Zum Holocaustgedenktag in Israel habe ich einen Meinungsbeitrag für die israelische Nachrichtenseite Walla! geschrieben. Der Text ist auf Hebräisch erschienen – hier gibt es ihn auf Englisch zu lesen.
When I first came to Israel, there was one question I was afraid of: „So, where are you from?“ Shall I say that I am German? Will they leave? Shout? Tell me I am a Nazi? That I should go home? So very shy and quietly, I said: “I am from Germany.” What I saw and still see on many faces of people of all ages is a big smile. “Wow, really. I’ve been to Berlin. Are you from Berlin?” (It seems like every Tel Avivian between the age of 21 and 35 has lived or wants to live in Berlin. Why, when you have the beach and the sunshine here? But that’s another question). I respond: “Munich.” It follows a conversation about their trips to Germany, good German beer, the question how cold it can really get and of course: FC Bayern München (and to clarify things from the start: Yes, I am a fan).
I was surprised to see how many Israelis have forgiven and treat me as a young German, asking questions about the here and now rather than treating me like a descendant from a generation of Nazis asking question about my grandfather. I couldn’t believe it after being confronted with the Holocaust so often and so intensely since high school. In history lessons, the Holocaust and World War II are the two main topics that appear in almost every school year. They are also topic number one in history exams to gain a diploma. Not one week passes without the topic being mentioned in the media. Remembering is important – and with the generation of our grandparents still telling stories from that time it is almost impossible to forget.
But in order to still remember it in 100 years and do everything to not let this happen again, Germany needs to face and deal with some other problems.
One is, that for many young Germans, especially for those from the rural areas, Judaism is something very abstract, something they don’t know much about (because Jewish communities in the cities are bigger). I come from a little village in the south and until I arrived in Israel, I only met one person with Jewish roots. I remember in school, dealing with the holocaust, I asked my teacher: “So, are there still some Jews in Germany?” My teacher was shocked, but how was I supposed to know? I never met a Jew in my life before. Just imagine! What a shame. Visiting synagogues and meeting Jews should be included in the syllabus for German high schools (although I should mention that a lot of teachers take their classes there). Also, the dialogue between the Jewish and non-Jewish community in Germany has to deepen on different levels, not only the political one. Most of the time we hear about the Central Council of Jews in Germany in the media when the Council criticizes anti-Semitic actions. This is good, but this shouldn’t be the only time Germans hear from and about the council (or: the media mentions the Council).
Another phenomenon Germans should deal with more intensely is a modern, quite hidden form of anti-Semitism which is often not recognized as such. Even some of my well-educated friends made some remarks that I found quite disturbing. Saying “enough is enough”, that we heard enough about the holocaust and have to draw a line now is one of those remarks. Saying that the Jews mention the holocaust and anti-Semitism too often and derive benefits from it, is another. Also, anti-Zionistic remarks, denying Israel’s right to exist and saying “the Jews” and meaning “the Israelis” falls into this category.
I am not afraid of telling Israelis that I am German anymore. I even teach some of my friends here German in exchange for some Hebrew. But to keep these connections and these friendships alive and to make sure that neither side must be afraid of telling where he/she is from, we have to deal with these problems nowadays so that in 100 years our children’s children can have the same fruitful encounters.