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Israel's Unsung Ally By: Myles Kantor
FrontPageMagazine.com | Tuesday, April 25, 2006

When someone supports your ability to exist, insult is an inappropriate response.

In February 2005, German president Horst Köhler spoke before the Israeli parliament in his native language.  Some Israeli politicians like health minister Dani Naveh and Knesset president Hemi Doron objected to Köhler’s German address and did not attend.[1]

Other Israelis showed more etiquette and diplomatic perspective.  Former Israeli ambassador to Germany Avi Primor noted:


First of all, the relations between Israel and Germany are such that this kind of a question shouldn't arise at all.  And secondly, the German language is not only the language of the Nazis, but was a very important language before the Nazis and is a very important language after the Nazis. It was a very important language for the Jewish people.[2]


Primor’s initial observation is at the heart of the Israeli legislators’ unseemly behavior.  Since Israel’s formative years, Germany has figured centrally in the Jewish state’s development and defense—yes, the same country that Adolf Hitler subjugated and through which he sought the destruction of world Jewry[3] with fellow Austrians like Adolf Eichmann, Alois Brunner, and Ernst Kaltenbrunner.[4]


A good indicator of Germany’s profound contributions to Israel is the alarm shown by anti-Zionists.  For instance, Mark Weber of the “revisionist” Institute for Historical Review writes:


It is difficult to exaggerate the impact of the program [reparations West Germany agreed to pay in 1952]: the five power plants built and installed by West Germany between 1953 and 1956 quadrupled Israel's electric-power-generating capacity. West Germans laid 280 kilometers of giant pipelines (2.25 and 2.5 meters in diameter) for the irrigation of the Negev (which certainly helped to 'make the desert bloom'). The Zionist state acquired 65 German-built ships, including four passenger vessels.[5]


 A contributor to the Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram comments:


During the 1950s, the Federal Republic became one of Israel's most generous arms suppliers in the hope of atoning for the Holocaust. Since then, successive German governments, ironically, have spread further death by channelling countless weapons to Tel Aviv. German arms played a decisive role in cementing Israel's military supremacy in the 1967 War.  Nor did legal constraints matter much to former Chancellor Helmut Kohl, who first promised to supply Israel with the Dolphins in the wake of the 1991 Gulf War, despite Israel's amply-documented violation of human rights during the first Intifada.[6]


The Dolphins referred to are advanced submarines that enhanced Israel’s naval strength.[7]


In addition to being Israel’s second largest trading partner,[8] Germany in recent years has been a refuge for Jews.  Nearly 200,000 Jews from former Soviet states have immigrated to Germany since 1990.[9]


There have of course been low points in German-Israeli relations, 1972 and 1973 especially.  Arab terrorists massacred Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics in September 1972; Germany then made ill-prepared rescue attempts[10] and released two of the perpetrators after a Lufthansa hijacking in October.[11]  During the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Germany denied America use of its territory to facilitate rearming Israel after Syria and Egypt’s aggression.[12]


Presently, however, Germany is a reliable ally of Israel.  In March, Russian leader Vladimir Putin hosted Hamas members in Moscow,[13] and Venezuela under Hugo Chavez has indicated willingness to do so.[14] Chancellor Angela Merkel, however, refuses to deal with the Arab neo-Nazis[15] and has compared Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Hitler after he called for Israel to be “wiped off the map.”[16]


“I say it as a German chancellor: A president who questions Israel’s right to exist, a president who denies the Holocaust cannot expect to receive any tolerance from Germany,” Merkel said in February.  German defense minister Franz Josef Jung affirmed that Germany is “completely on the side of Israel” in March during a visit by Israeli defense minister Shaul Mofaz.[17]


Former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon recognized Germany’s solidarity.  He said in May 2005, “Germany is leading the fight against anti-Semitism in Europe.”[18]


It saddens me to see so many Jews who have no idea how much Germany has helped both the State of Israel and the Jews of the former Soviet Union,” remarks Rabbi David Kent of the Jewish Center of Jackson Heights in New York.  One hopes Jews will become increasingly aware and appreciative of Germany’s support for Jewish life.



[1] "German Not Wanted in Israel," Deutsche Welle, January 18, 2005, http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,2144,1461664,00.html.

[2] "German President Visits Israel," Deutsche Welle, February 1, 2005, http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,2144,1474949,00.html. On the role of German in Jewish culture, Israeli writer Amos Elon has referred to fin de siècle German Jews’ "love affair with Germany" and writes, "When German Jews did emigrate, they took along their faith in the Old Country. Children born in the United States were given German names, often those of the heroes and heroines of Schiller’s and Goethe’s plays." The Pity of It All: A Portrait of the German-Jewish Epoch, 1743-1933 (Picador: New York, 2002), pp. 252-253. Christopher Browning, author of The Origins of the Final Solution: The Evolution of Nazi Jewish Policy, September 1939-March 1942, (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2004) likewise observes:

There's a kind of paradox in German history in terms of the role of anti-Semitism. On the one hand, Germany was the country in Europe where Jews seemed to have achieved the most successful assimilation, where they rose in society to the professions and business world, maybe to a lesser extent in education, though certainly not in the bureaucracy or the military. But in many areas of life in Germany they had made what they considered much better progress than elsewhere. One of the goals of many Jews of Eastern Europe was to get either to the United States or to Germany. Germany was one of the promised lands, one of the places that Jews had it so good. It certainly wasn't their perception at the time that Germany was a country saturated in anti-Semitism. [Historian] George Mosse tells the "joke" that if in 1900 someone said that within fifty years all the Jews of Europe would be murdered, the response would have been, well, of course, those French or Russians are capable of anything. One would not have said Germany was the land most likely to be the genocidal murderer of European Jewry.

"An Interview with Prof. Christopher Browning," Yad Vashem Shoah Resource Center, March 1997, http://yad-vashem.org.il/odot_pdf/Microsoft%20Word%20-%203848.pdf.

German literary critic and Warsaw Ghetto survivor Marcel Reich-Ranicki also objected to the boycott of Köhler’s speech. See "German Not Wanted in Israel, " Deutsche Welle, January 18, 2005, http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,2144,1461664,00.html.

[3] The Holocaust is often perceived as a European calamity, but the Nazis planned to murder Jews elsewhere and organized an "Einsatzgruppe Egypt." See Thomas Krumenacker, "Nazis planned Holocaust for Palestine," Reuters, April 7, 2006, http://go.reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml?type=worldNews&storyID=11786650.

[4] Hitler was born and brought up in Austria. John Lukacs observes in The Hitler of History (New York: Vintage, 1998), p. 73, "The first important turning point of his [Hitler’s] life was his coming to Vienna, in 1908." Many Austrians were not perturbed by their German annexation in March 1938. Deborah Dwork and Robert Jan van Pelt observe of Hitler’s reception at Vienna’s Heldenplatz (Heroes Square) on March 14: "…a quarter of a million people, over a third of the population of Vienna, participated in the spontaneous, unorchestrated public jubilation. Popular euphoria for Hitler, National Socialism, and unification with Germany was matched by hatred for and violence against the Jews, surpassing any such open display in Germany to that date." Holocaust: A History (New York: Norton, 2003), p. 95. Joseph Goebbels wrote in his diary after a speech at the Heldenplatz in March 1941, "When I leave the Heldenplatz., I find myself trapped by the enthusiastic crowd. It takes three-quarters of an hour for me to get out. I have rarely seen anything like it." Evan Burr Bukey, Hitler's Austria: Popular Sentiment in the Nazi Era 1938-1945 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2000), p. 164. Bruce Pauley notes in From Prejudice to Persecution: A History of Austrian Anti-Semitism (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1998), xix:

…much of the discriminatory legislation against the Jews of Germany and against those of Austria after the Anschluss [annexation] had already been discussed, although usually not enacted, in early post-World War I Austria if not before…There is also considerable evidence that Austrian anti-Semitism influenced the German variety, although the reverse is also true…The fact also remains that Austrians played a disproportionately large role in the Holocaust. Simon Wiesenthal, head of the Documentation Center of the Society of Nazi Victims in Vienna, has estimated that half of the crimes associated with the Holocaust were committed by Austrians even though they comprised only 8.5 percent of the population of Hitler’s Greater German Reich.

Pauley notes regarding high-ranking Austrian Nazis (p. 297):

Odilo Globocnik, who had joined the Austrian Nazi Party in 1920 and who became the Gauleiter [Nazi regional leader] of Vienna for a time shortly after the Anschluss, exercised overall supervision over Treblinka, Sobibor, and Belzec, three concentration camps whose only purpose was to kill Jews as expeditiously as possible. The commandant at Treblinka, the largest of these three camps, was likewise an Austrian. The Austrian concentration camp of Mauthausen, near Linz, was by far the harshest of all the camps within the territory of the Third Reich. The prisoners were worked to death in quarries within a few months…When the deportations were resumed in 1941, it was again an Austrian, Eichmann’s deputy, SS Captain Alois Brunner, who issued the order in late September, three weeks before a similar decision was made for Jews in the Altreich [Nazi territory as of 1937].

Indeed, the virulence of Austrian anti-Semitism became a model for Nazi Germany (p. 285):

Austrian Nazis not only raced ahead of their German Parteigenossen [party members] as far as Aryanization was concerned—by May 1939 only 6 percent of the Viennese Jews were still employed compared to 30 percent in Berlin—but also in segregating Jewish pupils and teachers and prohibiting Jewish professionals from having gentile clients. The same was true of their plans, never actually implemented, for interning Jews in concentration camps near Vienna. The "achievements" of the Austrian Nazis vis-à-vis the Jewish population did not go unnoticed by leading German Nazi Party institutions and members. Only six weeks after the Anschluss the official SS journal, Das Schwarze Korps [The Black Corps], noted with some envy that the Viennese had managed to do almost overnight what the Germans had failed to do after several years. The Austrians could even organize anti-Jewish boycotts without any supervision. None other than Hermann Goring complained in the fall of 1938 that the "dejewification" of the economy in Germany was not progressing as rapidly as in Austria. Austrian methods were therefore introduced into the Altreich in 1939. The Volkischer Beobachter [People’s Observer] also noted that whereas in northern Germany it was the duty of the party to educate the people about the Jewish danger, in Austria the duty of the party was to preserve the purity of the movement by restraining overly exuberant radicalism.

