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Red Rag column: Germany against Germans - Letter to Ismail Haniyeh
By: Gideon Spiro
26 October 2013 (English translation 3 November 2013)

Germany against Germans

A few days ago at The Bookworm, a combined bookstore and café in Tel Aviv, a
launching was held for Professor Moshe Zimmermann’s book Germans Against
Germans: the fate of the Jews, 1938 – 1945
(in Hebrew). Professor
Zimmermann casts light on an aspect of the Holocaust that has not been studied
enough – the fate of the Jews of Germany. It began with discrimination, then
exclusion and racist legislation, then humiliation, persecution, pogroms and
arrests, and in the end, annihilation. The book is not a dry academic text
intended to pad the author’s resumé in order to get tenure. Zimmermann does
not need that; he is already at the top of his profession. The book is rich
with factual findings as befits an academic study, and at the same time it is
written in such a compelling way that those who are interested in the
Holocaust will find it a gripping read. It is not an objective book; the
subject is not conducive to that. It is a book with a mission. He warns of
what happens in a state where the bonds of democracy loosen and come apart and
tyranny takes over. Thus it is a book with a universal meaning, a good message
for all nations and peoples, and it has special relevance for Israel, which is
already at the stage of tyranny in the Occupied Territories and is weakening
within the Green Line.

In his talk at the book-launching, Prof. Zimmerman emphasized on the process
by which a mechanism of government propaganda can make racist persecution
appear to be part of the normal course of events, the explanations for which
will be accepted as logical by the average citizen. A German citizen, let
alone an antisemitic one, who hears again and again about how the Jews are
disloyal to their homeland will be convinced that it is necessary to arrest
them. The Homeland has to defend itself from those who would harm it. And that
is the conclusion to which even reasonable citizens, who are not particularly
fervent, will come. Manufacturing a national consensus for collective
punishment against a group that is portrayed as an enemy is not the preserve
of any one nation; it has happened in many countries, and here in Israel we
know it well.

Not for nothing is the book entitled `Germans against Germans`. The Jewish
community in Germany was the most integrated of all the European Jewish
communities. German Jews identified themselves as Germans. They were Jewish
Germans, but above all, Germans. They fought as Germans in the First World War
and many received medals and citations for their dedicated service and acts of
heroism which were acknowledged by the German General Staff. The Jews were
engrained in German culture, and they were represented in the academy,
literature, art, theatre and medicine disproportionately to their share of the

Then along came the Nazis, who told the Jews, “You are not Germans”. They
refused to accept that. They were insulted. “We, who fought for Germany and
are part of its culture, we are not Germans?” “Not only are you not Germans,
but you are human garbage, an inferior race that is contaminating Germany and
we must purge Germany and then all of Europe of your contamination.” That was
incomprehensible to Jews who considered themselves patriotic Germans.

A similar feeling exists among some Israeli peace activists who served in
combat units in the army, participated in the wars, including some who
received awards and citations for distinguished service, and now find
themselves forced to listen as an immigrant who has recently arrived in the
country, a variant of Lieberman, who converted Russian nationalism into
Jewish, calls peace activists traitors and “enablers of terror”. This, when
Lieberman and his ilk, terrorist settlers who live outside Israel, are
partners in the robbery of Palestinian lands and the regime of Occupation and

I read the book with my both my identities. One identity as a Jewish German, a
native of Berlin, a survivor of the Krystallnacht pogrom of November
1938, who immigrated to British Palestine in March 1939, a few minutes before
the outbreak of the Second World War in September of that year; and my
identity as a Jewish Israeli. With my first identity the book gave me chills.
Of course I knew about the bitter fate of the Jews who remained in Germany
when the war began, including my aunt (my father’s sister), but I did not know
that the number of Jews who remained in Germany when the war began was as high
as a hundred thousand. Zimmermann details the abuse and the humiliation they
underwent until were sent to the death camps.

