As a U.S. soldier and then as a student, I was a Jew in Germany in the 1980s. My first son was born there in 1986 and I have a deep and abiding affection for Germany and its people. While I converted to Roman Catholicism in the 90s, my Jewish roots run deep and I am very proud of my family’s Jewish heritage.
For both of those reasons I read with dismay reports coming out of Germany that there is a marked increase in vandalism and even violence directed against Jews. The latest manifestation of this is the recent pronouncement of the German government’s commissioner on anti-Semitism, warning Jews not to wear their kippahs, aka yarmulkes, in public.
It would be easy to blame this on something intrinsically wrong in the German national character or reverberations from the Nazi era. But that would not be correct. I knew and worked with many Germans who knew I was Jewish. Though I could not look into their souls, never, not once did I encounter any anti-Jewish sentiment or actions on their part.
I lived there the majority of the 1980s, spent most of my time in Neu-Ulm and Stuttgart, and two to three times a week socialized and went out in those cities. I traveled all over the country regularly. I dated German girls and met their families. In all these circumstances I was shown respect and courtesy.
I do recall with amusement visiting a German synagogue for Hanukkah as part of a U.S. military Jewish congregation. For obvious reasons, most Jews who survived the war left Germany soon after. Those who remained had either passed for gentile during the war or had since intermarried with Christians. Hence, they looked a lot more German to us than Jewish. Which prompted, upon us entering the synagogue, a friend of mine who was a U.S. Army Infantry captain to comically whisper to me, “Run. It’s a trap.” We also found out later these observant German Jews were not all that keen on our impersonations of characters from “Hogan’s Heroes.”
Like here, are there vestiges of former bigotry? Of course. It is a foolish view to think that irrational loathing will ever be completely eradicated from the mind of man. However, it has been mitigated to such a point, again like here, that it is no longer a pertinent factor when it comes to an analysis of that native society.
But another development is having an effect on the Germany of today.
Over the last several years a million asylum seekers have arrived from Muslim countries. These new Germans, given residence because Angela Merkel was trying to atone for past Hun injuries to humanity, did not bring with them kind attitudes towards Jews. In fact, just the opposite. So ironically to seek international absolution for past crimes, many of them against Jews, Merkel brought in a million people who generally hate Jews.
The logic escapes me.
As these new Germans grow older, settle in, increase the size of their families, if past actions are any indication, they will double down on their anti-Jewish mindset and behaviors. And it’s not just an antipathy to Jews, but to the West as a whole. Many of these immigrants do not come to join a melting pot. They come to throw the pot off the stove and cook their own noxious stew of hate and ignorance. Their traditional targets are Jews. Their future prey will not be limited to such. A Germany such as that may not make a firm U.S. ally.
Thus German Jews face dark echoes from decades past. This time the thugs are not the Germans themselves, but the demographic Trojan Horse they have let through their gates.
In a civilized Germany, it is not a situation Jews or anyone else should have to deal with yet again.