I am spending a bit of time in Germany
. Before coming, I was assured that the German were really over their anti-Semitism
. Far from it! While speaking about Israel, the Jews or the Holocaust
is a big taboo in Germany, Germans are really not shy about expressing their prejudices against the Jews once you get to know them individually. Never in public though, always in one to one conversation.Examples from my conversations:Conversation 1:
Me: Let’ go to that bagel place for lunch.
Idiot German 1: Oh, you know, now you mention bagel, that reminds me of that Jewish woman at a conference on the Holocaust, she was so nasty!
Me: Hmm, why is that?
Idiot German 1: She got so angry when I told her I never concerned myself about Jewish people because there are so few in Germany. She told me that of course, that was because they were exterminated in the Holocaust.
Me: Well, but that is actually true.
Idiot German 1: Yeah, but she was like I had to feel guilty about it.
Me: Did she tell you that you should feel guilty?
Idiot German 1: No, but that was obvious, those Jews, they are always like we are responsible for the Holocaust, I wasn’t even born at that time!
Me: Anyway, that was just one Jewish woman, maybe she was nasty but that doesn’t mean all Jews are like that.
Idiot German 1: Yeah, I know, but that was the only Jew I ever met. She should have been more careful how she speaks, the way she acted; it was like she wanted me to become anti-Semitic!
***Conversation 2:Me: Did you see this new law in France, where Muslim women are forbidden to wear the burqa? That is so crap.
Idiot German 2: Oh yeah, but you know, it is not the French who were asking for it, that was the Jews.
Me: Err, I don’t quite understand, that policy was introduced by the French government, it is not like it is the Jews who asked for it.
Idiot German 2: Nah, it is not like that, you know, a friend of mine, he told me that in Israel, the Arabs, they are second class citizen.
Me: So? I really don’t see how that relates to France.
Idiot German 2: That is because in Europe, we do whatever the Jews tell us to do. Look, we German, we keep on sending money to Israel; we sell them submarines and all sorts of weapons. Germany is like the best friend of Israel!
Me: Well, again, I don’t see how that explains laws against the burqa in France. Maybe you should be careful to distinguish between the Jews and Israel; I don’t see how the Jews in France can be seen as a tool of Israel. Never mind that those who hate Muslims are often the same who hate Jews as well!
Idiot German 2: Nah, there is no far right in Europe, that is a complete fabrication by the press. This is really about being nice to Israel, they keep on complaining about how the Muslims are attacking Jews in France, so the French had to do something to calm them down.
Israel is really the most racist country on earth. You wouldn’t believe how they treat Muslims in Israel! Just because they are Jews doesn’t mean they should be allowed to do whatever they want!
Me: So, it is like the Jews in the entire world are responsible for whatever Israel does? Not all Jews are supporting Israel. And not all Israelis are Jews. There are also some Israelis who don’t like Israeli policies against Palestine.
Idiot German 2: I don’t see why I should make a distinction between Israel and the Jews, just so you know, you can’t be Israeli without being a Jew, so. Of course the Jews are supporting Israel, that is the only place where they are still welcome!
***Conversation 3:Me: I am really surprised, sometime, how ready Germans are to express prejudices against Jews.
Idiot German 3: Oh yeah, I really can’t understand, we learn a lot about Nazism in school though. You must have spoken with some East Germans, they never learned about the Holocaust.
Me: … but East Germany disappeared like 20 years ago; I would think they would have learned to at least express themselves in moderate terms.
Idiot German 3: Yeah, they are still badly educated you know. For my part, I can think of only one reason for not liking the Jews.
Me: Oh, is that so?
Idiot German 3: Yes, it is to do with how we have to compensate the Jews for what we did to them during the war. My grandfather, he worked at BASF (Note: Big German chemical company that was using slave labor, often Jewish in concentration camps), and he got really rich, so he bought the houses of Jews who were made to leave Pomerania. But that was for a totally fair price! So after the war, the Soviets, they confiscated the houses, and when we sued in the 90s to get the houses back, we were told that was not possible because the Jews sold them to us under coercion. That is so unfair!
Me: Well, you know, they would probably not have sold the houses if they didn’t have to emigrate to escape the Nazis.
Idiot German 3: Yeah, but we really offered them a good price!
Me: (Doesn’t mention the only reason her grandparents could pay this “good price” is that they had made money on the back of slave labor).
***Conversation4:Me: This week-end, I will be visiting Buchenwald.
Idiot German 4: Why do you want to go to Buchenwald? There is nothing to see at Buchenwald!
Me: Oh, but that was a Nazi concentration camp, they have got a museum there, I checked their website, this should be interesting.
Idiot German 4: I really don’t understand why the first thing foreigners do when they visit Germany is go to concentration camps. Not everything in Germany is about the Nazis, you know!
In effect, she was quite right: Germans destroyed most of the buildings at Buchenwald. There is not much left to see. The museum itself is quite repellent; it seems mainly devoted to “justifying” what Germans did during the Nazi period, rather than bear testimony to the atrocities that happened there. The first panel in the museum is devoted to explaining why Germans did not put up any resistance to Nazi persecution of communists, Jews, homosexuals and gypsies (“They couldn’t believe that Hitler would do what he said he would do, and once he started to do it, it was too late to do anything about it”). Later on, they go into loving details to explain the background of the SSs who ran the camp (“Herr XX had always dreamed to be an officer in the German army, and his Aryan credentials were impeccable. It was therefore a great opportunity for him when he joined the SS. He really believed he was doing a service to Germany by riding it of undesirables.”).
They also seem to be much more interested in explaining the structure of the camp, its hierarchy and the way it functioned from an administrative point of view. That way, they can avoid having to make any kind of moral judgment, probably not to hurt the sensibilities of those poor Germans who have to carry such an unjust burden of guilt... I guess German school children, who are provided guided tours of the facilities, must be so relieved to be provided such rational and detailed “explanations” for what happened in Buchenwald. You wouldn’t want those cherished blond-haired blue-eyed darlings to question their parents, now, would you?
Finally, but that is difficult to describe, the Germans I meet look so frightened when I tell them my name. And they are so relieved when, after a while, they finally dare to ask me if I am Jew, and I tell them that no, despite my name, I am not Jewish. Some of them are really confused about it, though, and maintain a “safe” distance, as if I was somehow dangerous or threatening.