At the beginning of this month, a neo-Nazi gang was uncovered in Germany. It carried out 10 murders, 14 bank robberies and two mail bomb attacks over a period of 12 years. Most of the murdered were of Turkish origin.
This new discovery has both material and psychological consequences in Germany. It is also of importance for the perception of the country abroad and has specific Israeli aspects. That a small gang could carry out murders in Germany over such a long period of time has raised many questions. These include queries about the gang’s shady connections with members of the German Secret Service.
The psychological impact is of a different nature. For a long time now, many in Germany have wanted to absolve themselves from their country’s history. Many Germans have in past years been greatly involved in whitewashing what took place under the Nazi regime.
German historian Susanne Urban is one of those who have written about how German families systematically falsify the behavior of their ancestors and relatives. They create an image whereby from 1933 until 1945, German society on the whole did not cooperate at all with the Nazis.
Already10 years ago it was pointed out how this has led to a totally distorted picture of history. According to this narrative, 26% of Germans helped persecuted people, 13% of Germans were active in the resistance, around 9% of Germans prayed for the persecuted and 17% of Germans always openly objected to Nazi propaganda. Only 1% of Germans were involved in crimes and only 3% were anti-Semites.
An important role has also been played by historian Jörg Friedrich. In his newer books he for instance compares the bombing of German cities with the crematories of Auschwitz. Tens of thousands of copies of these books have been sold.
This German fantasy world has once again received a rude awakening. There is information about dozens of other radical neo-Nazi groups active in Germany today. The extreme Left is being monitored because of its murderous past, in which the Baader Meinhof group (Red Army) is the best known element. Muslim radicalism is also being watched, yet the murderous aspects of German xenophobia have gotten far too little attention.
As far as the international aspects are concerned, in Europe’s present economic crisis, Germany plays a crucial role. It will have to make most of the financial efforts to try to ensure the Euro’s survival. Some mainstream voices in the country ask for a far greater say for Germany in European institutions, such as the European Central Bank. Asking for more influence at a time when neo-Nazism is in the public eye raises additional questions about how some Germans see their country’s role in a future Europe.
One major element of the efforts to sanitize Germany's immense past crimes has been to accuse Israel of acting similarly. Examples of this go back for years. Norbert Blum, a former German Christian Democrat Minister of Labor wrote in 2002 to then-Israeli ambassador Shimon Stein referring to Israel's "Vernichtungskrieg" against the Palestinians. This is the Nazi expression for “a war of extermination.” Blum repeated this in an interview with the weekly Stern.
Israel has to pay far more attention to current developments in Europe. The harm caused to Israel by a great diversity of forces in Europe is major and has multiple aspects. This damage is far greater than many Israelis realize. However, it rarely expresses itself through anti-Israel terrorist acts by Europeans.
One important aspect is European financial support for Palestinians, part of which has ended up funding terrorist groups. Another prominent facet concerns the many different layers of European verbal aggression. Its main manifestations are the demonization of Israel through unjustified condemnations, hate propaganda, discrimination, as well as the use of double standards and moral equivalence.
Israel is an important witness in exposing the multi-faceted criminality now endemic in Europe. It has permeated parts of the broader European society that a few decades ago had been much less affected by it.
In order to fight European verbal aggression against Israel, far more Israelis and their supporters have to be made aware of the reality in Europe. More important than defending oneself while being verbally attacked is to counter and expose the many ugly aspects of contemporary European society. The much-publicized German neo-Nazi gang is not much more than a miniscule part of the whole picture.
Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld has published 20 books. Several of these address anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism