hoess has been played out by many Germans who at one time or another found out that their fathers or grandfathers were involved in the Holocaust. Most, I’m sure, tried to put it behind them and made all the necessary rationalizations so they could go with their own lives at least partially unencumbered by the kind of guilt associated with that sort of knowledge. On the other hand I have met many people in Germany who have dedicated themselves to live their lives in a way to make up for the sins of their fathers - and their grandfathers. How about an organization dedicated to reconciliation? If you have never heard of Action Reconciliation you should click on this link. I think you will find it moving Incidentally, AJC has had many AR volunteers work in its various offices. Great young people! 12

BTW, after WW II the original Hoess tried to escape but was caught by a German Jew who had emigrated and become a member of the British Army. You can read the story by clicking here. ENVY & HOLOCAUST A frequent question one hears when discussing the Jews, the Holocaust and the Germans is “Why the Germans?” What particularly brought this highly educated and cultured nation to have it in for the Jews to the degree that they did? More often than not, the Depression and/or religious anti-Semitism are the answers one receives. But, as we know, other countries were in the same boat as Germany after World War I and, while they might not have been in love with their Jewish populations they didn’t try to totally destroy them. Of course, there are no provable answers to the question – only theories, some interesting, some not. However, not many novel or new ones – until now. A non-Jewish German historian and journalist, Gotz Aly, according to Malcolm Forbes writing in The Forward, comes up with one. Forbes notes, “Early in his penetrating and provocative study of the roots of German anti-Semitism, “Why the Germans? Why the Jews?: Envy, Race Hatred, and the Prehistory of the Holocaust,” Götz Aly quotes Julius Fröbel, a delegate during the 1848 National Assembly in Frankfurt, a gathering whose efforts to establish a German nation state ended in stalemate: “The German is always at pains to emphasize how German he is,” Fröbel grumbles, his words foreshadowing Abish’s title. “The German spirit, so to speak, always stands in front of a mirror admiring himself, and even if it has looked itself over a hundred times and become convinced of its perfection, it still harbors a secret doubt, which is the hidden core of vanity.” Aly — an acclaimed German historian and winner of the National Jewish Book Award — uses Fröbel’s words to buffer his claim that this swaggering confidence plagued by self-perceived inferiority is a German characteristic, and further, that, insecurity is a source of envy. Aly traces the prehistory of the Holocaust, from the 1800s to the Nazis’ assumption of power, and persuasively argues that German anti-Semitism stemmed not from religious hatred or racist ideology, but instead from “the least desirable of the seven deadly sins: Envy.” Aly begins his quest for answers with the first seeds of Jewish emancipation from the ghettos in 1806. Having finally been granted economic liberty and civil rights, Jews began to seize entrepreneurial initiatives, identify with industrialization and prosper in the fields of science. Aly focuses on the Jewish community’s progress in education, noting that Jewish educational institutions were better equipped than German public schools and placed a stronger emphasis on learning. Consequently, Jewish children possessed the hunger and aptitude to learn, both of which translated into successful results: Compared to their Christian peers, Jewish pupils were eight times more likely to earn a better class of secondary-school qualification. Armed with such statistics, Aly routinely contrasts the Jewish and Christian communities of the time, even noting at 13

one point that Jews were healthier than Christians during this era and enjoyed longer lives. Eventually, though, Aly turns the discussion toward the burgeoning resentment among German Christians who felt that their place in society was being usurped by canny Jewish parvenus. The struggle against Napoleonic occupation engendered weakness and self-doubt but also pent-up aggression and xenophobia. One year after Napoleon’s defeat, anti-Jewish prejudices became as extreme as anti-French feeling in revolutionary nationalist circles. Aly impresses here by toppling certain revered German heroes from their plinths. Ernst Moritz Arndt, honored as a vanguard proponent of German national unity by generations of democrats, saw Jews as “vagabond, opportunist, treacherous, criminal” and warned that this “foreign plague and excretion” threatened the purity of German lineage. The composer of the German national anthem, Joseph Haydn, churned out anti-Semitic poetry. Karl Marx’s dissertation supervisor, Jakob Friedrich Fries, demanded Jewish assimilation into the Christian majority. Forbes concludes by saying, ““Anyone who proposes that the German anti-Semitism that resulted in the mass murder of six million people was the result of anti-Semitism in general,” Aly opines, “is merely painting a picture of the devil without accounting for the forces that conjured him and gave him such massive power.” Aly recaps these “forces” at the end of his book before reminding us of his crux and clincher: “The mortal sin of envy… is what made the systematic mass murder of European Jews possible.” Rather than learn from Cain’s folly, we have repeated and magnified it. Once again I want to point out that Aly’s theory is just that – a theory. However, it makes as much sense to me as anything else I have read on the subject. It’s certainly something to think about. ************************************************************************************************* See you again June. DuBow Digest is written and published by Eugene DuBow who can be reached at Both the American and Germany editions are posted at


Dubow Digest American Edition May 30, 2014  

An American Jewish - German information & opinion newsletter