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A New (or Perhaps Revived) “Uninhibitedness” Toward Jews in Germany

Filed under: Anti-Semitism, Europe and Israel
Publication: Jewish Political Studies Review

Jewish Political Studies Review

Jewish Political Studies Review 18:1-2 (Spring 2006)

The post-Holocaust pattern of muted anti-Semitism in accepted European discourse has all but dissolved. For obvious reasons, this pattern probably remained most intact in Germany. But there, too, a new “uninhibitedness” has emerged that fuses old tropes of antipathy toward Jews and Israel with the current Europe-wide hostilities toward America, Israel, and Jews. Although the situation for Jews in Germany and Europe is in no way comparable to that in the 1920s and 1930s, a new tone informs the music.


Life in many ways is good for the Jews in Germany. They enjoy – for the most part – material security notwithstanding little-known facts such as that in Frankfurt, for example, nearly one-third of the Jews from Russia are on social welfare. Jews are well educated, their institutions are fostered and protected by the authorities, and there exists a sort of Jewish chic among non-Jewish Germans that manifests itself in the massive proliferation of klezmer bands featuring non-Jewish Germans as producers and consumers to a degree that exists nowhere else in the world, including the United States and Israel. Lastly, the community as a whole is the only one in Europe whose membership continues to rise steadily.

Nevertheless, the picture is not unclouded. Here, the focus will not be on the constantly increasing manifest acts of anti-Semitism, but on a noticeable change in tone in Germany’s discourse about Jews.

Two developments that are complementary but have different origins pertain to the Jews in Germany. The first mainly involves time: World War II is gradually receding as a factor affecting German life, thus making the Nazi era and its central events – including the Holocaust – less relevant and compelling. The second development, however, is qualitatively new and can best be characterized as a “new uninhibitedness”1 or mental statute of limitation: sixty years after the end of World War II, the “grace period” that was granted the Jews is now a thing of the past.

In German – and European – daily life, if not yet in politics and accepted public discourse, one encounters the sentiment: “Let’s put an end to remembering the Holocaust. It has given the Jews a privileged ride much longer than they deserve. They are no longer victims, far from it: they are now the oppressors of the real victims – the Palestinians.” To be sure, merely expressing the wish of having the Holocaust muted does not make one an anti-Semite, but it does mean that Jews are no longer accorded any special deference. If, not so long ago, the new uninhibitedness was a charge that the left-wing elites tried to pin on conservatives whenever they tried to relativize or trivialize the Nazi period, today it is a broadly accepted norm.


Kohl: The Grace of Late Birth

As late as the mid-1980s, the controversy about this new uninhibitedness occurred largely between West Germany’s conservative-liberal camp on the one side and the Red-Green camp on the other. For example, the then chancellor Helmut Kohl, in a visit to Israel, stated to the Knesset on 24 January 1984: “I speak to you as someone who could not get caught up in guilt during the Nazi period because he had the grace of a late birth. . . . “2 Although some Knesset members reacted by leaving the chamber in outrage, Kohl’s formulation – actually first used by the Social Democratic journalist and political adviser Günter Gaus3 – became a code word in the Left-Right controversies in West Germany.

For a time, this formulation signified the division between the two camps. The leftist side stood for confronting the past, assuming responsibility and liability, and a decisive rejection of anti-Semitic prejudice, though for most of the German Left at this stage issues involving Jews, anti-Semitism, and the Holocaust were marginal at best. The conservative side tended to stand for relativization, exculpation, and rejection of permanent historical responsibility. Even at that time, however, such clear-cut classifications were misleading.4


The Holocaust Television Series

Until the late 1970s, the relativizing and exculpating discourse was regarded as normal and was not seen as reprehensible by the mainstream of West German society. Only the broadcast of the American television series Holocaust in January 1979 inspired a certain turnaround.5 For a long time there had been anti-Semitic gaffes, public rejections of responsibility and liability, and other forms of mitigating German guilt, without this receiving special notice or criticism.6 Since the end of the war, those advocating a radical confrontation with the past were clearly in the minority. For example, Chancellor Konrad Adenauer was only able to provide West Germany’s first financial assistance to Israel by relying on votes from the Social Democratic opposition in the Bundestag.7 This aid was always called Wiedergutmachung by the Germans; best translated as restitution or reparation, it is a misleading and even exculpatory term since there was nothing to restore or repair.

