BONN (Dec. 23)
Although minuscule compared to the tens of thousands pouring into Israel, the number of Soviet Jews flocking to Germany has also surged in recent days.
About 300 arrived in Berlin over the course of three days late last week. They have been coming at the rate of 100 a week for the past month, according to Matthias Jahr, director of the office in former East Berlin that counsels and helps Soviet Jews.
But the situation is very bad, Jahr said, because Berlin cannot provide accommodations for the newcomers.
More than 2,000 Soviet Jews have arrived since May seeking residence permits. Jahr said the number of refugees has increased sharply because of the debate in Germany over whether to absorb Soviet Jews and how many.
The prime ministers of the 16 federal states that comprise unified Germany met to discuss the matter last week. Max Streibl of Bavaria said they agreed “to accept a considerable number of Soviet Jews over a period of several years.”
Some media reports said the most likely ceiling was 1,000 a year.
The prime ministers, who have responsibility for settling immigrants in their states, were praised by Heinz Galinski, chairman of the German Jewish community, for setting no absolute quotas.
The Jewish community is lobbying hard for free immigration for Soviet Jews and has political support from the opposition SPD, or Social Democratic Party.
Annemarie Renger, a veteran SPD politician, said last week that Germany had a moral obligation to absorb any European Jews who were being persecuted.
Manfred Stolpe, the SPD prime minister of Brandenberg, in what was formerly East Germany, said he was moved that Soviet Jews trust Germans enough to want to settle here, despite the horrors of the past.
More than 150,000 Soviet Jews have gone to Israel since January to escape anti-Semitism and growing political and economic problems in the Soviet Union.
But a persistent minority of Soviet Jewish emigres feel Germany offers greater political and economic stability.
Nevertheless, tougher immigration laws are being planned to head off the stream of refugees from Eastern Europe.