|Thursday 29 July 1999|
attacked for 'forgetting'
By Andrew Gimson in Berlin
THE leader of Germany's
Jews has bitterly attacked modern Germans
who, he believes, feel Auschwitz has
nothing to do with them and want to stop
thinking about the Holocaust.
Ignatz Bubis, president of the
Central Council of Jews in Germany, said:
"The responsibility for Auschwitz is not
anchored in the public consciousness.
"Every person in Germany feels responsible
for Schiller, for Goethe and for
Beethoven, but none for Himmler." Mr Bubis
believes that a large part of the
population thinks it is "time to draw a
line" under the Holocaust and "only look
forward", but he warns his fellow Germans
that the future cannot be faced without
also facing up to the past.
Although he was born in Germany and is
a German citizen, Mr Bubis, 72, says he
does not want to be buried there. "I
should like to be buried in Israel,
because I do not want my grave to be blown
up, like Heinz Galinski's," he
said. Mr Galinski, a concentration camp
survivor and a celebrated predecessor of
Mr Bubis as leader of Germany's Jews, is
buried in Berlin, where his grave was
recently damaged by a bomb.
At the heart of Mr Bubis's sadness,
expressed in an interview with today's
Stern magazine, is the sense that he has
failed to break down barriers between Jews
and other Germans. "I wanted to get rid of
this division, here Germans, there Jews .
. . But no, I have had almost no effect.
The majority of people have not even
understood what I was trying to do," he
About 70,000 Jews live in Germany,
including about 11,000 in Berlin, and some
of them believe Mr Bubis is being far too
gloomy about his achievements during his
seven years in office. His colleague
Michel Friedman said yesterday that
he did not realise what he had
Mr Bubis, who lost most of his family
in the Holocaust and was 18 when he was
freed from Nazi imprisonment, said he did
not expect young Germans to get out of bed
each morning and pour ashes over their
heads. He said he tells schoolchildren
that they "must know what human beings
were capable of doing".
The novelist Martin Walser
recently said Auschwitz was being used as
a "moral club" to beat the Germans over
the head, and gave warning that the heavy
coverage of the Holocaust on German
television could prove counter-productive.
But these remarks appalled Mr Bubis, who
saw them as confirmation that most Germans
wanted to look the other way and forget
When asked why he went on living in
Germany, Mr Bubis said it was because he
"feels at home", a reason given by many
Jews for living there, while others who
have emigrated since the collapse of
communism in the former Soviet Union say
Germany is now a much safer place for them
than Russia. The Holocaust is passionately
debated in the German press along with the
decade-long argument about whether and, if
so, how to build a memorial in Berlin to
the murdered European Jews.