Since the late 1970s, however, the public became more sensitive and what had been regarded as ordinary was now subjected to increasingly strong criticism, both in the political and cultural spheres. In contrast to the 1950s and 1960s, when the voices criticizing West Germany’s lax manner of dealing with National Socialism came primarily from the United States, Israel, Britain, and a few other countries, now such voices were heard in the Federal Republic itself. A powerful cultural change seemed to have occurred.


Henryk Broder: Chronicler of the Declining Taboo

Taboo-breaking has been on the rise since the 1980s, and the above statement by Kohl is just one of many transgressions by members of Germany’s intellectual, cultural, and political elite. One of the most steadfast chroniclers of the trend has been the Berlin-based journalist Henryk M. Broder, who writes for the weekly newsmagazine Der Spiegel in addition to commentaries on his website8 and numerous books and articles.9

His book Der ewige Antisemit, which appeared in the context of the Historikerstreit (Historians’ Dispute) of 1986, is the first account of the scandals associated with the new uninhibitedness.10 As we have seen, in reality it was not so new; its advocates were calling for something that had been the norm in West Germany’s first postwar decades. This uninhibitedness was “new,” then, only in the context of the 1980s.

In addition to providing a chronicle of taboo-breaking events, Broder’s book compellingly analyzed the new uninhibitedness: he calls the phenomenon “secondary anti-Semitism.” Broder encapsulated the “taboo” violations with an ironic sentence that he used as a chapter heading and borrowed from the Israeli psychoanalyst Zvi Rex: “The Germans will never forgive the Jews for Auschwitz.”11

Secondary anti-Semitism may be distinguished from ordinary anti-Semitism – with which, however, it shares most of the usual stereotypes – by its defense mechanisms against guilt. This phenomenon was first described by two members of the Frankfurt School of critical sociologists and philosophers who returned to Germany from exile in the United States, namely, Theodor W. Adorno and Max Horkheimer. Although their writings on National Socialism are deficient in many respects, particularly the virtual silence about anti-Semitism’s centrality to Nazism, they did address the way postwar German society dealt with the Shoah. In particular, they observed how, while Germans continued to detest Jews, the age-old anti-Semitism had attained an additional dimension. Because of the psychological mechanisms involved, Adorno and Horkheimer called it “guilt-defensiveness anti-Semitism” (Schuldabwehrantisemitismus).12


Walser’s 1998 Speech

One of the prominent examples of the new uninhibitedness coincides with the start of Gerhard Schröder’s chancellorship and the governing coalition of Social Democrats and Greens. Just two weeks after the Bundestag election of 27 September 1998, in which those two parties barely defeated the conservative-liberal camp, the writer Martin Walser received the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade awarded annually at the Frankfurt Book Fair. It is the custom for the recipient to give a speech in the city’s Church of St. Paul.

Walser’s address sparked the first “anti-Semitism dispute” in reunited Germany.13 It has not been resolved to this day and Walser continues to enjoy broad approval, most recently for his highly popular novel Tod eines Kritikers (Death of a Critic) in which he basically reiterates his positions from the 1998 dispute.14 The novel features a Jewish character who has the vilest traits of standard anti-Semitism – greedy, haughty, arrogant, oversexed, speaking in Polish-accented German – and is easily recognizable as a caricature of Marcel Reich-Ranicki, a well-known cultural critic of Polish Jewish origin.

A recent book by a young academic expert in German literature, Matthias N. Lorenz, titled Auschwitz draengt uns auf einen Fleck (Auschwitz Pushes Us onto One Spot), presents convincing evidence that Walser’s work in general bears major elements of anti-Semitism dating back to his seemingly left-wing beginnings in the early 1960s. Among other things, Lorenz reveals that Walser, in a speech honoring the late Victor Klemperer – an assimilated German Jew who survived the Nazi regime by staying in Berlin and wrote a popular testimonial of his experiences – argued that the Holocaust would never have occurred had all German, and European, Jews assimilated as successfully as did Klemperer.15 It should be noted that had Klemperer – despite his total assimilation – not been married to a German Gentile woman, he, too, would have been sent to a death camp.

