German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer meet with members of the German military

German army to get army rabbis again after 100 years

Defense Minister Kramp-Karrenbauer praises move, calling it a clear commitment to Jewish life in country and 'an important example for our Jewish soldiers'

Associated Press |
Published: 12.11.19 , 21:03
Germany's government decided Wednesday to reintroduce military rabbis, backing a proposal by the Central Council of Jews to restore religious counseling for Jews serving in the armed forces after more than a century without such assistance.
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  • "Today, we set an important example for our Jewish soldiers," German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer tweeted after the decision by Chancellor Angela Merkel's Cabinet.
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    Hitler Germany
    Hitler Germany
    German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer meet with members of the German military
    (Photo: Getty Images)
    Kramp-Karrenbauer said the addition of military rabbis was a clear commitment to Jewish life in Germany.
    The German army does not document the religious affiliations of its members.
    But according to estimates about 300 Jews, 1,400 Muslims and 94,000 Christians are in the Bundeswehr armed forces, German media reported.
    The German army has only Catholic and Lutheran chaplains, but there are plans to also introduce Muslim religious counseling in the Bundeswehr, the government said.
    During World War I, many Jews fought for Germany and rabbis were relatively common in the military until the Nazis came to power in 1933 and excluded Jews from all spheres of public life.
    Germany, like other Western countries, has watched with alarm as anti-Semitic and other racist hate speech and violence have increased in recent years while the political climate has coarsened and grown more polarized.
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    German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, center, attends a Holocaust memorial service
    German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, center, attends a Holocaust memorial service
    German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, center, attends a Holocaust memorial service
    (Photo: Getty Images)
    The arrival in parliament of the far-right AfD party, whose leaders openly question Germany's culture of atonement for its World War II atrocities, has also contributed to the change in atmosphere.
    Merkel has also deplored "another form of anti-Semitism" stemming from a major asylum-seeker influx, with many coming from Muslim countries like Syria, Afghanistan or Iraq.
    In June, the country's domestic intelligence agency said that the number of anti-Semitic acts of violence rose sharply last year alongside a further increase in those identified as far-right extremists.
    The country's Commissioner for Jewish Life in Germany and the Fight against Antisemitism Felix Klein said in May that not recommend that Jews wear the traditional head covering or kippa in certain areas in public.
    Klein backtracked after intervention from Merkel's spokesperson.

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