See also Pauley’s Hitler and the Forgotten Nazis: A History of Austrian National Socialism (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1981) and Thomas Weyr’s The Setting of the Pearl: Vienna under Hitler (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005).

[5] Mark Weber, "West Germany’s Holocaust payoff to Israel and world Jewry," Journal of Historical Review, Summer 1988, http://www.ihr.org/jhr/v08/v08p243_Weber.html. West German reparations occasioned intense debate in Israel, and Menachem Begin led the opposition. See Amos Perlmutter, The Life and Times of Menachem Begin (New York; Doubleday, 1987), pp. 265-269 and Eitan Haber, Menahem Begin: The Legend and the Man (New York: Delacorte Press, 1978), pp. 232-238. West Germany’s support for Israel should be contrasted with East Germany’s hostility to Israel and anti-Semitic record. See Jeffrey Herf, "Memory of the Holocaust in Divided and Unified Germany," http://jsis.washington.edu/programs/europe/wendep/Herf.htm and his book Divided Memory: The Nazi Past in the Two Germanys (Cambridge: Harvard University Press: 1997). For instance, Paul Merker was part of the German Communist Party’s politburo in exile during World War II and wrote about the need to fight anti-Semitism and make reparations. Merker returned to East Berlin after the war and encountered resistance to his ideas. The regime went on to purge Merker and imprison him for espionage, denouncing him as a "servant of the Jews" and tool of "Zionist monopoly capitalists."

[6] Dominic Coldwell, "Flipper wouldn’t approve," Al-Ahram, October 30-November 5, 2003, http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2003/662/re2.htm.

[7] See Amos Harel, "Navy eyes 2 new Dolphin submarines," Ha’aretz, http://www.haaretzdaily.com/hasen/pages/ShArt.jhtml?itemNo=264394&contrassID=2&subContrassID=1&sbSubContrassID=0.

[8] See http://www.auswaertiges-amt.de/www/en/laenderinfos/laender/laender_ausgabe_html?type_id=14&land_id=66.

[9] See Peter Laufer, Exodus to Berlin: The Return of the Jews to Germany (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2003), http://www.exodustoberlin.com/ and Jeffrey M. Peck, Being Jewish in the New Germany (Piscataway: Rutgers University Press, 2006).

[10] Aaron J. Klein writes in Striking Back: The 1972 Munich Olympics Massacre and Israel’s Deadly Response (New York: Random House, 2005), p. 63, "The German incompetence during the hostage crisis was absolute. Their feeble attempts to free the Israelis were pathetic, doomed to failure." Israeli special forces subsequently had a major role in training Germany’s new counter-terrorism unit, the Grenzschutzgruppe 9, or GSG 9 (pp. 87-88).

[11] Klein notes the suspicious background of the hijacking (pp. 127-128):

German, Palestinian, and Israeli sources contended that the hijacking, carried out by PFLP [Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine] specialists under the command of Wadi Haddad, was coordinated, in advance, with German authorities. Some claim that the West German government paid for the mission, wiring $5 million to the account of the PFLP for the simulated hijacking. When Ulrich Wagner, senior aide to the interior minister [Hans-Dietrich] Genscher, was asked point-blank and on camera what he thought of the alleged German-Palestinian scheme, he replied, "Yes, I think that’s probably true." One detail pointing to the likelihood of the scheme was the composition of the passengers: they were few, and they were all male. This unusual occurrence supports, but does not prove, the conspiracy theory.

[12] Walter J. Boyne, The Two O’Clock War: The 1973 Yom Kippur Conflict and the Airlift That Saved Israel (New York: Thomas Dunne, 2002), xv.

[13] See Simon Freeman, "Hamas leaders visit Moscow," The Times, March 3, 2006, http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,251-2068123,00.html.

[14] "Venezuela ready to receive Hamas," Associated Press, February 13, 2006, http://english.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/4FE8ED0B-FEEF-4DB6-8A6C-43BD993992D3.htm.

[15] Merkel said in January 2006, "Germany will not support a Palestinian Authority that does not recognize Israel." "Merkel Warns Palestinians Over Hamas," Deutsche Welle, January 30, 2006, http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,2144,1876718,00.html.

[16] Peter Conradi, "Iran as bad as Nazis: Merkel," The Sunday Times, February 5, 2006, http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2089-2025730,00.html.

[17] "Germany ‘on the side of Israel’ over Hamas," March 8, 2006, http://www.expatica.com/source/site_article.asp?subchannel_id=26&story_id=28259&name=Germany+'on+the+side+of+Israel'+over+Hamas.

[18] "Sharon: Germany Leads Anti-Semitism Fight," Deutsche Welle, May 16, 2005, http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,2144,1584479,00.html.

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Myles Kantor is a columnist for FrontPageMagazine.com and editor-at-large for Pureplay Press, which publishes books about Cuban history and culture. His e-mail address is myles.kantor@gmail.com.

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