Suzanne Fields

The growth of Jews in Germany is mainly the result of policy after the fall of the Wall and the subsequent reunification of East and West. The government made it easier for Jews who had grown up behind the Iron Curtain to make Germany their home, tempted by generous financial incentives. There was genuine remorse, even repentance, for what happened during "the thousand-year Reich" that barely lasted two decades. Nearly 200,000 Jews have arrived from the old Soviet Union; in one year more Soviet Jews immigrated to Germany than to Israel. But on arrival, few knew very much about their ancient faith, since they were forbidden to practice it in the Soviet Union. Perhaps more surprising, an estimated 15,000 Jews have immigrated to Berlin from Israel.

The waves of Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet Union have subsided, and a third of the Jews in Berlin are now over 65. How many of these immigrants have actually embraced Judaism as a faith and a way of life is unknown; that's a story only their children will be able to tell. The new quarterly, Jewish Voice from Germany, emphasizes cultural issues and glosses over complex conflicting voices. It reflects a strong left-leaning editorial bias, urging, for example, Israeli recognition of Palestine.

With a particular Passover irony, Gunter Grass, now 84, Germany's most celebrated German author ("The Tin Drum"), once a soldier in Hitler's Waffen SS and the winner of the Nobel Prize in literature in 1999, beat a tin drum of his own with a widely circulated poem denying the Iranian quest for nuclear weapons. He describes Jews as the greatest threat to global security.

A recent government commission finds that anti-Semitism persists in Germany, and it's not enough to teach about Nazi persecution. The commission wants more emphasis to be placed on the threat of renewed anti-Semitism growing from the conflicts in the Middle East and Islamism. The current international financial crisis has also restored in some quarters old images of conspiracies and "greedy Jews." The more things change.


Suzanne Fields

Suzanne Fields is currently working on a book that will revisit John Milton's 'Paradise Lost.'

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