BONN (Nov. 27)
West Germany’s Jewish community is putting pressure on the East German government to pay reparations to Jewish victims of Nazi persecution, for whom it has refused to acknowledge responsibility.
The community’s chairman, Heinz Galinski, stressed in a radio interview Sunday that the political and moral responsibility for the Nazi past applies equally to both German states.
West Germany has paid out an estimated $40 billion in reparations to Jews and to non-Jews, including Germans persecuted for their political views.
East Germany, however, has refused any payment, on the grounds that it is an anti-fascist state made up of persecutees, whereas the West German Federal Republic is the successor to Hitler’s Third Reich.
But the Jewish community does not accept that view, and a change of attitude may be in the making in East Berlin.
The recently deposed Communist Party boss, Erich Honecker, raised the possibility of paying $100 million in symbolic reparations to victims of Nazism.
But he was seeking a quid pro quo: American Jewish lobbying on behalf of improved U.S. trade relations with East Germany.
East German Jews, taking heart from sweeping reforms in the GDR, are themselves demanding that the regime end the 40-year falsification of history, which insists that anti-Semitism was rampant in West Germany but non-existent in the East.
They also have asked that textbooks be revised to show that Jews were persecuted not only by the Nazis before the war, but by the East German Stalinists after the war.