How did Jewish life develop in Germany after the Holocaust? | Politics and Economy | In-depth analyzes with a broader perspective from DW | DW

With more than 200,000 people, and while this number is increasing, the Jewish community in Germany is the only one in Europe whose number is growing rapidly, a surprising fact, given the almost complete extermination of the Jews that took place in Germany during the Holocaust.

About 15,000 German-born Jews were liberated by the Allies after the war. Most of them escaped by hiding and some were rescued from concentration camps. Many of those who remained in Germany had a partner or non-Jewish parent that enabled their continued association with the state, and possibly facilitated recovery and integration to some extent later.

“We will not settle again on German soil.”

The World Jewish Congress held its first post-war assembly in July 1948, when it passed a resolution clearly expressing the “determination of the Jewish people to never again settle on the bloodstained land of Germany.”

Anthony Cuders, professor of history at Keele University in the United Kingdom, explains that “some of those who remained in Germany survived with the help of Gentile Germans, and refused to be equated with all Germans in bearing the guilt of what happened to the Jews. Others were simply too old or too weak to migrate. ”

Jews in Germany consisted of two very distinct groups: Jews who were born in Germany, most of whom were highly integrated into society. The second group was displaced Jewish refugees from Eastern European countries who inadvertently found themselves in Germany. They had limited resources and limited knowledge of the German language.

More than 90 percent of the Jewish refugees who arrived in Germany left the country within 3 to 4 years, and most of them went to the United States and the newly founded State of Israel, while only about 15,000 of them remained on German soil.

Many Eastern European Jews eventually became naturalized Germans. They are new to the state, as they have relied on society as a support system for their religious, social and cultural needs.

Unify Jewish groups despite the difficulties

In July 1950, the disparate groups joined forces and created an umbrella organization to represent them: the Central Council of Jews in Germany. This bold insistence of the German Jewish community led to pragmatic cooperation on the part of international Jewish institutions. “While the opinion and policy of the World Jewish Congress was that Jews should leave Germany, those who chose to remain in Germany would gladly receive advice,” the World Jewish Council / WJC said upon the establishment of the German Central Council.

By 1954, the World Jewish Council and many other international Jewish organizations had close cooperative relationships with the German Central Council.

Meanwhile, anti-Semitism remained a problem in Germany, with a December 1946 report published by the US military indicating that 18 percent of Germans were still “extreme anti-Semites” and 21 percent “anti-Semites.” And in 1947 an opinion poll showed that more than a third of Germans felt it was better that there were no Jews in Germany.

Historian Couders says the atmosphere changed when the West German government took a stand against anti-Semitism. “For a change, the government was officially fighting anti-Semitism, and that of course made a big difference. This is something he has not seen [اليهود] Before in Germany or the Eastern European countries they grew up in. This gave the Jews in Germany a kind of security. ”

The two German states

Two German states were formed on the ruins of the Third Reich: the German Democratic Republic (East Germany / GDR), which was within the Eastern Bloc allied with the Soviet Union, and the Federal Republic of Germany allied with the West (known as West Germany). In both of them, the successful integration of Jews into society was a real test.

Many political ideals and Jews of German descent were attracted to the East at first. “Nobody came to live as Jews in East Germany – they wanted to live as communists,” says sociologist and writer Irene Rung, who moved with her parents in 1949 as a young child from the United States to Germany. “They persecuted in themselves everything related to Judaism,” says Rong. Rong believes that this was “the only way to live in East Germany.” You had to stay focused on the political goal. The position on this issue said: “We will not allow the Germans to remain alone in this country, we will make it a better country than ever before.”

Israel as a guarantee of survival

On paper, the Jewish presence in East Germany was nearly non-existent, with the number of registered members of the Jewish community in the 1950s only around 1,500.

When Israel and West Germany established diplomatic relations in 1965, it was an important step forward. The Jewish community in Germany undertook the task of strengthening the bilateral relations between the two countries.

“aboutOf German Jews More than other Jews, because of the Holocaust, Israel became very important. There has always been the idea of ​​“living with suitcases,” meaning that if things go wrong, we will leave far, ”explains Coders, referring to the importance of Israel as a homeland to them.

The influx of Jews after the collapse of the Soviet Union

An influx of post-Soviet immigrants revitalized Jewish communities. As the decades passed, a second and third generation has grown up, who no longer see living in Germany as a temporary solution.

But the most important transformation occurred with the dissolution of the Soviet Union in late 1991, because after the opening of the borders between eastern and western Germany as well as the Soviet borders, approximately 220,000 Jews from the former Soviet Union immigrated to the newly reunified Germany and were granted refugee status.

The influx of “Russian Jews” revitalized the stagnant society and rescued it from demographic collapse. But their integration into society also posed significant challenges, as most of the newcomers were more secular than the local traditional communities.

Today, Jews born in the Soviet Union and their descendants make up the overwhelming majority of German Jews.

A new generation with a secular orientation

Jews from Western countries such as the United States, Canada, Argentina and England have settled in Germany over the past two decades – especially in Berlin, which they see as an attractive destination for personal life and professional advancement.

In addition, approximately 15,000 to 20,000 Israeli youths who received a higher education, counted on a secular orientation, and had left-political leanings. Many of these are related to Holocaust survivors, and some hold European citizenships through their parents and grandparents, which facilitates their settlement in Germany.

But the shadows of anti-Semitism have not disappeared yet. Ahead of this week’s planned events to celebrate 1,700 years of Jewish life in Germany, a new police report revealed a spike in anti-Semitic hate crimes, with more than 2,275 incidents in 2020.

The historian Couders says that the movement of Jews to Germany today, whose ancestors survived the Holocaust and fled, is a stark historical shift. “In fact, it is wonderful that Israelis are in Berlin now, without feeling guilty, showing the diversity of Israeli society, and German society as well. We are past times of war. ”

Shani Rotzanes / H.H.






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