Central Council of Jews in Germany Elects New President

Schuster

(photo via Thoman Good)

The German Jewish community marked a major shift in December with the resignation of Dieter Graumann from his position as head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany.

Graumann is replaced by Josef Schuster, the son of two Holocaust survivors and a physician from the Bavarian city of Würzburg who previously served as the group’s vice-president. Schuster is a bit of a controversial leader–his focus appears to primarily be uniting orthodox and liberal Jewish communities. This is, of course, a positive goal for the community, but German Jews are currently grappling with levels of anti-Semitism that must take precedence.

In his final statements as president, Graumann told the newspaper “BILD”: “For a while I noticed that anti-Semitism is becoming increasingly public and is no longer hidden. We often receive anti-Semitic messages sent according to name and address…Some people are no longer ashamed and no longer hide their hostility to Jews.”

In response to raised anti-Semitism in Germany, Dieter Graumann organized the highly publicized September rally against anti-Semitism that took place in Berlin and was attended by Chancellor Angela Merkel. His four years as head of the Central Council were highlighted by “by campaigns to stop Germany from banning circumcision, and sharp criticism of societal and political indifference toward rising hatred of Jews and Israel in the Federal Republic.”

Graumann ultimately stepped down from the position due to the immense responsibility and demanding schedule. New leader, Josef Schuster, is quite optimistic that the position will not alter his schedule and he will be able to balance it with his physician’s practice. Schuster has big shoes to fill, and doesn’t seem to be as concerned with anti-Semitism as the leader he succeeds. Let’s ensure he’s up to the task.

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Neo-Nazis Request List of Jews While the Future of Germany’s Jewish Leadership is Uncertain

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photo via Dkoedo

Here’s a disturbing blast from the past. The neo-Nazi party of Dortmund, Die Rechte (The Right), demanded that the city’s mayor provide them with a list of all of the city’s Jewish population. Apparently they went as far as to request the addresses of Jews living in the large German city.

This is an undeniable and outrageous example of anti-Semitic sentiment- and what’s worse- the clear fact that neo-Nazis feel safe enough in the current climate to reveal their cards. The party was able to threaten a city’s Jewish population knowing there would be few social consequences.

In Mayor Sierau’s defense, he did quite vehemently refuse, calling the request “inhuman.” In fact, the political response was surprisingly firm. The city administration claims that the “inquiry will be answered in the legal framework and ‘as spartanly as possible.’ The spokesperson said Giemsch’s request was forwarded to the state security agency (Staatsschutz) – Germany’s equivalent of the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency). The Staatschutz will likely review the questionnaire to determine if it represents a threat to German democracy.”

(Source)

As for the response of the Jewish community, the head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany Dieter Graumann, stated that the request recalls the “worst times” in Germany’s history. Giemsch’s inquiry is “sickening and perfidious anti-Semitism.”
The more imperative element of Graumann’s response was that he urged for Die Rechte to be outlawed.

But here’s the issue. Graumann’s statement was adequate but will not have political consequences with any diplomatic efforts to lobby. And with Graumann currently in the process of stepping down, the future of Germany’s Jewish leadership is uncertain. Remember it was Graumann that arranged the September rally against anti-Semitism that Chancellor Merkel spoke at. That’s the scale of diplomacy necessary to fight the current atmosphere.

While the council’s response was passable, the time has come to show immense force.

Most Germans think fighting anti-Semitism is unimportant, Moshe Kantor are you listening?

Just when you think the anti-Semitic temperament in Europe can’t get any worse… it does. Anti-Semitic rallies are now tearing up German streets daily.  Throughout the nation chants on the streets are screamed at pedestrians- “Jew, Jew, cowardly pig, come on out and fight on your own.” Chants of “Heil Hitler” have been reported in different areas of Germany.  

Berlin’s police so far are the only ones to have cracked down on anti-Semitic songs, chants and other life-threatening propaganda.  As well as sickening vandalization of Jewish cemeteries. 

 If all this wasn’t bad enough, there was a sudden escalation that brought violent attacks on the Jewish community.  Wuppertal, a town in western Germany, had a barrage of petrol bombs rain down on the entrance of a local synagogue.  

Now THAT was a horrific reminder of kristallnacht, as well as the rest of the anti-Semitic hate crimes that wracked Germany in the early 20th century. 

I’ve found it deeply troubling that the European Jewish Congress and their president Moshe Kantor aren’t doing more to stop all this propaganda and hate. For Moshe Kantor especially, I am questioning his slogan “let my people live” as the cries of “Gas the Jews” fill the streets of Germany- many Jews won’t want to live in Germany any longer. (Source: The American Interest)

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Charlotte Knobloch, the President of the Jewish Community in Munich and a Holocaust survivor, said “the old hatred of Jews-it’s here again.”  She says that she is shocked by the German population keeping silent.   

What surprises me most is the inaction from the EJC in Western Europe, especially in Germany. It is their job to shape public opinion and stand up for the Jewish people. Now that the wave of anti-Semitism has struck in Germany, we need to remind ourselves “never again.” 

 The above article where Knobloch is mentioned also hypothesizes that most Germans must believe that combating anti-Semitism is unimportant. Similarly, Agriculture Minister Christian Schmidt said the majority would rise up in support of the Jews “if it is necessary,” the key word being “if.” But isn’t it necessary? I ask Moshe Kantor, shouldn’t you step down and resign if you cannot cope or take care of the Jews of Europe?