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January 30, 2018 2:06 pm

‘Germany Was Always Antisemitic, That Hasn’t Changed Much:’ Holocaust Survivor Stuns German TV Viewers With Candid Answer

avatar by Ben Cohen

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Auschwitz survivor Esther Bejarano speaking on German TV. Photo: Screenshot.

A 93-year-old survivor of Auschwitz stunned the viewers of one of Germany’s most popular political talk shows on Sunday night when — asked to compare the Nazi era with the situation today — she asserted that the two periods had more in common than many people may care to admit.

“I think that Germany was always antisemitic, that has not changed much,” Esther Bejarano — who was enslaved in the infamous “women’s orchestra” of the Auschwitz death camp — told the ARD Network‘s flagship “Anne Will Show.”

Bejarano was one of several guests on an International Holocaust Remembrance Day edition of the show that asked the question, “How antisemitic is Germany today?” Other guests who participated in the candid and often emotional discussion included two government ministers, a prominent human rights advocate and a leading scholar of modern Jewish history.

Much of the show was dedicated to a harrowing interview with Bejarano about her incarceration in Auschwitz. She began by relating that her father had been a stalwart German patriot, convinced that the German people would reject Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Party. But after the Nazis came to power and prevented the family from emigrating to British Mandatory Palestine, Bejarano was imprisoned in a hard labor camp in Germany, before being deported to the Auschwitz death camp in Poland in April 1943.

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Initially assigned to a slave labor detail, Bejarano, an accomplished pianist, was selected to play the accordion in the women’s orchestra that performed outside in all weathers as slave laborers toiled under the gaze of gun-wielding camp guards. The first tune she played for her Nazi tormentors, she recalled, was a popular upbeat ballad of the time entitled, “You’re in luck with the women, Bel Ami!”

It was Bejarano’s status as a Holocaust survivor who has spent decades sharing her experiences with younger Germans that amplified the shocked response to her claim that Germany remains deeply antisemitic. The humbled response to Bejarano from Germany’s Minister of the Arts, Monika Grütters — “Five and a half million people visit our memorial sites every year, but it can never be enough” — suggested that the government too has been taken aback by the scale of the problem, even as it embarks on an effort to address it.

The recent announcement of a federal commissioner to deal with antisemitism — as part of a legislative program to deal with anti-Jewish hostility from both the German far right and from within the Muslim immigrant community — is intended to be a major part of the government’s counterattack. Interviewed by The Algemeiner last week, Josef Schuster, the president of the German Jewish community, stated candidly that “Germany, in the year 2018, is still facing a massive problem with hatred toward Jews.”

Several of the other guests on the “Anne Will Show” sounded an equally dark note about the current situation. Wenzel Michalski — the director of global human rights organization Human Rights Watch’s office in Berlin — emphasized the strong showing in last year’s elections by the stridently anti-immigrant AfD Party in making the point, “I think there is a lot of talk about the culture of remembrance, but little is done about it.”

Michalski also illustrated the issue of antisemitism among Muslim immigrants with a deeply personal story involving his son, who was badly bullied by his schoolmates of Turkish and Arab descent. After being showered with antisemitic insults including “Jewish murderer,” Michalski’s son was eventually beaten up and then subjected to a mock execution. “With one exception, his teachers did nothing,” Michalski disclosed.

Much of the discussion on the show centered on whether visits to the sites of concentration camps should be made compulsory for immigrants who want to acquire German citizenship. “Of course, not every visit to a concentration camp memorial immediately leads to immunization against antisemitism,” said Sawsan Chebli, a leading member of the socialist SPD party, and a former Foreign Ministry spokesman. “But it makes a difference if I open a book and read something or go to a memorial,” Chebli, who is the daughter of Palestinian parents, added.

Lack of knowledge and empathy for the victims of the Holocaust remains a serious challenge in German schools as well. A study conducted last year by the Forsa Institute and the Körber Foundation found that 41 percent of German children over the age of 14 had not even heard of Auschwitz.

Arts Minister Grütters pledged that the German government would reinvigorate its Holocaust education programs. “At a time when antisemitic and anti-Israeli hate speech on social media is increasing, education about National Socialism is more necessary than ever,” she said.

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  • Daniel

    Yes what you write is true. Germans are deeply ignorant in all things Jewish and Judaism. The white antisemitism is a big problem form left to right and the middle, no doubt about that. I know, I live in Germany. I went to a SPME conference in late 2017 and that was an eye opener. They had Germanies foremost scholar on antisemitism give a lecture and it was terrible, and frankly hopeless. Where ever you look antisemitism is present. The lastest reincarnation is what they call “Israel based antisemitism” which is of course rich pickings for the left, and right and Muslims. My area of interest is the Muslim antisemitism because it is so crass and it feeds the white antisemitism. The Muslim narretive is taken up by the whites and simply repeated. The left wing press and national TV stations then repeat this ad nauseam. We have had two “scandals” recently where TV features on antisemitism were systematically dismantled and made to look silly. This bias runs so very deep “educated” journalists fail to see their bias. It is frightening to watch.

