Hamburg Developers Get Go-ahead to Build Mall over Jewish Cemetery

Months of protests by Jewish groups here and abroad apparently have failed to save a 350-year-old Jewish cemetery in a Hamburg suburb from being bulldozed.

Developers planning a shopping mall on the site announced Tuesday that construction would be resumed.

A Hamburg court ruled last week that the 1950 decision by a group of Hamburg Jews to sell the cemetery in Ottensen to commercial interests voided its protected status.

A spokesman for the Hamburg municipality rejected Jewish demands that the authorities make available the funds needed to buy back the site from its present owners.

“It is appalling. Men and women all over the world should protest the injustices committed in Hamburg,” Elie Wiesel, the Nobel laureate, declared in New York.

“It is not too late for Germany to change its course,” he added.

Work on the mall was halted last month when European Jewish groups, joined by sympathizers from the United States, staged a series of demonstrations at the unused cemetery, which is said to contain about 4,000 graves. They vowed to throw themselves in front of the earthmoving machinery.

In New York, 10,000 people conducted a protest prayer vigil in front of the German Consulate last month.

Rabbi Hertz Frankel, chairman of Athra Kadisha, the International Society for the Preservation of Holy Sites, was invited with several New York politicians to convey their concerns to consular officials.

The officials told Frankel that the message would be passed on to the appropriate officials in Germany.

Frankel, who also serves as spokesman for the Hasidic community in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg section, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency of his dismay at the court decision.

Athra Kadisha has been requesting a private meeting with German Chancellor Helmut Kohl for the past six months, but it has repeatedly been told that he is too busy.

“Kohl is the only one who can do something about this, and he refuses to meet with us,” said Frankel.

“Law or no law, this is an indication of something deeper. I’m afraid that the Germans’ attitudes toward the Jews haven’t changed very much. Outside of the law, where is the understanding of moral and ethical values?” he asked.

(JTA staff intern Alexandra J. Wall in New York contributed to this report.)

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