The fact that even Chancellor Schröder expressed solidarity with Walser during the 2002 election campaign16 indicates the reversal that has occurred since Germany was reunited. In his speech on 11 October 1998, Walser referred to the constant recalling of Germany’s crimes in the Holocaust as a “permanent representation of our shame.” He deplored an “instrumentalization of our shame for current purposes” and a “negative nationalism” that was disseminated by “intellectuals” and “opinion soldiers.” These, he claimed, used the memory of the Holocaust by holding it “at moral gunpoint” as a “means of intimidation deployable at any time” in order to hurt “all Germans” – by thwarting the Germans’ national pride and self-satisfaction.17 Walser, to be sure, was not the first to speak of the “Auschwitz cudgel,” but he gave such notions his poetic blessing.18

Toward the end of his speech, the audience in the church rose to give him a tumultuous standing ovation. Among the 1,200 guests – the thank-you address for the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade being a major cultural event – were important representatives of the political, cultural, media, and business elites. Apart from an East German Lutheran minister, Friedrich Schorlemmer, only two people did not rise to applaud: the then chairman of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, the late Ignatz Bubis, and his wife.

What is notable about this speech – in addition to its latently anti-Semitic message about remembering the past and the enthusiasm with which it was greeted – is that it was given by a writer and intellectual who was a member of the Left. Walser, born in 1927 in Wasserburg and holding a doctorate in literature, had behaved like many other German intellectuals: in the 1960s he favored Willy Brandt as chancellor and opposed the war in Vietnam, and in the 1970s he sympathized with the West German Communist Party.

Then in 1987, Walser told the weekly magazine Stern: “For a while one rides on the guilt-and-atonement train because one simply has to travel along, but during the journey one is thinking about entirely different things.”19 This well expresses the feelings of much of the German elite, both on the Right and the Left.

Following Walser’s speech, articles tended to characterize it as “thought-provoking,” “stimulating,” even “courageous.”20 Only after Bubis gave a lecture – on the sixtieth anniversary of Kristallnacht – in which he analyzed the speech and accurately characterized it as essentially anti-Semitic, was there any noticeable rise in criticism of Walser. Yet it was precisely the German Left that, mostly, remained silent.

This author spent that academic year in Berlin and experienced firsthand how leftists responded to Bubis and the controversy surrounding him with either embarrassment or indifference, with one important exception: the left-wing magazine KONKRET and its editor Hermann Gremliza, whose solidarity with Bubis was unqualified. Only in two rare cases were there acts of opposition to the ever-growing, cross-party sense of uninhibitedness about anti-Semitism in the public discourse and, more important, in the society’s emotional repertoire. The first was a gathering at Humboldt University in Berlin on 8 March 1999, at which this author shared the podium with Gremliza and Bubis. The second was a lengthy interview with Bubis that Gremliza published in KONKRET.21 These were expressions of an otherwise scant solidarity with Bubis, especially outside the Jewish community.


Schröder and Walser

Gerhard Schröder, a politician with a great instinct for the German emotional repertoire, staged a debate with Walser on the subject of the “nation” on 8 May 2002, in the middle of his reelection campaign. Michel Friedman, then vice-chairman of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, questioned the chancellor’s credibility after he invited the novelist to share the podium with him. The Central Council also issued a statement reminding everyone of Walser’s words in his Frankfurt acceptance speech, his talk of Auschwitz as a “moral cudgel,” and so on.

The forthright rejection of the criticism of this event featuring Walser and the chancellor on the same stage clearly indicates the paradigm shift that has occurred in Germany. Former culture minister Julian Nida-Rümelin (SPD), an eminent professor of philosophy, emphasized that Walser was “a key literary and intellectual figure in Germany.” According to Nida-Rümelin, Walser was a writer who had already started to deal with the all-important and – in postwar Germany – much-neglected concept of “nation.” Inviting Walser, then, was a definite political statement.

SPD secretary-general Franz Müntefering, who later succeeded Schröder as party chairman, indignantly rejected the accusations: “Once again,” he remarked in the same tone of self-congratulation that characterized the SPD’s “German Way” electoral campaign, one could celebrate “a political culture of openness and tolerance in Germany. ‘We in Germany’ – this is something we say with a sense of pride in our country, self-critical but also self-confidently patriotic.”22

In other words, a Social Democratic chancellor and secretary-general expressed tolerance toward a writer who had openly and repeatedly made anti-Semitic statements. The paradigm shift that has occurred in public and political debate in Germany is well symbolized by this event. There has been a political upgrading or indirect acceptance of secondary anti-Semitism as a defense mechanism against remembering the German past and a means of national identity mobilization.

