Photo Credit: Aviel Yair PR
Israeli flags fly in Germany.

To spend time in Berlin, Germany is to be surrounded by echoes of the Holocaust. The silhouettes of Jewish victims can be seen in the memorials of concrete coffins emerging from the ground, brass plaques cemented into the sidewalks, sculptures of men, women and children atop pedestals, and the anti-Semitic edicts drawn on placards hoisted on street poles.

Berlin monument for German non-Jewish women seeking to save their Jewish husbands
Berlin monument for Jewish women and children in front of destroyed Jewish cemetery
The small community of Israeli Jews who moved to the epicenter of the Jewish genocide since World War II have made a peculiar peace with this past. Some came when the city was divided in two and settled in West Berlin, and others are recent arrivals, former Ukrainians and Russians who prefer Eastern Europe to the Middle East.

They all know the city’s history and they know the oddity that they represent.

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Speaking to these Israeli Jews about their relationships with German neighbors is a course of curiosity and incredulity. They offer that perhaps as many as 20% of Germans today are Nazi sympathizers much like their grandparents, and a similar percentage probably don’t think about the past at all. The Israeli-German residents estimate that most non-Jewish Germans are embarrassed about their legacy but don’t want to hate their own flesh-and-blood. Such Germans are left in an awkward situation when they talk with Jews: the unsympathetic descendants of murderers are engaged with the much more sympathetic descendants of their victims, creating an unbalanced state.

The Jewish Berliners dislike the dynamic, and argue that today’s generation of Germans cannot be held responsible for the sins of the past. They argue that today’s Germans have atoned as best they could through memorials and compensation to survivors. These Jews offer that they bemoan the preferred position they have in society as children of victims; they do not want such inherited status. Instead, they seek their righteous rank earned from sympathizing with the challenging constellation that places today’s Germans alongside Jews. The Jews are Germans are equally inheritors of the past, no more, no less.

Today in Berlin, I heard Jews talk about two different Children of the Holocaust. While I have long been familiar with children of Survivors like myself, it was shocking to hear some Jews relate to the grandchildren of Nazis as victims as well, albeit of a familial reputational stain rather than of genocide. Perhaps that is how these new German Jews live surrounded by Jewish and Nazi ghosts: imagining that today’s Germans live with those same ghosts as well.

Berlin’s Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, continues belowground with stories of Jewish families destroyed by the Nazis. It sits one block from the Brandenburg Gate, a monument used by Germans to celebrate their power and freedom.


Related articles:

Watching Jewish Ghosts

The Building’s Auschwitz Tattoo

The Beautiful and Bad Images in Barcelona

 

{Reposted from the author’s blog}

 

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Paul Gherkin is founder of the website FirstOneThrough, which is dedicated to educating people on Israel, the United States, Judaism and science in an entertaining manner so they speak up and take action. In a connected digital world, each person can be a spokesperson by disseminating news to thousands of people by forwarding articles or videos to people, or using the information to fight on behalf of a cause because In a connected digital world. YOU are FirstOneThrough.