Monday, November 10, 2014

There is HOPE: "In Germany, a Jewish community now thrives" by Mike Ross

There is hope!

In Germany, a Jewish community now thrives

A member of the World Jewish Congress lights a candle at the Gleis 17 (Track 17) memorial of the deportation of Jews from Berlin to concentration camps during World War II, in Berlin Sept. 16.
TOBIAS SCHWARZ/AFP/Getty Images

A member of the World Jewish Congress lights a candle at the Gleis 17 (Track 17) memorial of the deportation of Jews from Berlin to concentration camps during World War II, in Berlin Sept. 16.

BERLIN Since first arriving in what would become Germany more than 1,800 years ago, Jews have searched for acceptance. No matter how desperate their attempts to demonstrate their standing as good German citizens — in some cases converting to Christianity, enlisting to fight in World War I, even trying to persuade their American counterparts to be less critical of the rising new leader Adolf Hitler — nothing brought them acceptance by their countrymen.

That, however, may be changing. Seventy years after the Holocaust, as anti-Semitism churns across Europe, the Jewish population on the continent is plummeting to record lows. New strands of hatred foment seemingly justified by the policies of Israel — a sovereign country thousands of miles away. And yet Germany has suddenly reemerged as a home for Jews.

Ask Cilly Kugelmann, the vice director of the Jewish Museum Berlin. Kugelmann is the daughter of two Polish Holocaust survivors who, as it is said, “grew up sitting on packed suitcases.” Today, she says she can’t think of anywhere else she’d rather live than Germany. “Germany is one of the safest places for Jews worldwide,” Kugelmann said.
In preparing to visit Germany for the first time, nothing was further from my own beliefs. In the place where my father’s family was slaughtered, I assumed that no Jew would ever again see Germany as their home. How could they?

After all, a walk down a narrow Berlin street takes one to where the city’s Jewish population was routinely rounded up to be sent to concentration camps — and to the windows of homes filled with complicit onlookers. Nazis used the familiar settings of a Jewish school and community center to lull their victims into a false sense of security, even though by then, many knew they were being sent to their deaths. German residents knew full well the fate of their Jewish neighbors — this street was commonly referred to as “Todes Straße” or “Death Street.”

After the war, the once thriving Jewish community of Berlin, which at its high point reached 180,000, was left with only 7,000. In East Berlin — the section controlled by the former Soviet Union — its population was down to several hundred and predicted to reach zero in a matter of years.

In the late 1960s my father returned to Germany to visit for the first time since being liberated by American soldiers. Despite the celebrated triumphs of Simon Wiesenthal the Nazi hunter, and the prosecutions that were the result of the Nuremberg trials, he found his homeland awash in Nazis, many of whom were back in positions of power in government. When an attempt was made to finally prosecute high-ranking Nazis residing in Germany, it failed miserably. Of 400 perpetrators who were prosecuted, 13 would be convicted, and only six would go to jail.

As the civil rights era drew to a close in the United States, a movement of German students, known as the 68ers, was just beginning. These young people demanded answers from their parents and grandparents.
It took the next generation to demand change. As the civil rights era drew to a close in the United States, a movement of German students, known as the 68ers, was just beginning. These young people demanded answers from their parents and grandparents — generations who started two world wars and were responsible for humankind’s greatest atrocities.
Teaching a new generation: A mother walked her son at the Berlin train station memorial where Jews were sent to their death.
Teaching a new generation: A mother walked her son at the Berlin train station memorial where Jews were sent to their death.
Gradually, Germany began to confront its past. Public schools were required to teach about the Holocaust and make mandated visits to former concentration camps. Reparation payments were made to victims, and laws were enacted to make it a crime to deny the Holocaust or to display Nazi symbols. Immigration laws were finally liberalized to no longer require German blood as a precondition to becoming a citizen.

The Germany of today is a different place, particularly in Berlin, where 45,000 Jewish residents now live. Waves of immigrants have arrived every decade since the war ended. Most recently large numbers of young Israelis are moving here, attracted by arts, culture, and a more reasonable cost of living. Ironically they live quite peaceably in the same emerging neighborhoods as young Muslim emigres. And for the first time since the war, German-speaking rabbis are being trained in seminaries.

