1. “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” on sale in Germany once more
2. Iranians display “The International Jew” and “Tale of the ‘Chosen People’”
3. “Leipzig hosts first Jewish wedding since 1938” (EJP, October 21, 2005)
4. “German Jews foresee good years with Merkel” (JTA, Berlin, October 16, 2005)
[Notes below by Tom Gross]
Germany is ignoring its own laws prohibiting the sale of anti-Semitic hate literature to permit the Iranian government to prominently display and sell the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and other anti-Semitic propaganda at this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair.
With 280,000 attendees, the Frankfurt Book Fair is by far the world’s most important publishing event, with exhibitors, publishers, buyers, agents and authors from over 100 countries attending and securing deals that help keep the worldwide book industry afloat.
Pictures of anti-Semitic material featured in the Iran pavilion of this year’s Frankfurt book fair, can best be seen at this site:
A full report of the anti-Semitic literature on display has been compiled by Hamburg-based author Matthias Kuentzel. His first-hand account appeared Sunday in German on both the euroneuzeit blog and on the German-Jewish site Die Juedische:
For an English translation of Kuentzel’s report, see:
“THE INTERNATIONAL JEW” AND “TALE OF THE ‘CHOSEN PEOPLE’”
Among other books on display this year at the Iranian pavilion in the country that only 60 years ago gave us the Holocaust, are “The International Jew” and “Tale of the ‘Chosen People’.”
The German authorities and the organizers of the Frankfurt Book Fair seem unperturbed or unaware by this spread of anti-Semitic hate. The fair is ongoing. At the time of writing, no mainstream media has covered this development, and perhaps some of the many journalists on this list will be tempted to take up the story.
Muslim publishers and businesses are out in force at this year’s Frankfurt Fair, and one of the biggest deals clinched so far sees one of Germany’s biggest publishers (Suhrkamp) agreeing to publish a major new translation of the Koran.
On Sunday, Fair director Juergen Boos told The Associated Press, “For 70 years now, the Frankfurt Book Fair has considered itself a platform for political discourse and has been intensively used as such,” as he awarded the Fair’s 2005 Peace Prize to a Muslim author.
UPDATE, Nov. 2005: After the Frankfurt Fair finished, the organizers said that only then did they become aware of what was being sold there and promised to take steps to ensure this would not be repeated in future. Of course, the organizers of the Frankfurt book fair should be more aware of what kind of regime they were dealing with in Iran, given its repeated record of Holocaust denial, and from the beginning they should have monitored what books the Iranians were intending to sell and were indeed selling – rather than finding out after the fair ended.
FIRST JEWISH WEDDING IN LEIPZIG SINCE THE HOLOCAUST
I also attach two rather more upbeat stories from Germany. One is about the first Jewish wedding in the former communist East German city of Leipzig since the Holocaust. Leipzig is one of Germany’s largest cities.
ANGELA MERKEL COMES TO POWER
The second is an analysis of how many German Jews are cautiously optimistic about the accession to power of Angela Merkel, who last week became the first woman and the first former East German to become German chancellor.
Merkel’s track record on Jewish and Israeli issues is “excellent,” said Michael Wolffsohn, a history professor at the University of the Bundeswehr in Munich.
Germany is the largest country in the European Union.
-- Tom Gross
LEIPZIG HOSTS FIRST JEWISH WEDDING SINCE 1938
First wedding in Leipzig since World War II
By Oliver Bradley
European Jewish Press (as carried in Ynet news)
October 21, 2005
The German city of Leipzig has hosted its first traditional Jewish wedding in more than 67 years.
The couple – music scholar Rostislav Uciteli, 26, who grew up in Moldova and 25-year-old Maria Schapiro, a travel agent from Russia – said they were proud to take part in the groundbreaking ceremony. They have both lived in Germany for about 10 years.
American-born Rabbi Joshua Spinner, who runs the Lauder Foundation Yeshiva (Jewish Seminary) in Germany, conducted the wedding at the Keilstrasse synagogue.
Jewish weddings, whether Orthodox or Liberal (Reform), have been few and far between, in Germany’s 100,000 strong Jewish community.
And since 1938 there had been none at all in Leipzig, one of Germany’s largest cities.
Kuf Kaufmann, who heads the Leipzig community told the Juedische Allgemeine Zeitung Jewish newspaper that since the war the city’s aging Jewish population has not been very conducive to marriages. Before the fall of the Berlin Wall, only 35 people belonged to Leipzig’s Jewish community.
But the influx of Jews from the former Soviet Union has boosted the community’s numbers. Today, it boasts several hundred members, all from the former Soviet Union and many slowly coming of age.
The Leipzig wedding is an example of the rise in traditionalism amongst modern Germany Jewry.
Jews have been living continuously in Germany for the past 2,000 years, despite episodic expulsions and countless annihilation attempts.