For many in today’s political and cultural elite, the broken taboos and anti-Semitic outbursts that were almost exclusively found in the conservative camp in the 1970s and 1980s now go hand in hand with a perception of themselves as “Germans” who have long since had their confrontation with the past. That is what Walser himself emphasized in a “reconciliatory talk” with the Holocaust survivor Bubis, when the writer said he had already been paying attention to the subject of Auschwitz at a time when Bubis was concerned with other matters – an allusion to Bubis’s activities as a real estate developer in the 1960s and 1970s.

The currently fashionable pride, then, in self-perception as “German” is mixed with an aggressive rejection of the past. All the ingredients of the “guilt-defensiveness anti-Semitism” analyzed by Broder and others are evident here. In today’s Germany – a country shaken by social upheavals, by the psychological burdens and economic consequences of the difficult reunification process, and by the rapid developments in the international economy – the new uninhibitedness is now found throughout the political spectrum, but especially and conspicuously in the self-defined Left.


Friedrich’s Discourse of Normalization

The new uninhibitedness about Nazi history is by no means directed solely at the extermination of European Jews. Increasingly, all aspects of history writing on National Socialism and its consequences are being disputed. For example, books such as The Fire23 and Fire Sites24 by the former radical leftist Jörg Friedrich have been hugely successful.

Friedrich – once known for his publications on the Nazi past of lawyers in postwar West Germany25 – and his publisher conceived of The Fire as a comprehensive work on the “campaign to exterminate German cities systematically planned and implemented by Britons and Americans.” This quote from the dust cover is borne out by the book’s content: the author draws a linguistic equation between the Allies’ war against Germany and the Germans’ war against the rest of the world, especially the war of extermination on the eastern front and against the European Jews.

In Friedrich’s account, the air raid shelters in which German civilians sought refuge become “crematoria,” the bombing victims become the “exterminated,” and the Royal Air Force Fifth Bomber Group becomes an “Einsatzgruppe” – the special task forces for rounding up and massacring Jews in occupied Eastern Europe. Although certain prominent scholars vehemently criticized the book, they mostly objected to its glib writing style and analogies between the Holocaust and Dresden, while remaining largely silent about its substance and overall implications for Germany’s public discourse. Indeed, the book won great popularity and further indicates the widening discourse of normalization in Germany. This happened at a time when Germany was governed by a Red-Green coalition that – as the Walser case shows – not only tolerated this trend but strove to promote it.


Searching for Exoneration from Holocaust Guilt

The same trend was demonstrated by the successful and critically acclaimed new book by Günter Grass, Im Krebsgang (Crabwalk).26 In it the Nobel Prize-winning novelist, who is close to the SPD and perhaps the most influential postwar German intellectual, tells the story of how Germans from East Prussia fled the approaching Red Army by taking refuge on the ship Wilhelm Gustloff and then drowned when the ship sank. The historian Dan Diner describes Grass’s aggressive resistance to the discourse of guilt:

The Holocaust’s burden of guilt is perpetually searching for exoneration. This is not the first time that exoneration has been tied to the urge to help gain recognition for suffering experienced in World War II, such as the bombing war and the expulsion [of German refugees]. This is an honorable concern. But, as if guided by an invisible hand, it ends up flowing into old channels. Thus, in his historical tale about the refugee ship Wilhelm Gustloff, Günter Grass insists on constructing a narrative framework in which, although a real live Jew is not murdered, an imaginary one is: murdered by a sympathetically portrayed young neo-Nazi who wants nothing more than to make remembrance of German suffering accessible to public mourning, with both the imaginary Jew and the neo-Nazi who was reformed in jail apparently forming antipodes struggling with each other inside the collective soul. The narrator confronts the dilemma of having to choose to sacrifice one at the expense of the other. The decision was obviously not hard for him to reach. The internalizations felt to be Jewish – the memory that was felt to have been imposed, like a second reeducation – had to be discarded through an act of killing. In this way, the symbolic deed experienced as an act of liberation is recirculated within a compulsion to repetition.27

