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Outside Pressure on Germany Combats Xenophobia, Germans Say

Outside pressure is one way to combat rising nationalism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism in Germany, Jews and non-Jews in several German cities told a visiting American interfaith group this week.

“Politicians and churches (in Germany) should know that outside Germany, people are talking of what is going on in this country.” Ignatz Bubis, the leader of Germany’s Jewish community, told a delegation from the Center for Christian-Jewish Understanding of Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Conn.

“We need you from the outside,” Benjamin Ortmeyer, a Frankfurt schoolteacher long engaged in anti-racist activities, told the 12-member delegation at another meeting.

Pressure from non-Germans “makes Germans think about what is going on inside the country.” Ortmeyer said.

“If the outside world sees what is going on and then goes home and describes it, then good. We need this pressure. Outside pressure encourages people in combatting neo-Nazism,” he said.

The interfaith group — led by Rabbi Jack Bemporad, director of the center, and Anthony Cernero, the university president — arrived in Germany on Monday for a weeklong series of meetings with Jewish leaders, academics, Christians involved in interfaith dialogue and other public figures.

Bemporad called for “more understanding” by both Christians and Jews.

Jews should be aware “of what is taking place among Christians” and “Christians have to know what is going on outside,” he said.

“We hope to establish close connections between our center and centers of Jewish-Christian dialogue” in Germany, he said.

‘I WILL DO EVERYTHING IN MY POWER’

In addition to fact-finding meetings with Jewish representatives, the U.S. group met with a number of Christians and Jews involved in interfaith dialogue and education in Germany.

They included members of the International Council of Christians and Jews, including its president, Martin Stohr, as well as individuals involved in educational programs at various educational levels.

The interfaith group also attended two ceremonies in Frankfurt marking the 55th anniversary of Kristallnacht, Nov. 9-10, 1938, when the Nazis launched the first Holocaust pogrom.

The ceremonies — one in the city’s ornate, reconstructed synagogue and the other, an hour later, in the municipal ceremony hall of the Paul’s Church — were among scores of observances held around Germany marking the event.

The day Nov. 9, 1938 “was the end of the beginning,” American Holocaust historian Raul Hilberg told the audience at the municipal ceremony in Frankfurt.

“Building the gas chambers was the beginning of the end,” he said.

At both Frankfurt ceremonies, Mayor Andreas von Scholer compared the current rise of nationalism, xenophobia and neo-Nazism with the rise of Nazism before World War II.

“I will do everything in my power as mayor to act so that right-wing extremism does not spread,” he told the audience in the synagogue.

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