BONN (Feb. 2)
West Germany’s Jewish community is divided over the decision by Defense Minister Rupert Scholz to excuse young German Jews whose grandparents suffered under the Nazis from compulsory military service.
The issue was raised by Heinz Galinski, chairman of the Central Council of Jewish Communities in West Germany, at a meeting with Scholtz last week.
He argued that many young Jews refused to be drafted on grounds that members of their families were once persecuted by Germans in uniform.
But the community is not of one mind on the issue. Some Jewish representatives say it is perfectly justified to seek exemptions as long as Nazi victims are still alive.
But others maintain that special treatment of Jews gives Hitler a posthumous victory.
They recall that one of his first edicts when the Nazi came to power in 1933 was to exclude Jews from the German armed forces.
Until now, the West German army has granted individual requests for deferments by Jews whose parents suffered in concentration camps.
But lately. it has insisted on drafting those whose grandparents were Nazi victims.
The defense minister’s decision has aroused resentment among non-Jewish youths subject to the draft.
“If they choose to live here, they should be ready to share the burden of defending this country,” said one young recruit on a television interview.
“The Jews got so much money from Germany,” said another recruit. “Now that they are being called to serve the country, they quote the Holocaust and the Nazi past. That is absolutely wrong.”
But one young Jew had a different perspective. “This is not my homeland, “he said. “I am not ready to die for it. I just live here.”