BERLIN (Nov. 7)
A trip that brought 19 youngsters with radical right views from the eastern German city of Dresden to Israel in an effort to educate them about Jews has come under severe attack.
The city has reprimanded the trip’s organizer and put a halt to the travel program.
Dresden’s mayor, Herbert Wagner, has issued a warning to Marita Schieferdecker-Adolph, the city’s ombudsman for foreigners, for financing the weeklong trip from a fund used for the integration of new Jewish residents into German society.
Wagner also stopped all future trips, placed the control of the immigration fund into a different office and ordered the ombudsman to take a class in administration.
The trip cost approximately $37,000 for the 25 participants, which included six Jewish youths from Dresden.
Schieferdecker-Adolph, in a telephone interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, said that there was more than $177,000 available in the fund and that since fewer Jews had stayed in Dresden than had been originally anticipated, there was money available for the trip.
Still, the city ruled that her actions were inappropriate and that the Social Welfare Office, not the Office of the Ombudsman, should have control over the fund.
The trip, which was conducted between Oct. 16 and 23, has been criticized for other reasons as well.
YAD VASHEM VISIT PRODUCED FRICTION
Accounts in the German and Israeli press said that members of the visiting group insulted Jews in Israel and refused to visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial during their stay in Jerusalem.
Both Schieferdecker-Adolph and Sabine Kurth, a social worker who was also on the trip, strongly denied these reports.
“Nothing of that is true,” Kurth said. She said the youths did have trouble at Yad Vashem because of a guide she described as very anti-German and because of the mass of reporters that converged on the group.
But she felt that the trip was positive overall and that she would favor repeating it.
Officials and commentators have also questioned whether youths belonging to the radical right can benefit from a trip to Israel. Wagner said he sees “big risks” in such a program.
Henryk Broder, a well-known Jewish journalist and commentator here, strongly criticized the program, saying that if a neo-Nazi had an unpleasant experience in Israel the trip might actually reinforce his anti-Semitic feelings.
The German press reported that Frank Kaden, a leader of the neo-Nazi Vikings are headquartered in the state of Saxony, where Dresden is located.
Schieferdecker-Adolph could not confirm the participation of Kaden.
She said she had not asked about party or group affiliation when selecting the group’s participants, but focused instead on a candidate’s general attitudes.
“Maybe this was my fault. I’m a little insecure about this point,” she said.