The largest community remained in Berlin, and the book mentions names of those
who were murdered in the camps, certainly including some who were known to my
parents. A shudder went through my body when I thought of the likely fate of
my immediate family if we had not managed to escape at the last minute. With
my other identity, as a Jewish Israeli, I am alarmed at the more than a few
points of similarity between what happened in Germany before the outbreak of
the war and what is happening in Israel and the Occupied Territories. Israel
within the Green Line is at the stage of a democracy in decline, and the
Occupied Territories are already at the stage of rampaging tyranny.
Xenophobia, lynchings of Arabs, harassment of Arabs to protect the “purity of
the race” (Arab men who befriend Jewish women), are among those points of

I now pass over to the specifics of the book and the points of similarity as I
see them: in the first hundred pages of the book, I found two conspicuous
points of similarity: first, the distinction between the borders of the Old
Reich and the New Reich with the occupied territories. Almost like the old
Israel within the Green Line and the new Israel with the Occupied Territories.
The Germans in the Old Reich and the German settlers in the occupied
territories (especially Poland) enjoyed privileges in comparison to the
populations of the occupied territories, who were subject to military rule,
just as the Jews within old Israel and the Jewish settlers in the Occupied
Territories enjoy privileges in relation to the Palestinians who live under
the yoke of the military administration.

The other point of similarity is the treatment of Jewish property in Germany
and the attitude to Palestinian property on both sides of the Green Line. In
both cases there is plunder, theft and the falsification of documents. In
short: legal owners are dispossessed of their property by the dominant nation.
While Germany has paid compensation for the stolen property, Israel continues
to rob and plunder.

Of course there are differences between Germany of then and Israel of today,
but if the present trend of erosion of democracy in Israel continues, those
differences will fade away.

If we had an education ministry that concerned itself with education instead
of brainwashing, it would drop the pathetic buffoonery of these expeditions to
the concentration camps in Poland and make Zimmermann’s book compulsory

Letter to Ismail Haniyeh

28 October 2013
To Ismail Haniyeh
Head of the Hamas government


In October 2008 I visited the Gaza Strip along with a delegation of doctors
who brought medicine. The delegation also included my friend Mairead Maguire,
a Nobel Peace Prize laureate. Our boat broke the blockade and was greeted
joyfully at the Gaza dock. The reception was a friendly one. The Gaza
residents I met with heard from me a clear and unequivocal message in three
words: don’t shoot, talk. That message was received very positively.

I went to Gaza in spite of the Israeli government ban, not because I support
Hamas; I don’t. I went because I am against the blockade that collectively
punishes a million and a half people, including women and children and others
who have committed no crime. I am a secular person who wants to live in a
democratic state that respects the religious beliefs of its citizens and
residents and guarantees freedom of worship, but where religion is separated
from the state and does not run it. In Gaza as in Israel, that objective has
not yet been realized. You mobilize religion for the objectives of Hamas. The
government of Israel and the religious parties also mobilize religion for
their objectives. The problem is that God has never expressed His opinion, and
all those who speak in His name are doing it without permission or power of
attorney from Him.

Having introduced myself, I would like to take this opportunity to say a few
words about your statement a few days ago, in which you called for national
reconciliation and the renewal of the Palestinian struggle on all fronts –
diplomatic, economic, political, popular and military. That is, renewal of the
armed struggle.

I oppose the Occupation, and there is no doubt that the Palestinian people has
the right to struggle against the Occupation and to liberate itself from it.
As a member of the occupying nation I have no right to dictate to you how to
wage your struggle, but I do have the right to express my opinion. It would be
a grave mistake to return to armed struggle, both in terms of principle
(Ghandi’s doctrine) and practice. The topography of the land is against you.
There are no jungles or mountains where guerrilla fighters can find cover. Add
to that Israel’s military strength and the network of collaborators the Israel
Security Agency has developed, and failure is ensured at the outset.

A popular unarmed struggle has the best chance of defeating the Occupation,
and not for nothing is it also the Israeli Occupation’s worst nightmare.
Popular struggle reveals the Occupation in its full nakedness and enhances
international sympathy for the Palestinians and distaste for Israel. Suicide-
bombers who blow up in civilian buses are not only war-criminals, but “it’s
worse than a crime; it’s a blunder”, as the French politician and diplomat
Maurice de Talleyrand put it. It fortifies Israel’s rejection of peace,
weakens the Israeli peace camp and reduces sympathy and support in
international public opinion, which is a crucial component in ending the
Occupation. The Palestinian leadership must decide: will we speak and act in
the name of God, or wisdom? The Israeli leadership too faces a similar

Gideon Spiro

Human-rights activist

Translated from Hebrew for Occupation Magazine by George Malent
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