Yom Ha’shoah or Holocaust Memorial Day was commemorated on Sunday, April 7, 2013, and was an annual reminder of the genocide Nazi Germany perpetrated against Europe’s Jews. In Germany, 70 years after the Holocaust, the Jewish Museum in Berlin has put on display what they have dubbed ‘A Jew in the Box,’ an exhibition featuring a Jewish man or woman sitting inside a glass box for two hours a day through August, and responding to questions from visitors about Jews and Jewish life. The exhibition is attracting a great deal of attention.
The thinking behind this rather strangely named exhibit is that the post-war generations know next to nothing about Jews and Judaism. Given the relatively small number of Jews in Germany (about 150,000-200,000 out of a population of 82 million Germans), it is likely that many Germans have never encountered a Jew. What Germans do know about Jews however, seems to be increasingly negative, as native and Islamic anti-Semitism is on the rise, and anti-Israel feelings among the young have become commonplace.
The Times of Israel reported on December 14, 2012 that “Reading the comments under Israel-related articles in the mainstream media is quite shocking. There, ignorance meets prejudice meets starry-eyed idealism.” Much like elsewhere in Europe, the young, particularly on campuses, are becoming increasingly anti-Israel, if not anti-Jewish. They question the special relations between Germany and Israel, and are essentially ignorant about Middle East realities. The German media and academia’s yardstick in judging conflict in the Middle East is human rights. Their skewed reporting fails, however, to recognize that in Israel, human rights are truly applied, and that human rights, religious freedom, and democracy are non-existent in the Arab-Muslim world, including within the Palestinian Authority and Hamas.
It is rather ironic that the Holocaust is the bond that ties the German government to the Jewish State. That said one must consider the current German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, the exception. She has displayed a genuine friendship for Jews and Israel. The general population is no longer bound by the sense of responsibility and guilt over Germany’s horrific past, especially as it relates to Jews. Germans today, under the European Union umbrella, feel free to be critical of Jews and Israel much like many people in Britain and France.
The existence of a large Muslim population in Germany, about 4.3 million, according to the study conducted by the Pew Research Center in December 2010 and released in January 2011 (Muslims constitute about 5% of the German population) has been a contributing factor in the rise of anti-Semitism in Germany. The Jerusalem Post reported (9/2/2012) that according to the Berlin police “four young Arabs punched Rabbi Daniel Alter several times in the face because he was Jewish and wearing a yarmulka, and threatened to kill his six-year-old daughter. Doctors performed surgery on Alter’s fractured cheekbone.”
The same Rabbi Alter observed that “insults and name-calling, even physical violence –that is completely normal in Germany.” According to Alter, recent research found that almost one in three Germans is anti-Semitic, and you can find it at all levels of society.
A report on Deutsche Welle (DW) titled, Anti-Semitism: An Everyday Phenomenon (January 30, 2013) reveals that armed security guards and security checkpoints watch over Jewish life in Berlin; they stand guard outside the synagogues and the Jewish schools. The report quotes an 18-year old Jewish school girl named Ilana who says: “Even in grade school, other (German) students would yell ‘Jewish pig,’ or ‘Hey Jew, bombed a few Palestinians yet?” She told of being beaten and attacked with bricks. Ilana pointed out that anti-Semitism is alive and well among young Germans but teachers, according to Ilana and Rabbi Alter, “dare not discuss the topic of anti-Semitism.” Ironically, the study of the Holocaust has been a mandatory component of the German state educational curriculum.
The German media and government officials, however, tend to blame “right-wing extremists” and ignore Arabs and Muslims for anti-Semitism and anti-Jewish violence. European multi-culturalism and political-correctness gone awry have emboldened Muslims in Europe to attack Jews throughout the Continent as well as in Germany.
The U.S. based Simon Wiesenthal Center identified Jakob Augstein, publisher of the German magazine Der Freitag, and son of the founder of Der Spiegel, Germany’s leading weekly news magazine, as one of the tenth worst anti-Semites in 2012. Among Augstein’s notorious bellowing are statements such as “Jerusalem calls, and Berlin bows to its will,” or that “U.S. Republicans and the Israeli government profit from violence in Libya, Sudan, and Yemen.” Another one is “the Netanyahu government keeps the world with an ever swelling war chant.” Augstein also accused Israel of “initiating the production of the Mohammad video that provoked Middle East riots by Muslims.” He also asserted that ultra-Orthodox Israelis “follow the law of revenge.”
Germans, it seems, wish to erase the past, and resent the Holocaust memory with its emphasis on German guilt. German laws however, forbid overt anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial. Hence, German anti-Semitism is expressed not always in direct attacks against Jews but rather by demonizing the Jewish nation. The political-Left in Germany has accused Israel of war crimes, occupation, and apartheid. The German-Left has used inverse Holocaust imagery to characterize Israel as allegedly treating the Palestinians the way the Nazis treated Jews.
A survey conducted by the GFE Europe Project 2011, that appeared in Der Spiegel on January 14, 2013, posed the following statements…“Jews try to take advantage of having been victims during the Nazi era,”…48.9% of the 1000 Germans 16 years and older who were surveyed, answered in the affirmative. “Considering Israel’s policy, I can understand why people do not like Jews,”…35.6% agreed. “Israel is conducting a war of extermination against the Palestinians,”…47.7% responded in the affirmative.
It is rather clear that Germans and other Europeans hate Jewish particularism that is manifested by the existence of the Jewish State. As long as Jews are Universalists in their outlook, they are acceptable to Europeans, albeit as “useful idiots.” What is clearly indicative of the European and German double-standard, and thus their transparent anti-Semitism is the fact that Islamic particularism evidenced in the existence of 57 Muslim states has not been a cause for denunciation or hatred by Europeans in general and Germans in particular.
It is doubtful that the Berlin Jewish Museum exhibit will change what have become a common European and (increasingly) a German mindset regarding Jewish particularism and Israel. For Jews however and the State of Israel, the memory of the Nazi Holocaust (Yom Ha’shoah) is a moral obligation and a promise to prevent yet another.
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