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Manfred Gerstenfeld on Die Bombe im Jüdischen Gemeindehaus

Filed under: Anti-Semitism, Europe and Israel

Jewish Political Studies Review 18:3-4 (Fall 2006)


The Failed Bombing by Leftists of the Berlin Jewish Community Center on Kristallnacht 1969

Die Bombe im Jüdischen Gemeindehaus, by Wolfgang Kraushaar, Hamburger Edition HIS Verlagsges, 300 pp., 2005.

Reviewed by Manfred Gerstenfeld

On 9 November 1969, a bomb was planted in the Jewish community center in the Fasanenstrasse in West Berlin. It was meant to explode during a meeting in memory of the thirty-first Kristallnacht. The bomb, hidden in a coat, had a powerful explosive content. Had it not been defective, it would have killed many. The following year, on 13 February, there was arson in the Jewish Old Age Home in Munich. Seven inhabitants died in the flames and nine were wounded.

From today’s perspective, investigating this subject has become of more than historic relevance. In 2003, there was a plan to bomb on Kristallnacht a new Jewish community center in Munich. This time the criminals were arrested ahead of time. They came from the extreme Right.

No perpetrators of the 1969 attacks were ever brought to justice. In his book Wolfgang Kraushaar shows that there are very strong indications that an extreme leftist group carried out the Berlin attack. He analyzes this terrorist act in the context of the German extreme-Left scene at the time. Kraushaar, a political scientist, is associated with the Hamburg Institute for Social Research, where one of his fields is German terrorism.


Tupamaros West-Berlin

He traces the attack at the Jewish Community Center to a group called “Tupamaros-West Berlin.” Their leader was Dieter Kunzelmann, the son of a German savings bank director. Kraushaar mentions that on the evening of the day the bomb was planted, at a meeting on Palestine in the left-wing Berlin Republican Club, a leaflet was distributed titled  “Schalom + Napalm.” In it reference was made to the bomb as well as to the desecrations-on the same day-of Holocaust memorials in Berlin, with texts such as “Schalom and Napalm” and “El Fath.”

The leaflet said, among other things, that

real anti-fascism means the clear and simple solidarity with the fighting fedayeen. Our solidarity will no longer be satisfied with abstract verbal information methods as was the case concerning Vietnam. It will fight without mercy with concrete actions the close connection between Zionist Israel and the German Federal Republic…. The Jews, who have been driven away by fascism, have themselves become fascists, who in collaboration with American capital want to exterminate the Palestinian people. We should destroy the direct support of Israel by German industry and government. In this way we prepare the victory of the Palestinian revolution and force a new defeat for world imperialism.(48)

The Palestinian Origins of European Terrorism

The attack on the Jewish community center was the beginning of a series of violent assaults in Berlin, including one on the El Al office. It is one more example of the pattern that the Jews or Israel are the first targets, after which violence is extended to others. It shows once more the fallacy of the arguments of today’s appeasers who belittle Palestinian and pro-Palestinian terrorism. The bomb at the Jewish community center is also an early proof that potentially lethal left-wing anti-Semitism has a decades-long postwar history in Europe.

In 1969, Kunzelmann and four of his friends traveled to Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria. In Jordan they stayed at a Palestinian training camp where they were trained in the use of weapons. Kunzelmann also met Arafat twice. Four members of the group returned to Germany about a week before the failed bombing in the Berlin Jewish center. Kraushaar writes that while it is possible that the attack was carried out on the instructions of the Palestinians, this cannot be proven. Kunzelmann also published a leaflet with support for the failed Palestinian attempt to hijack an El Al plane at Munich Airport on 10 February 1970 in which an Israeli passenger was killed.

In later years Kunzelmann claimed to have been a precursor of the terrorist German Red Army, also known as the Bader-Meinhof gang. One of its members, Ulrike Meinhof, wrote about the murder of Israeli athletes in the 1972 Olympics: “The action of Black September in Munich has exposed the nature of imperialistic dominance and the anti-imperialistic fight, transparent in a way as no revolutionary action before in West Germany and West Berlin. It was at the same time anti-imperialist, anti-fascist and international.”

A subsequent collaboration of German left-wing extremists with Palestinian terrorists took place in the 1976 hijacking of an Air France plane to Entebbe in Uganda. The German Wilfried Böse, one of the hijackers, carried out a “selection” in Uganda, separating the Jewish from non-Jewish passengers. Brigitte Kuhlman, another German leftist terrorist, also participated in this hijacking.

An anecdote illustrates how close anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism were in these extreme-Left circles. Daniel Cohn-Bendit, well known as a leader of the May 1968 French student uprising, visited later that year a commune in Berlin where Kunzelmann said to him: “You are just a little Jewish pig.”


Left-Wing Anti-Semites at Universities

Contemporary commentators often think that the twenty-first-century efforts to prevent or disturb the appearances of Israeli speakers at universities, such as at Concordia in Montreal and SOAS in London, are innovative. Kraushaar devotes an entire chapter to the experiences of Asher Ben Nathan, the first Israeli ambassador to Germany, at the country’s universities. He was shouted down in June 1969 at Frankfurt University by members of the leftist student group SDS, Palestinians, and leftist Israelis from the Matzpen group.

Two days later, Ben Nathan was unable to finish his lecture at Hamburg University because of the many interruptions. When the ambassador wanted to speak in September that year in Berlin, he was told that the climate at both the Free and the Technical universities was such that he should not do so. He then spoke at a meeting organized by the young Christian Democrats.

Before the meeting, a leftist publication attacked Ben Nathan in a way that Kraushaar interprets as an invitation to carry out an attempt on the Israeli ambassador’s life. Ben Nathan’s lecture at Munich University in December of that year was also severely disrupted. One poster in the auditorium carried the words: “Only when bombs explode in 50 supermarkets in Israel will there be peace.”

There are also other examples besides those Kraushaar mentions of left-wing Germans pioneering extremist actions against Israelis. A case in point is that of Internationale Solidarität, an ad hoc group established to prevent the vice-chancellor of the Hebrew University from addressing a meeting at Kiel University. A leaflet distributed by Internationale Solidarität concluded with the slogan, “Schlagt die Zionisten tot, macht den Nahen Osten rot (Beat Zionists dead, make the Near East red).”[1]

After Ben Nathan ended his ambassadorship, he wrote a book on the letters he had received while in Germany. The German boulevard paper Bild-Zeitung thereupon asked for letters of solidarity with Israel and Ben Nathan. The latter on that occasion also received many anti-Semitic letters, both from the Left and the Right.

An important formative influence on the ideology of many left-wing students was that of the philosophers of the Frankfurt school. One of its prominent members, Theodor W. Adorno, a Jew, wrote a letter in 1969 to his former colleague, Herbert Marcuse, in whose works many of the student leaders of the Paris disturbances sought inspiration. Adorno said he was extremely depressed and afraid that the German student movement would become fascist. He added: “You only have to look into the maniacally frozen eyes of those who probably, basing themselves on us, turn their anger against us.” Kraushaar concludes that apparently Adorno at the time did not want to make this letter public.

The importance of Kraushaar’s book thus goes far beyond elucidating an early anti-Semitic and potentially murderous crime of the German extreme Left. It shows how intimidation motifs and acts of violence, which since have threatened many democratic societies, partially originated in the contacts between left-wing European intellectual circles, extreme leftists, and Palestinian terrorists.


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[1] Gerd Langguth, “Anti-Israel Extremism in West Germany,” in Robert S. Wistrich, ed., The Left against Zion: Communism, Israel and the Middle East (London: Vallentine Mitchell, 1979), 257.