The recent data should not surprise anyone. It even marks some progress when compared with the past. This same university undertook a major poll in 2004. Some 68% percent of Germans then agreed with the allegation: “Israel undertakes a war of destruction against the Palestinians.” Fifty-one percent shared the opinion: “The way the State of Israel acts toward the Palestinians is in principle no different from the Nazis’ behavior in the Third Reich toward the Jews.”
Simultaneously with the accusations against Israel, many Germans are whitewashing their country’s past. Historian Susanne Urban writes about current narratives that should be seen as modern German myths. In her view, an impression is fostered of a National Socialism without National Socialists and a Holocaust without or almost without perpetrators.
The influx of Jews to Germany in recent decades plays an important role in concealing a nasty reality. Urban says that the presence of a substantial number of Jews in the country is very important publicly as “proof” that Germany has developed into a diverse and democratic open society.
Active involvement in crimes
Recently published historical research has further widened our knowledge about the major role large sectors of German society played in the country’s murderous crimes during World War II. Last October, Germany’s Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle presented a study about the Foreign Ministry and the Nazis ordered by his predecessor Joschka Fischer. Westerwelle noted that German diplomats had been heavily involved in violent Nazi policies after Hitler took power. They knew early on about the crimes committed by the German war machine.
The Ministry was also involved administratively in the destruction of European Jewry. A former German diplomat, Manfred Steinkühler, said that after the war there had been great resistance to confronting history in the Foreign Ministry and that he had regularly met colleagues who had a Nazi past.
In November, historian Hans-Peter Ullmann revealed that the German Finance Ministry had played a more active role in the persecution of Jews than was generally thought. It allowed the funds plundered from Jews and others to be channeled through it. This stolen money raised 30% of the funds necessary for the German army during the war.
In December 2010, Frank Schneider, the president of the German Society for Psychiatry, Psychotherapy and Treatment of Nervous Diseases admitted that the race and euthanasia policies of the Third Reich had not been forced upon German psychiatrists, but that they had been among its initiators.
In March 2011, television station ARD aireda documentary on how German police had increasingly served the criminal aims of the Nazi government during its rule. A current exhibition at the German Historical Museum covers the same subject. One example of “adaptation” is Walter Zirpins who in 1932 carried out a professional investigation into the arson of the Reichstag. Later under Nazi rule, he joined the SS and was the commander of the ghetto-police in Lodz for a year. Yet In democratic post-war West-Germany, he became head of the criminal police in Hanover.
Stop ignoring the polls
Few Israelis realize that a majority of Germans probably disagree with several key statements Chancellor Angela Merkel made in the Knesset in March 2008. This may include the mention of shame and guilt about what Germany did to the Jews in World War II.
How does the outcome of the new poll jibe with the standard official regrets about the past as well as with the impressions of Holocaust survivors who visit Germany to speak about their suffering? The great majority report that they encounter interest and respect from their audiences. The answer is that in a post-modern democracy, radically different outlooks can coexist for many years, until one of them becomes dominant.
There are thus indications that a new, partly criminal Germany is emerging. Its views do not overlap with the totalitarian attitudes of the generation of its grandparents. Times have mutated and with it, expressions of anti-Semitism. They have been presently recycled to target Israel.
The time has come for Ms. Merkel and her government to stop ignoring polls that reveal a large number of Holocaust inverters among the country’s citizens. The first step should be a major study about the creation of the widespread view of Israelis as Nazis. It should investigate the role of the media with its biased reporting. It should analyze what the educational system has contributed, what one-sided NGOs have reported and what has been inspired by certain politicians or academics. One should also include research on the role of anti-Israeli Jews and Israelis, Muslim immigrants, and last but not least, what children are taught at home.
Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld has published 19 books, several of which deal with European politics
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