  • mottel the tailor

    Germans have been and still hate Jews. The fact that they so willingly slaughtered men women and children, and then came home to comfortable lives, jobs and pensions , with absolutely minimal punishments for just a few, shows up their hated of Jews. So what can you expect from their children and grandchildren???. The Nuremburg show trials, punished a few at the top, “to show the world” thats all. Only in the Soviet Union did the Germans get a taste of true justice.

  • D.A. Lauer

    Amalek………..we can hope.

  • BRUCERUBIN

    Everyone blogging on this site needs to stop stereoptyping everyone who is different.

  • 0censor

    One of the problems is the government today, unlike it was in the 30’s and 40’s is not antisemitic, but are there German citizens that are? Of course there are, there are people like this no matter where you look. Used to be that antisemitism came from the fringe groups, the neo-nazi’s, now it has moved mainstream, they hide it with terms like “I have nothing against the Jews, just the Israeli Government”, then they support groups who openly call not only for the destruction of Israel but the death of every Jew on the planet.
    Further, with the rapid rise of immigration coming from Arab nations, the very place where antisemitism is at its worse, you see this is very much on the rise in Europe. Of course, we all know, to call it out, you are labelled a zerophobe or something because you dare point it out. What is more puzzling, the very groups that used to fight the hardest against such things, groups like the feminist, now they actually cover for this type of behavior..
    And here rises another problem, when you tell the people you could care less what their wishes are, try to completely undo the demographics of a area that has been established for thousands of years, which mass migration is doing, you are going to see racism rise and in a terrible way. I think in the end the nations need to look at what this migration is doing to their nations, if by so doing are they going to create two cultures, both equally hate each other, and due to this hatred they will extend it all others outside what they see as the norm of society.
    Is Germany more anti-semitic then it was under Fascism and Hitler, of course not, the government isn’t, but you are bringing in a whole group of people that are every bit as racist as the whole nation was in the 1930’s and 40’s.

  • WTF have the Jews ever done to Germany to deserve such behavior?
    Since time immemorial, antisemitism and vile hatred to the Jews in Germany has spread like explosive wild fire.
    Can anyone explain what is wrong with the German DNA?

  • Right

    Just wanted to add, germany after the war did not incarcerate or give stiff penalties to nazis or 75% would have been in jail. Don’t you think it odd that now t hey are doing trials on 90 yr old men who got pensions? And what about the women killers we all know existed, the secretaries who typed up when an aktion would be, knew about the camps have tons of jewish possessions. How many germans have jewish gold and diamonds? Live on jewish land that no one returned to claim? We all know about the art and I’m sure it all still hangs there. Bravo to this woman who said what we all should be saying

  • Right

    The hate is so deep I’m afraid when they visit a concentration camp they are happy- a trip for them is a happy occasion. Germany has to do a bit more. Have people feel like a jew would be more appropriate and for jew hating Palestinians they need total re-endoctrotnation. You will have to sit them down and show them no moral equivalence.

  • David Rubel

    In this day and age I find it incomprehensible that anyone has not heard of the Holocaust, especially Germans. Anti semitism doesn’t come from a lack of education- it comes from a lack of human decency. Anyone who is anti Semitic is nothing more than a sewer rat living in a gutter.

  • Thomas Gatter

    As a German Jew, I can only confirm the uncomfortable outlook on the German situation. Anti-Semitism, in this country, largely comes in two models: straightforward individual hatred of Jews (mainly expressed by people who never met any), and a usually more camouflaged, but sometimes only thinly disguised political anti-Semitism. The latter most frequently, but not exclusively, takes the shape of attacks on Israel. Other forms may be hidden, e.g., in criticism of “international capital”, “global finance structures”, “influential circles in the United States”, etc. But even Holocaust relativism or outright denial still abound. An as yet totally undissolved problem is posed by Muslim anti-Semitism which is part of the ideological backpack many immigrants carry along. For them, negative views on Jews are matter-of-fact statements, positions they were taught in their families from baby’s age, later confirmed in the madrasa or similar religious facility, and then in school. How can we hope to overcome those deeply internalised “values”?
    All we can do is keep spreading the truth.
    Thomas Gatter, Bremen, Germany

    • ArmyAviator

      I lived eight years in Germany. I am not a Jew. I was educated at Heidelberg and speak German fluently. I had a number of friends who happened to be Jewish, who hold the same sentiments as do you. Not all were Professors, Lawyers or Stock Brokers. In fact NONE were!

