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East Germany Wooing Jews

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The German Democratic Republic, which strongly backs the Arabs in their conflict with Israel and provides political and military support to the Palestine Liberation Organization, has shown small but possibly significant signs that it wants to improve its image in Israel and among Jews generally.

One example is the permission granted the only Yiddish theatrical troupe in East Germany — composed of members of a single family — to visit Israel. This is the first time such permission was granted. Another recent gesture was more symbolic than substantive but nevertheless demonstrated a positive attitude toward a local Jewish concern.

The East German authorities have always invited Israeli journalists to attend an annual memorial in Dresden to the victims of the notorious Kristallnacht 45 years ago. The journalists are given every facility to transmit their stories. Two months ago, an Israeli journalist reported from Eisleben, birthplace of Martin Luther, that the former synagogue there bore no memorial tablet identifying it as a one-time Jewish house of worship.

Within a few weeks, the authorities reversed an earlier decision and allowed the Jewish community of Halle, nearest to Eisleben, to place a memorial tablet on the building.

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