Two years ago, one of those rabbis, Daniel Alter, was viciously attacked in front of his 7-year-old daughter as he prepared for the Jewish High Holy Days. I asked him if he believes that Jews will ever be home in Germany. He answered by saying, “My suitcase is definitely unpacked, but I know where it is.”

Today the gilded dome of Berlin’s New Synagogue rises over the Spree River as a prominent landmark announcing that a Jewish community thrives. And it does. For now, it does.

Ugliness of anti-Semitism Marks Paris--the world's longest hatred!


The longest hatred never ends!  The article below by Mike Ross sent a chill down my spine!

Ugliness of anti-Semitism marks Paris


Marine Le Pen, president of the French far-right party National Front, poses beside a young girl dressed as Marianne, a personification of the French Republic, in northern France on Sept. 14.
AFP/Getty Images
Marine Le Pen, president of the French far-right party National Front, poses beside a young girl dressed as Marianne, a personification of the French Republic, in northern France on Sept. 14.

PARIS — Paris is justly lauded as the most beautiful city in the world. Nowhere else is there a greater collection of talent across the spectrum of architecture, art, literature, food, and culture. But French society also has a nasty underbelly – of growing ugliness – that should give pause to those who live amid the sparkle of “The City of Light.” 
 
That ugliness is an unprecedented rise in anti-Semitism since the Holocaust. It comes in the form of increasing violent attacks on Jewish people, the emerging popularity of a growing right-wing political party, and a perfect storm of converging ideologies that has distinguished France from its European counterparts.

Anti-Semitic incidents in France are up stratospherically, according to information provided by Simone Rodan-Benzaquen, the director of the American Jewish Committee in Paris. As recently as 1999 the number of recorded acts — ranging from graffiti to targeted arson and homicide — against Jews countrywide was, at just over 80, relatively small. Yet each of the last 15 years saw no fewer than 400 individual episodes. The methodology for reporting such incidents has remained precisely the same — only the volume of hatred has changed.

A Jewish cafe in Paris, now closed, signals a fading community.

A Jewish cafe in Paris, now closed, signals a fading community.
In just the first seven months of 2014, there have already been some 600 anti-Semitic incidents. Rodan-Benzaquen expects a total of about 1,500 by the end of the year. In fact, of all the crimes classified by French authorities as racist against minorities, Jewish victims represent 50 percent — even though Jews account for less than 1 percent of the country’s population.

The seriousness of these attacks can’t be downplayed. People have lost their lives.
In 2006, 23-year-old Ilan Halimi was kidnapped, tortured, and murdered in Paris. A similar incident followed two years later — both motivated by anti-Semitism. In 2012, Mohammed Merah, a 23-year-old French citizen claiming ties to al Qaeda, killed four people — including three children, ages 3, 6, and 8 — in an attack on a Jewish school in Toulouse. And earlier this year, a young French jihadist murdered three people in a Jewish museum in nearby Brussels.

All the more worrying is that, alongside this increase in violence, France’s National Front — a nationalistic, anti-immigration political party with a history of Jewish hatred — has gained ground. The party is now led by Marine Le Pen, and while Le Pen is far more politically savvy than her father, who founded and ran the party as an avowed anti-Semite, her allegiances remain coy. She has failed to distance herself from commentators like Alain Soral who loudly castigate Jews, gays, and feminists as well as the “comedian” Dieudonné, whose hate of Jews comes complete with a reverse Nazi salute that he popularized called the “quenelle.”

Across France, National Front’s popularity is at its peak. The party this year received nearly 25 percent of the total vote in the election for European Parliament — more than any other political party.

And then there are the jihadists. No European country has had more recruits signing up with the Islamic State terrorist group than France, today estimated to be around 1000. Once radicalized and trained, the danger that they pose upon their return to the country is very real.

All of the threats, taken together, bring real fear to France’s Jewish community, presently the largest in Europe. One example: Until recently, it was commonplace for Jewish families to send their children to public school. Today those same schools have few if any Jewish students. Families are choosing Jewish and even Catholic schools instead.
Many Jews are leaving France altogether. The number of emigres to Israel alone so far has doubled in 2014 from last year to about 5,500.

Upon my return to the melting pot that is the United States, I couldn’t help but realize how lucky we all are. For all our problems — and there are many — there is something that works here to connect our disparate communities to a shared goal that seems absent in Europe. For all the sparkle of Paris, I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.