DEAR HERR MAAS
Again it was November 9th, 82 years after Kristallnacht, and again you had all the right words, especially to your fellow citizens. You reminded them how, when synagogues were set on fire, people just stood and clapped, or just didn’t protest it. You urged your fellow Germans to get involved when they encounter anti-Semitism. That’s the only way, you proclaimed, never again!!
But for us, Jews in Germany, your words are hollowed. You are like a father who buys himself a pack of cigarettes while explaining to his kids about the dangers of smoking. Everything you say about Jews in Germany and modern anti-Semitism smells of cover-up. We hear you say it, but we don’t believe it anymore. It’s like you are never missing an opportunity of Jewish pain or trauma in order to come up with a new sleek slogan. You know what we would like to hear as Jews, but frankly, we don’t buy it anymore. You can shop at McDonald’s once or twice, but at some point you discover that the advertisements and the nice wrapping are just there to cover a bad product.
We all remember, of course, you claiming that you joined politics because of Auschwitz. Well, apparently there are a few ways and angles to look at and remember Auschwitz. Following Germany’s consistent voting pattern in the UN against Israel and its dealing with a regime that doesn’t believe that Auschwitz even existed, we ceased to believe your words. Under your guard, Jewish life safety in Germany deteriorated to an all time low since the Nazis. Hope dies last, so we just replaced it with desperation, or started to inquire what would it take to leave to Israel.
It was a nice statement about Auschwitz, but you can’t fool us anymore. There were nice words about Kristallnacht, but we just don’t buy them. We are sick of words, promises, vigils with Kippa and candles. We just want to have a normal life here. You would never dream about meeting and maintaining political relations with a country or even a party that its agenda includes the destruction of Muslim life, why is it OK to do it with Jews? At least be honest with us.
I had an incident of a few years back in a market in Prenzlauerberg with one merchant who was harassing Jews (he shouted after one of them “it’s a shame that Hitler didn’t finish his job”). I complained to the market manager and he said that there is nothing he can do, that this merchant is nice and welcoming, but he is losing it when he sees Jews.
I remember how shocked I was by his words, by the nerve he had to blame it on me and other Jews, I remember telling him that maybe he should put signs on both ends of the market asking Jews to stay out.
But now I appreciate the fact that he was willing to tell me what many Germans are thinking but are not willing to say openly. I wish that you, Herr Maas, would have the guts to address the Jews like the market manager: Hey, don’t you get it? You are not welcome here!! We can’t protect you. Every where you go you cause troubles. Why don’t you go away already? We must make business with Iran, especially now. Why do you put sticks in the wheels of our party?
Like many other Germans, you refuse to make the link between the UN assault on Israel and the dealing with Iran to what happens to Jews in Germany on a daily basis. Iran is a simpler matter–I just can’t see how you and other politicians are expecting that chains of Holocaust deniers will not bloom when German politicians are dealing, making business, visiting and hosting a regime that deny the Holocaust (and Israel right to exist) as a whole.
The matter with Israel is more complicated and is a source of many justifiable debates about the border between Israel critic and anti-Semitism. I have no intent to go there. However, it is a fact that in more and more cases of anti-Semitic attacks the assailants are claiming that it was not an attack with anti-Semitic background or motivated by Jewish hatred, but only an expression of their frustration with Israeli politics toward Palestinians. This was the line of defense of one of the people who set arson in a synagogue in Dusseldorf last month. This was the line of defense of one defendant who set a synagogue on fire in Wuppertal a few years back. The judge accepted it and acquitted him. Can you imagine me setting a mosque on fire and defending myself for doing it to protest Iran’s policy toward gays? Can you imagine it? If you can’t, then it is clear that in Germany there is a special rule against Jews.
I spent last Yom Kippur with the community in Halle that was celebrating the holiday one year after the attack. I heard there a crazy story: apparently about five months ago, the police was called to the Jewish community center in the center of Halle after someone put a paper-made swastika near the entrance. A police car with two policemen was dispatched to check the incident. One policeman got out and checked the area, returned to the car and reported that there was nothing to it. But a video camera recording the incident, showed how the policeman removed the evidence and proceeded to say that there was nothing.
Jewish safety in Germany is at all time low since the end of the war. Reportedly, there are more than 2000 anti-Semitic incidents a year in Germany. A rate of more than five per day. According to criminologists the number is much much higher. Jews just don’t report anymore. It’s not worth it for them. They say the police, the judicial system and the prosecution is part of the problem, not the solution. They lost hope. I don’t know what lies at the end of hope. Maybe police hiding evidence or policemen participating in far right rallies and far right chat rooms
Jews in Germany in 2020 are living in somewhat of an inverse Ghetto, Herr Maas. Our institutions, places of worship and our schools and kitas are placed behind high fences with guards in front of them, only this time we are allowed out and no one is allowed in. instead of identifying ourselves when we go out with yellow ribbon, we are deleting anything Jewish, Hebrew or Israeli off us, until we are back in our nest. It is not as bad of course, but what kind of existence is that? What kind of self pride one should carry living in places where he or she must cover part of their identity? Can women live like that? Can gays? Can anyone? What kind of democracy is it that it can’t ensure the safety of its inhabitants? You are asking your fellow citizens to show civil courage? Ha, it’s like Netanyahu asking Israelis to fight corruption.
I don’t know why I stay in a place where I am so unwanted, I don’t dare saying this to my wife. I tell her that I love her, which is the main reason why I stay. Every time an attack like that happens in Germany a bomb of silence infiltrate our house. We take our kids to bed. It is quite possible that one day, just because they were born half-Jews, the lotto balls of this meanness and ignorance, will have their numbers. And we have no way to prevent it. And we realize that the promise we gave them when they were born is also empty.