Holocaust Remembrance Day has a special meaning in Germany.
Clearly today’s Germany is different from Nazi-Germany. The younger generations rightfully demand not to be made to feel guilty for the enormous crimes of their grandparents and great-grandparents.
At the same time, there is a price to be paid for history: the burden of responsibility – not guilt! The responsibility to educate about the past, to learn from the evil of the past and to prevent anything of the sort from ever happening again!
Here Germans fail bitterly.
In the haste to rid themselves of the past, younger generations are quick to point out that they are different; that they have nothing to do with the past and that nothing of the sort could ever happen again. They hastily deny current anti-Semitism statistics. That this is supposedly a phenomenon among far right wing circles. They ignore statistics, which clearly show that old stereotypes have again become common in the mainstream.
While there are commemorations for dead Jews all over Germany, with frequent “Stolperstein” or wreath layings, many young Germans clearly have a problem with the living Jews among them; there is an open denial of anti-Semitism facing Jews in Germany today.
Synagogues, Jewish schools, community centers and Jewish or Israeli venues have to be guarded 24 hours a day. There are serious warnings for Jews not to visit certain neighborhoods openly wearing Jewish symbols. The word “Jew” has become a common insult in German schools. The calls for remembrance halt, when it comes to implementing lasting measures for change.
Germans should promote educational programs, particularly in problematic neighborhoods. The fight against anti-Semitism, incl. Muslim anti-Semitism should be part of the curriculum. Funding for NGO’s working in this field should be increased, just like lasting measures and monitoring should be put in place. Existing expert reports should be followed up on with concrete measures.
Together with a true acceptance of responsibility, there should be an acknowledgement that there is a thin line between the so called “criticism” of Israel and outright anti-Semitism. The “working definition of anti-Semitism”, put together by the EUMC (later FRA), includes a focus on anti-Zionism and Israel related anti-Semitism, which is probably the most common and most persistent form of anti-Semitism in all levels of society today.
Today, outright hatred of Jews is no longer fashionable. Nobody would admit to being an anti-Semite. But it is perfectly acceptable to demonstrate against the very core of the existence of the Jewish State. Emotions run high against Israel, unlike against any other country or topic. This is clearly hinting at some strange undercurrent. It is continuously present and affects the core of Jewish life and existence in Germany, the country where a regional court ignited the circumcision debate, which called into doubt weather Jews would be able to exercise their religion in Germany going forward.
Particularly in the context of Israel and circumcisions, the saying “the Germans will never forgive Jews for the Holocaust” gains special validity: Were it not because of the “heavy burden” of this inherited “responsibility”, Germans would have long taken a tougher stance and voiced stronger positions in regards to “Jewish issues”; which are so deer to them.
German chancellor Angela Merkel made the existence of Israel into a “national responsibility”. But today even the mainstream media does not hesitate to call into question Israel’s very right to exist and Jewish rights to perform age old rituals. Once again, there is a debate, if Jews are in fact a “people” – a nation – and if they have a right for self determination and sovereignty.
President Gauck – considered by many to be a dear friend of the Jews – does not understand that there is a difference between commemorating the crimes committed by the Nazis during the holocaust and commemorations for crimes against humanity committed by regimes in other countries, no matter how atrocious they may be, thereby helping to diminish the core of what should remain for generations to come: a sense of responsibility!