AUFBAU 64:15 July 17, 1998 p. 14
CULTURE & ARTS
German National Tourist Board's
Germany for the Jewish Traveler
by Leonard Lehrman
Copyright by Leonard Lehrman & AUFBAU
Eleven years ago, Alan Tigay edited a brochure for Jewish travelers in Germany, put out by Hadassah. The time had come, in the estimation of the German National Tourist Board, for a successor volume, one which would not skirt around but would actually "confront Holocaust issues head on."
The 36-page booklet they commissioned from Geoffrey Weill (whose father was the composer Kurt Weill's second cousin) is an historic document, and was announced with appropriate fanfare at a press conference called by Udo Grebe and Helga Brenner-Khan of the German National Tourist Office on June 17, under the auspices of the American Jewish Congress on East 84th Street, in which building Mr. Weill also works.
Forty-five German cities are covered, with multi-page sections on Berlin and Frankfurt-am-Main, home of Ignatz Bubis, President of the Central Council of the Jewish Communities in Germany, who contributed a foreword.
Since the fall of the Soviet Union, the immigration to Germany of citizens of the former Soviet Republics has increased a hundredfold; a significant percentage of those immigrating being Jewish, the Jewish population of Germany has consequently more than doubled. It is hoped that this book may soon be expanded to include communities such as Bremen and even Bremerhaven--which fifteen years ago had 3 Jews and now has 42! (For a fuller though not as up-to-date account of some of those communities, see also the 215-page Jewish Life in Germany Today, edited by Uri R. Kaufmann and published in 1994 by Inter Nationes, Bonn.)
A few small towns did make it into the new guidebook, at least two of them chosen for obvious personal reasons by Mr. Weill: Kippenheim-Schmieheim, where his grandmother died in 1928 and where Kurt Weill's father was born; and Weil-der-Stadt, where the Weills' earliest known ancestor, Yehuda, took the name of the city for his surname in c. 1360. This lends a heymish as well as an historic touch, even for those to whom Germany may be more a curiosity than a Heimat (homeland).
Despite the influx of over 1,000 ex-Soviet Jews entering Germany every month, currently, "the average German has never knowingly met with a Jew," according to German Deputy Consul Hans-Heinrich Freiherr von Stachelberg. So a recognition of the importance of Jewish places, and Jews, in German history, is perhaps even more important for Germans today than for the cosmopolitan travelers to whom this brochure is addressed.
As more and more new immigrants of Jewish origin are absorbed into German society, Herr von Stachelberg--who also served his country for a number of years in Israel--dares to hope aloud for more "normal" relations between Jews and non-Jewish Germans. It is a word that sticks in the craw as typical of the psychological distance yet to be traveled:
Ten years ago, the German National Tourist Office kindly provided us with three hotel rooms in a number of German cities: two non-smoking rooms and one room they off-handedly characterized as "normal." There is nothing abnormal about being a non-smoker, a non-conformist, or a Jew. As Herbert Levine wrote nearly 20 years ago in Fremd im eigenen Land, and as my cantata Jewish Voices in Germany concludes:
"Germans view it as problematic that in their land other peoples are also in existence. On that day when the majority of Germans finally accept their foreign-born neighbors as full fellow citizens..., then will the remnants of that old German so-called 'Jewish problem' also be solved. Not till then."
--English translation Copyright 1986 by Leonard Lehrman
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