BONN (Aug. 8)
Dr. Eugen Gerstenmaier, president of the Bundestag, the lower house of the West German parliament, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency correspondent here that he regarded it as a “great honor” to have been able to speak before the World Jewish Congress “as a German.”
The West German leader took part in a symposium on “The Germans and the Jews” held last Thursday at the fifth plenary session of the World Jewish Congress meeting in Brussels. Dr. Gerstenmaier said that it was to the credit of Dr. Nahum Goldmann, WJC president, that he sought to “allow German voices to be heard again” despite the opposition voiced by several factions at the WJC parley to German participation in the symposium.
Dr. Gerstenmaier told the JTA that he understood the opposition but added that the decision of the majority of WJC delegates to permit German participation was “more fruitful.” When asked if he thought that normalization of relations between Germans and Jews could be achieved in this generation, the Bundestag leader replied: “We can only hope for this but we Germans must also be prepared to wait as this may not come about for a long time.”
Dr. Gerstenmaier was also asked to comment on the question of whether there exists today “another Germany” as compared to the Germany of the Nazi era. The question referred directly to a statement made by David Ben-Gurion while Premier of Israel. At that time, when relations with Germany were being heatedly debated in Israel. Mr. Ben-Gurion declared that he believes that the Germany of today is a “new” Germany, not the one that existed during the time of Hitler. The West German statesman stated that Ben-Gurion was right. “This is not a question of believing but of a true fact,” he said.
The West German leader was asked if anything could be done to narrow the gap dividing Jews and Germans. “In my opinion,” Dr. Gerstenmaier said, “we Germans are condemned to wait until the other side is prepared for a reconciliation. Expressions of heartfelt requests for reconciliation at this time are too early. But if a hand or finger is outstretched we will accept it under honorable conditions.”