Secular emancipation, the Nazi catastrophe, postwar consumerism and 40 years of atheistic Communism caused many to discard the maintenance of Jewish traditions, including the chuppa, the time-honored Jewish wedding ritual.
Until recently, many Jews found themselves denying their heritage, or keeping it under cover – marrying in city halls or intermarrying into other religions.
However, increasing numbers of Germany’s Jewish community have now been coming forward to “marry properly.”
One newlywed couple told EJP they chose to remarry because they no longer felt that their liberal wedding had the spiritual foundation which they now believe in.
“We also took this step in order to encourage others to follow suit and accept the values that traditions bring with them – values which make a marriage more solid,” one said.
GERMAN JEWS FORESEE GOOD YEARS WITH MERKEL
German Jews foresee good years with Merkel
By Toby Axelrod
October 16, 2005
As Germany stands on the brink of a new political era – about to have its first woman and first former East German as chancellor – Jews are peering over the horizon with cautious optimism.
Seven years of Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder turned out to be rather good for the Jews. But Angela Merkel isn’t exactly an unknown quantity either.
When it comes to relations with Israel and with Germany’s Jewish community, a Merkel administration isn’t likely to bring much change, observers say. And transatlantic relations, another issue of import to the Jewish community, are likely to improve.
In coming weeks, Merkel’s Christian Democrat Union and Schroeder’s party, the Social Democratic Union, will craft their coalition.
Paul Spiegel, head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, reserved comment until the new Cabinet ministers are named, but others were less shy.
“There’s no ‘getting to know you,’ no breaking-in period needed,” Rabbi Israel Singer, chairman of the World Jewish Congress and president of the Claims Conference, said of Merkel in a telephone interview with JTA. “We know her commitments.”
Merkel “frequently finished a sentence that I began when we talked about Jewish issues. It’s rare that you sit with somebody whom you don’t need to win over and who is not only on the same page as you are, but on the same line as you are,” Singer said.
Merkel has “demonstrated considerable interest in a positive and dynamic relationship with the Jewish world,” Deidre Berger, head of the American Jewish Committee office in Berlin, who also has met frequently with the CDU leader, said in an e-mail interview.
Merkel’s track record on Jewish issues is “excellent,” said Michael Wolffsohn, a history professor at the University of the Bundeswehr in Munich.
“She has always been in touch with the Central Council and the Israeli Embassy, ” Wolffsohn said in an e-mail comment. “Jewish-Israeli matters are close to her heart,” as they are for the leadership of her party in general.
Merkel “is a direct, serious, knowledgeable, hands-on person who listens, ” said Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, “and she has very clear views on issues of our concern.”
“I for one feel comfortable that her leadership will continue the dual tradition of taking responsibility for the past and being guided by it,” Foxman said.
Merkel was born in 1954 to a Lutheran pastor and a teacher. She studied physics and worked as a chemist before becoming involved in politics after the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989.
She became a political protege of former Chancellor Helmut Kohl, and has headed the CDU since 2000.
A proponent of economic and social reform, Merkel wants to make Germany more competitive by allowing longer work-weeks and removing barriers to firing employees.
She is a strong advocate of transatlantic relations, and even supported the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq at a time when the view was most unpopular in Germany — a “high political risk” that Jewish leaders respected, Wolffsohn said.
In keeping with majority German opinion, however, Merkel rejects Turkish membership in the European Union.
For German Jews, the top items on the domestic agenda are integration of Jews from the Former Soviet Union, funding for cash-strapped Jewish communities, support for Jewish education and training of rabbis, security, and efforts to combat anti-Semitism. Internationally, the issues are close ties with Israel and the United States.
Under Schroeder, Jewish communal life took a great leap forward with the signing of an historic contract in 2003 between the Central Council and the German government that placed the Jewish community on a legal par with the Protestant and Catholic churches.
Schroeder’s foreign minister, Joschka Fischer, proved to be a great supporter of Israel, most observers agree.
The Schroeder administration also took a strong stand against anti-Semitism, particularly at the 2001 U.N. Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa, where Fischer defended Israel, and at the conference on anti-Semitism in Europe convened by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and hosted in Berlin. Merkel was one of the speakers at the OSCE event.
“I look to Mrs. Merkel for at least as much understanding” as the past administration showed, Singer said. She “has always been sympathetic to us when she was in the opposition, and helped us on every issue in the last seven years,” including the fight for homecare payments to Holocaust survivors.
Growing up in East Germany taught Merkel “the importance of what it is like to live under the yoke of a system that is not amenable to human rights,” Singer said.
Foxman said Merkel had made “her own pilgrimage” to come to terms with the Nazi past.
“She said to us that her parents... tried to enlighten her contrary to what she was taught” in East Germany, which held that the Nazi perpetrators had all come from western Germany and which tended to deny the unique nature of the Jewish genocide.
Merkel “is aware of the poison that was fed to millions of Germans on the eastern side for years,” Foxman said. The government “has the responsibility not only to be aware of it but to deal with it.”