BONN (Mar. 11)
East Germany fully recognizes its special responsibility toward Jewish victims of the Holocaust and is ready to establish diplomatic relations with Israel, East German Prime Minister Hans Modrow has declared in a letter to his Israeli counterpart, Yitzhak Shamir.
The letter was presented Friday at the end of two days of talks between East German and Israeli diplomats in Copenhagen.
The two sides, which first convened for three days of talks at the end of January, met this time to discuss the issue of indemnification of Jewish Holocaust victims and possible payments to the State of Israel.
According to sources in East Berlin, the East German and Israeli delegations in Copenhagen also discussed the many years that East Germany trained Palestine Liberation Organization terrorists, a program that ended with the demise of the Communist regime in East Berlin last fall.
The negotiations mark the first time since the Holocaust that East Germany, formally known as the German Democratic Republic, has admitted to being accountable for German atrocities perpetrated by the Nazis against the Jews.
On Feb. 8, East Germany formally acknowledged its share of responsibility toward victims of Nazi persecution. Previously, East Germany denied any such guilt, saying its Communist leaders had always opposed the Nazis.
In another sign of progress, the national airlines of East Germany and Israel signed an agreement last month recognizing each other’s airline tickets.
PROGRESS AWAITS ELECTIONS
But analysts say that despite the signs of warming relations, no real diplomatic breakthrough can take place in the current political climate. And the issue may become moot as unification of the two Germanys comes closer to implementation.
The Israeli and East German diplomats decided to meet again after the nationwide elections in East Germany, which are scheduled for next Sunday.
It is highly likely that those elections will cost Modrow, a Communist, his job, and that non-Communist leaders chosen by the people may then act to merge the nation into a unified Germany.
West Germany, which has been apprised of the Copenhagen talks, has expressed irritation at the possible establishment of diplomatic relations between Israel and a separate East German state, at the same time that the two Germanys are discussing unification.
The West Germans have said privately that Bonn will wind up having to pay any reparations agreed upon by Israel and East Germany. West Germany has paid restitution to both Israel and Holocaust victims since the 1950s.
“We are not against these talks,” a West German diplomat said here. “But we certainly want to be informed about possible consequences in regard to a future, united Germany.”
But an East German diplomat said it was important to untangle relations with Israel, no matter how short-lived the German Democratic Republic may be.
“We can’t cease all activities and wait for unification,” the diplomat said. “Life goes on.”