The Right Coast
February 17, 2006
Germany Remembers: and How Anti-Americanism and Anti-Semitism are Entwined
By Maimon Schwarzschild
January 27th is the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz by Soviet troops in 1945: and it is the official holocaust memorial day in Germany. The German Bundestag (the federal parliament) observed the memorial this year by hearing an impressive and touching speech by Ernst Cramer: 92 years old, a German Jew born before the First World War; an inmate, briefly, of the Buchenwald concentration camp during the round-up of German Jews in 1938; an American citizen who was present -- as an American soldier -- at the liberation of the Buchenwald; a well-known Berlin writer, journalist, and foundation officer. Cramer speaks reflectively and simply about his own life, and about the crimes and catastrophes of 20th century Germany. He ends his talk by making explicit the link that everyone in Europe quietly understands, but that's so very rarely mentioned out loud: that today's anti-Americanism is often wrapped up in anti-semitism, and vice versa.
Cramer begins with the story of his own life, and he says:
In my early years the Reichstag building... was akin to the nation’s temple, a cathedral of democracy, a guarantee of the values of the Enlightenment. I believed that this palatial building was the very embodiment of freedom, liberality, tolerance, human dignity and the true spirit of Germany.There is a small but growing Jewish community in Germany today -- almost all arrived from the former USSR. Says Cramer:
Today there are virtually no “indigenous” German Jews still living in Germany; I am one of the last of them. Yet, on the other hand, the Jewish community is growing. This is a strong sign of trust. There is – largely as a consequence of the Nazi policy of extermination – a land of the Jews, Israel. Germany has maintained diplomatic relations with the State of Israel for 40 years.And now Cramer draws the parallel between today's anti-semitism and the wave of European anti-Americanism:
Anti-Americanism is also quite often closely allied to anti-Semitism. Along the lines of one of Hitler’s arguments, it is often claimed that the Jews have too much influence in the USA, that they determine – mainly on account of Israel – American foreign policy. That is humbug, but there are those who believe it.A memorable and brave talk. Here is the original, in German, from the Bundestag website. And here (as a Microsoft Word document) is the unpublished English text, from Ernst Cramer's office in Berlin. It's an extraordinary speech. Do read the whole thing.