In Germany, Grass’s book triggered a broad debate about the fate of the Germans who fled or were expelled from Central European countries in 1945. A group called the Federation of Expellees called for establishing a “Center against Expulsion.” Although Chancellor Schröder made it clear during a visit to Poland that Germany had no intention of raising either territorial claims against Poland or claims for compensation on behalf of Germans expelled from there,28 the new uninhibitedness has long since become accepted in German society. After at least the first twenty-five years of West Germany’s existence, when Germans had no interest at all in this chapter of their history, major sections of German society had at last managed to summon empathy toward Jews who had been deprived of their rights, expelled, and murdered. Such empathy is now being effortlessly evoked for the fate of German expellees in the context of the debate inspired by Grass.

Another controversy about unsettled issues from the past has emerged in connection to the former East Germany. In the Bundestag, the conservative CDU/CSU party presented a motion intended to refashion the system of historical memorials in Germany, largely financed by the state, according to a specific, banal variant of totalitarianism theory that aims at leveling all the historical differences between Communism and fascism and National Socialism.

The CDU/CSU motion – “Overarching Conception for a Dignified Commemoration of the Victims of Both German Dictatorships”29 – was introduced in the Bundestag on 17 June 2004; a short time earlier, a preliminary version had been recalled after being sharply criticized by the Central Council of Jews.30 This motion not only calls for a commemoration giving equal weight to victims of the East German Communist dictatorship and of the Nazis, but also for granting like status to the victims of Allied bombing during World War II and to German expellees. Although the motion was rejected in a plenary session of the Bundestag by a majority comprising members from the SPD and the Greens, representing the governing coalition partners, and even from the oppositional liberal Free Democrats, the ideas it expressed are alarmingly prevalent among the German public.


A Weighing Scale Mentality

A “weighing scale mentality” is how Salmon Korn, vice-chair of the Central Council of Jews, characterized this motion and, by implication, the emergent attitudes among the German public. The hard-won, institutionalized recollection of Nazi crimes along with empathy for the victims is now to be offset by recollection of the suffering that Germans experienced as a consequence of National Socialist policy.

Postwar Germans had, with difficulty, developed a capacity to confront what earlier generations of Germans had perpetrated – and to do so as part of the process of self-identity formation. That capacity is now being abandoned in favor of unruffled wishful thinking in which Auschwitz is little more than a minor disturbance. The taboo-violations of the last few years increasingly signal an end to the grace period for Jews, an acceptance of latent anti-Semitism, a defensive mentality about historical memory, and the revival of an uninhibited, unbroken identification with the German nation. The German Left, for its part, has long since become an enthusiastic participant in the trend.

In the summer of 1982, when this author watched on television with a few leftist friends in Frankfurt-Bockenheim the World Cup soccer game pitting Germany against Algeria, it was clear that German leftists – at least publicly and in front of other leftists – felt it proper to root for Algeria. At the latest, this attitude disappeared with the Red-Green coalition that has governed Germany since the fall of 1998.

German patriotism – especially as a countervailing force to an alleged Americanization that a growing number of Germans experience as increasingly oppressive and feel called upon to oppose – is now not only acceptable in this political milieu, but favored. Indeed, it is experienced by its adherents and perceived by the public as antinomian by dint of its always implicit and often explicit anti-Americanism. Since America embodies evil, opposition to America, clearly including German nationalism, can only be good.31 The formerly harshest critics of the “German model” in such areas as industrial relations are now its greatest advocates.


The Locust Campaign

It is this defense of the “German model” that the aforementioned Franz Müntefering, when he was chairman of the SPD, invoked in his analogy of American hedge funds to so-called “locust firms” that descend anonymously upon innocent, well-meaning German companies only to strip them of their assets. The SPD’s “locust” campaign was popular among the party’s rank and file as well as the public at large. Müntefering’s remarks were reinforced by an article in Stern in which seven of these “locust firms” were listed by name, some of them recognizably Jewish.32

Germany’s most prominent labor union, IG Metall, featured an article on the same subject in the May 2005 issue of its magazine metall. Titled “U.S. Firmen in Deutschland: Die Aussauger” (U.S. Companies in Germany: The [Blood]suckers), the cover depicts a mosquito doffing an Uncle Sam-like hat with the American flag, grinning ravenously under its huge nose, revealing a gold-filled tooth. It carries an American-style attach? case and is ready to descend upon the hapless German economy. The article inside the magazine carries the title “Die Plünderer sind da” (“The Plunderers Are Here”).

