Search JTA's historical archive dating back to 1923

Two Germanys Wage Image Battle over Who’s More Sensitive to Jews

November 8, 1988
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The East German news media have launched a propaganda campaign to depict the German Democratic Republic as more sensitive than West Germany to the suffering of Jews during the Nazi era.

They are trying to make that point as both Germanys prepared for a series of commemorative events marking the 50th anniversary of Kristallnacht, the first organized pogrom in the Third Reich, on the night of Nov. 9-10.

The East German press is hammering away at the alleged snub given Heinz Galinski, leader of West Germany’s Jewish community, when he asked to address the Bundestag at a memorial session this week.

It was the subject of a long article in Neues Deutschland, the main Communist newspaper in East Germany, which dwelt on Galinski’s charge of “insensitivity” levelled at the leadership of the Bundestag, which is the West German parliament.

East German Jewish leaders are cooperating in the campaign. Peter Kirchner, chairman of the Jewish community in East Berlin, said Sunday he was shocked by the Bundestag’s failure to invite Galinski to speak.


Kirchner said that in contrast, the leader of East Germany’s Jewish community, Sigmund Roitstein, will deliver a speech to the Volkskammer, the East German parliament, at an upcoming session devoted to the Kristallnacht memorial.

Not mentioned was the fact, noted by Bundestag Chairman Philip Jenninger, that Galinski is to address a nationwide television memorial to be broadcast on the Kristallancht anniversary. He will share honors with Richard von Weizsacker, the president of the Federal Republic, and Chancellor Helmut Kohl.

Kirchner said that in his opinion, East Germany acts more courageously than West Germany in coming to grips with the Nazi past.

That fits in with East German efforts to depict West Germany as a place where “veteran Nazis, heavily protected by police, were meeting regularly to promote their traditions.”

Until recently, the GDR, unlike West Germany, refused to acknowledge any responsibility for Nazi crimes.

Whereas Bonn, since the 1950s, has paid out billions in reparations for Jewish material losses under the Nazis, East Germany only now is beginnig to consider some token payment to Holocaust survivors.

Recommended from JTA