BERLIN (JTA) — Germany’s major political parties pledged their commitment to support the growth of Jewish life in the country.
The statements come just days before Germany’s elections, scheduled for Sunday, as the country grapples with its Iran policy and its delicately balanced relations with Israel and the Palestinians — issues of prime importance to many Jewish voters.
Answering a pre-election query from the Central Council of Jews in Germany, the main institution representing Germany’s Jews, the six parties in the outgoing federal parliament said the Jewish population is important to the country, especially given Germany’s historical guilt for the genocide of European Jewry in the Holocaust.
The Christian-Democratic Union, the party of Chancellor Angela Merkel, described the Jewish immigration to Germany since the fall of the Berlin Wall 20 years ago as a “historical chance and great luck.” Jewish leaders have lauded Merkel as a true friend to Israel, but recently she raised concerns among some by pressing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on his settlements policy.
The left-wing party Die Linke noted that “historical guilt gives rise to the obligation to support Jewish life in Germany.” The Left Party has drawn criticism for pushing talks with Hamas.
According to a news release from the Central Council, which receives government funding, the six parties committed themselves to furthering the integration of Jewish immigrants in Germany. The past few years have seen a dramatic decline in Jewish immigration to Germany after a major influx of ex-Soviet Jews since 1990 had quadrupled the Jewish population.
Stephan Kramer, secretary general of the Central Council, said the drop is due in part to Germany’s newly restrictive immigration laws. But more significant, he said, is a general decline in Jewish emigration from the former Soviet Union.
The results of the query to the parties appear in the monthly Zukunft magazine of the Central Council, which represents some 105,000 Jews across the country.