      As a non-Jew, I had the occasion to speak with many Germans who, once they thought they were safe from the prying ears of the Polizei, would go on rants against the Jews! I’d say that MOST Germans resent the reparations paid to Jewish Holocaust victims, and the assistance Bonn, then later Berlin has given to Israel.

      I often heard that the Holocaust “really didn’t happen,” and that Jews were not “all that badly treated.” Uh huh. This is the position taken by EVERY Turk or Arab I knew in Germany. The sentiment is common among Germans as well.

      Anti-Semitism is alive and UGLY in Germany. But, Germany has no monopoly on anti-Semitism. It’s ALL OVER Europe and North America too! Especially among our Liberal Socialists (Democrats) who profess their “tolerance” for other ideas, free speech and free religion. What hypocrisy! They have NO tolerance for Jews or Christians! But Muslims are their natural allies because of the HATRED of Jews!

      Finally, it amazes me that there are SO MANY Jewish people who loathe themselves! While I think this is more common in the United States, it certainly is a phenomenon in Europe as well.

      So, Herr Gatter, whos comment is above is SPOT ON. Anti-Semitism is unfortunately alive and thriving in the world. It is unbelievable that the most talented, brilliant and productive people who ever lived are so hated by the bulk of the world! The Jews have given us so much, yet are loathed, just because they are Jews!

      • Mike jones

        How sad. I am 100% in agreement with your response.

  • draf

    Brave woman, indeed.

  • Daniel

    Yes indeed, 40% of German’s hold antisemitic views. Chebli who is a trojan horse Muslima is also someone who constantly makes excuses for Muslims antisemitism. After the “Jerusalem decision” last year and the ensuing antisemitic demonstrations across Germany by Muslims it took her two days to make a statement. This although she is part of a round table in the city state of Berlin on antisemitism. She then went on to write an op-ed piece in Die Welt in which she condemned antisemitism but added the ususal “yes but Palestine”. She instrumentalized the wide spread show Muslim antismitism in Germany to showcase her “Palestinian” biography and set antisemitism in that context. She has also said, like Linda Sarsour, that sharia is compatible with the German constitution.

  • Erica Ling

    “41 % of German children over the age of 14 had not even heard of Auschwitz. ” So whatever happened to “lest we forget ” ?

  • Basha Kline

    After reading this article, “leopard and spots” comes to mind.. Jews are basically alone in this world, yes, there are some righteous people who are in our corner but generally, if one scratches a non-Jew, there will always be an antisemite underneath, they can’t help it – the underlying disease was formed at their mother’s breast.

  • Joy Daniels Brower

    Not all “far right” political parties are vehemently antisemitic, but they are anti-Islamic, and that’s as a result of the huge number (millions, now) of UNASSIMILATED migrants/refugees from Muslim-majority countries. Germany really important a problem that, under stricter immigration policies, might have been avoided.

  • SM

    Why would Jews want to live in Germany, ever?. Jew hatred is embedded in Teutonic DNA.

  • It would help if the rest of the world would lift a finger in responding to Germany’s call for a Marshall Plan for Africa – so that people are not driven to trying to escape that continent. I have seen nothing on how countries like Canada and the US could get down to brass tacks and start to encourage grass roots action in collaborating with African and Middle Eastern countries in working on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals for 2030.

    Only by countries that have been pulverized by NATO bombs or allowed to be ravaged by Moslem fanatics like Al Shabab, being given a chance to become partners with the advanced world in program development – such as going beyond the nation-state in devising single payer health care that is comprehensive – will the pressure on Europe be relieved. Having backward refugees, that have little interest in fitting into European society, flooding the place, is a recipe for enflaming xenophobic fascism – and we had better start getting into practical and programmed management of things that are essential. Instead we see neglect, and it is no wonder why National Socialist hectoring is rising.

  • Fred

    It is a bit of giggle the discovery of Germany being very antisemitic. Its anisemitism stems from 2000 years of deeply etched Catholic & Lutheran indoctrination of anti Jewish hatred. Even during the emancipations of Jews by Frederick the Great many of the other German states allowed only Jews who converted some modicum of freedom but that they were watched as was the famous Poet Heinrich Heine who fled Germany & composer von Hoffsmantal. After the war and even now there is a universal amnesia : I did not know anything …

    • stannadel

      Frederick the not so great, who personally refused to approve Moses Mendelssohn’s admission to the Royal Academy of Sciences, did not emancipate the Jews of Prussia.

  • Herb Grossman

    Sending Arab immigrants to Holocaust memorial sites is a bad idea. It would only incentivize them to do the same as the Nazis, the same way that ISIS uses videos of executions of opponents, which horrify us, as a recruiting tool. As the atrocities in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, etc. demonstrate, Arab/Muslims are raised in a culture of hating the “others.” Degrading their enemies in the most horribly imaginable ways (torture, rape, beheadings) only makes them feel triumphant.

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