In the fifty-seven-year history of metall, there has never been a more successful issue than this one featuring a barely disguised anti-Semitic cover and a thinly veiled anti-Semitic feature article. Although, in both the SPD’s locust campaign and IG Metall’s mosquito follow-up, anti-Semitism had to be conveyed subtly, this was not the case with anti-Americanism.33



In today’s Europe and Germany, it is not traditional anti-Semitism – typically espoused by the Right for much of the twentieth century – that should be of concern. Few would not sit next to a Jew in a public place; few worry about Jews being overrepresented in medicine, law, and so on. Instead, it has been an anti-Semitism of the liberal and radical Left, almost exclusively derived from its hatred of Israel, that has fueled the legitimacy of much contemporary anti-Semitism in Europe. Here too, however, there is historical continuity: a 1990 study of the German Left’s anti-Semitism demonstrated that its animosity toward Israel often displayed an anti-Semitic tone and content.34

The overlap between hatred of Israel and anti-Semitism as a core of certain leftist subcultures is discussed in a new book about an incident in West Berlin on 9 November 1969 in which radical German terrorists, modeling themselves on the Tupamaros of Uruguay and calling themselves “Tupamaros West Berlin,” planted a bomb in the Jewish Community Center. It was intended to explode during a 31st anniversary memorial service for Kristallnacht, and would have killed at least hundreds if not for a technical failure.35 This occurred in a post-Holocaust West Germany in which anti-Semitism had supposedly all but disappeared, especially among the country’s self-proclaimed progressives who made their alleged overcoming of their parents’ Nazi past the centerpiece of their purportedly enlightened outlook.

Thus, while the uninhibitedness may indeed be new in terms of its broad public acceptance in Germany and Europe, its roots go back decades, if not centuries.

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1. The German term is neue Unbefangenheit, which can mean anything along a spectrum from “no longer feeling ashamed” to “a new brazenness.”

2. As cited by Monika Köppke, “Helmut Kohl trifft in Israel ein und spricht von der ‘Gnade der späten Geburt,'” in Deutschlandradio-Berlin, 24 January 2004 (German), 227514/.

3. On this point, see Michael Jeismann, “Günter Gaus: Das Ende der Schonzeit,” Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 17 May 2004 (German). Gaus, in having strong nationalistic sympathies that made him negative toward the West and the United States, was hardly unusual among German Social Democrats.

4. On the debates about dealing with the National Socialist past, see Andrei S. Markovits and Beth Simone Noveck, “West Germany,” in David S. Wyman, ed., The World Reacts to the Holocaust (Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996), pp. 391ff.

5. Holocaust was broadcast on the third channels – the state affiliates of the First Channel, responsible for local, and often educational or cultural, programming – of West German television starting on 22 January 1979. See Andrei S. Markovits and Rebecca Hayden, “Holocaust before and after the Event: Reactions in West Germany and Austria,” New German Critique, Vol. 19 (Winter 1980).

6. Meanwhile there have been trenchant analyses of how West Germans dealt with questions of guilt and responsibility. See, esp., Norbert Frei, Vergangenheitspolitik (Munich: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, 1996) (German). For the GDR’s coming to terms with its National Socialist past, see G. Christoph Classen, Faschismus und Antifaschismus (Vienna: Böhlau Verlag, 2004 ) (German); Thomas Haury, Antisemitismus von Links (Hamburg: Hamburger Edition, 2002) (German). For a comparison of the GDR and the FRG in regard to coming to terms with their respective pasts, see Jeffrey Herf, Divided Memory (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1997).

7. On this complicated history, see Martin W. Kloke, Israel und die deutsche Linke (Frankfurt: Haag und Herchen, 1990), pp. 73ff. (German).


9. A list of his publications is available on Broder’s website.

10. Henryk M. Broder, Der ewige Antisemit (Frankfurt: Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag, 1986) (German). The title means “The Eternal Anti-Semite” – an allusion to The Eternal Jew, which is both the age-old German expression for “the wandering Jew” and the title of a Nazi movie.

