I’m not Jewish. Nobody in my family died in the Holocaust. For me anti-Semitism has always been one of those phenomena that doesn’t really register on my radar like tribal genocide in Rwanda a horrible thing that happens to someone else.

But I live in a small town outside of Munich on a street that until May of 1945 was named Adolf-Hitler-Strasse. I work in Munich a pleasant metropolitan city of a little over a million inhabitants whose Bavarian charm tends to obscure the fact that this city was the birthplace and capital of the Nazi movement. Every day when I go to work I pass by the sites of apartments Hitler lived in extant buildings in which decisions were made to murder millions of innocent people and plazas in which book burnings took place SS troops paraded and people were executed. The proximity to evil has a way of concentrating one’s attention of putting a physical reality to the textbook narratives of the horrors perpetrated by the Germans.

Then the little things start to happen that over a period of time add up to something very sinister. I’m on a bus and a high school boy passes around Grandpa’s red leather-bound copy of Mein Kampf to his friends who respond by saying coooool!? He then takes out a VCR tape (produced in Switzerland) of The Great Speeches of Joseph Goebbels. A few weeks later I’m at a business meeting with four young highly educated Germans who are polite charming and soft-spoken to say the least. When the subject matter changes to a business deal with a man in New York named Rubinstein their nostrils flair their demeanors attain a threatening mien and one of them actually says and I’m quoting verbatim here: The problem with America is that the Jews have all the money. 

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They start laughing and another one says Yeah all the Jews care about is money. 

I found that this type of anti-Semitic reference in my professional dealings with Germans soon became a leitmotif (to borrow a term made famous by Richard Wagner another notorious German anti-Semite). In my private meetings with Germans it often happens that they will loosen up after a while and reveal personal opinions and political leanings that were thought to have ceased to exist in a Berlin bunker on April 30 1945.

Maybe it’s because I have blond hair and my last name is of German origin that the Germans feel that I am or could potentially be one of them. It shows how much they understand what it means to be an American.

Whatever the reason the conversations generally have one or more of these components:

(1) It was unfortunate that America and Germany fought each other in World War II because the real enemy was Russia.

(2) Yes the Nazis were excessive but terrible things happen during wars and anyway the scope of the Holocaust has been greatly exaggerated by the American media which is dominated by Jews.

(3) CNN is controlled by American Jews and is anti-Palestinian. (Yes I know it sounds incredible but even among the most highly intelligent Germans even those with a near-native fluency in English there is the widespread belief that the news network founded by Fidel Castro’s best friend Ted Turner who until recently was married to Hanoi Jane Fonda is a hotbed of pro-Israeli propaganda.)

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