11. Ibid., p. 125.

12. On this point, see the study by Lars Rensmann, Demokratie und Judenbild (Wiesbaden: Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, 2004), pp. 123ff. (German).

13. Ibid., pp. 356ff. The original “Berlin anti-Semitism dispute” was triggered in 1879 when the historian Heinrich von Treitschke published an article accusing Germany’s Jews of insufficient willingness to assimilate.

14. Martin Walser, Der Tod eines Kritikers, Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp 2002.(German).

15. Hellmuth Karasek, “Der ewige Antisemit? Der Germanist Matthias Lorenz behauptet, Martin Walser sei schon immer ein Feind der Juden gewesen. Stimmt das?” Die Welt, 30 July 2005 (German).

16. Holger Kulick, “Schröder, Walser und eine verplauderte Chance,” Der Spiegel, 9 May 2002 (German).

17. This view of Auschwitz as instrumentalized extends beyond Germany; a recent ADL survey found 42 percent of Europeans saying the statement that “Jews still talk too much about what happened to them in the Holocaust” is probably true.

18. For the text of Walser’s speech, see “Die Banalität des Guten,” Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 12 October 1998 (German).

19. Interview with Martin Walser in Stern, 12 March 1987 (German), cited in Rensmann, Demokratie und Judenbild, p. 363, n. 1339.

20. Rensmann, Demokratie und Judenbild, pp. 371ff.

21. “Die Haare sind mehr geworden: Hermann L. Gremliza sprach mit Ignatz Bubis über die Suppe Deutschland und was darin schwimmt,” KONKRET, February 1999 (German).

22. All the citations from “Schröder und Walser diskutieren,” a 7 May 2002 article, are from the Internet forum,

23. Jörg Friedrich, Der Brand (Berlin: Propyläen Verlag, 2002) (German).

24. Jörg Friedrich, Brandstätten (Berlin: Propyläen Verlag, 2003) (German).

25. See, e.g., Jörg Friedrich, Die kalte Amnestie (Frankfurt: Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag, 1984) (German).

26. Günter Grass, Im Krebsgang (Stuttgart: Steidl Verlag, 2003) (German).

27. Dan Diner, “Es spricht aus ihnen heraus” Die Welt, 15 June 2002 (German).

28. See “Wir beugen uns in Scham,” Der Spiegel, 1 August 2004, the sixtieth anniversary of the Warsaw uprising (German).

29. See the motion of the Bundestag parliamentary party of the CDU/CSU (“Gesamtkonzept für ein würdiges Gedenken der Opfer beider deutscher Diktaturen”), Bundestagsdrucksache 15/3048 (German). It can be retrieved at the website of the German parliament,

30. On the controversy, see Martin Jander, “Waagschalenmentalität,” in Dossier Nr. 11 des Instituts für Medienpädagogik in Forschung und Praxis on the topic “Erinnerungskultur und Gedächtnispolitik,” July 2004 (German),

31. See “New German Patriotism: The Road to Berlin Goes via Baghdad,” Deutsche Welle, 10 December 2003,,1564,1050583,00.html.

32. Manfred Gerstenfeld, “Rewriting Germany’s Nazi Past: A Society in Moral Decline,” Jerusalem Viewpoints, No. 530 (1 May 2005), pp. 1-2.

33. “U.S. Firmen in Deutschland: Die Aussauger – Die Plünderer sind da,” metall, Vol. 57, No. 5 (May 2005), pp. 14-17 (German).

34. Martin Kloke, Israel und die deutsche Linke: Zur Geschichte eines schwierigen Verhaeltnisses (Frankfurt am Main: Haag und Herchen, 1990) (German).

35. Wolfgang Kraushaar, Die Bombe im Juedischen Gemeindehaus (Hamburg: Hamburger Edition, 2005) (German).

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PROF. ANDREI S. MARKOVITS, born in Timisoara, Romania, emigrated to the United States and received five degrees from Columbia University. He is the Karl W. Deutsch Collegiate Professor of Comparative Politics and German Studies at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. His books include The German Left: Red, Green and Beyond (1993), The German Predicament: Memory and Power in the New Europe (1997), and Offside: Soccer and American Exceptionalism (2001). His latest book is Amerika, dich hasst sich’s besser: Anti-Amerikanismus und Antisemitismus in Europa, an English-language version of which will be published in 2006.