The leaders of the German and French Jewish communities flew into New York on Tuesday to brief the heads of a broad spectrum of Jewish organizations on the current state of racist violence in Germany.
Ignatz Bubis, president of Germany’s Jewish community, and Jean Kahn, who serves a parallel role in France, spoke to the representatives of about two dozen Jewish groups who gathered here at the invitation of the World Jewish Congress.
“The government has woken up” to the danger of the violence “and is now going strong,” said Bubis. “If it continues, the violence will go down.”
When asked what North American Jews can do to help, he said, “I can only ask world Jewry to wait and watch what’s going on.”
Bubis seemed relieved that his government has apparently reconsidered its failed strategy against the wave of xenophobic violence and is now cracking down harder on the perpetrators.
In recent weeks, government officials have admitted that combatting the violence and racist and anti-Semitic propaganda requires more wholehearted use of existing punitive laws.
To date, most of the government’s efforts have been geared toward changing Germany’s asylum law, which is one of the most liberal in the world and is embedded in postwar Germany’s constitution and consciousness.
Bubis urged Chancellor Helmut Kohl and other politicians to maximize their efforts against the neo-Nazis and skinheads.
“I don’t need new laws (against such crimes) if the old laws are not fully used,” Bubis said.
As evidence of the impact of the government’s new approach, he cited the fact that there were 50 percent fewer racial incidents in November than in October nationwide.
Bubis also pointed to recent changes in the eastern German state of Saxony, where the interior minister has taken swift legal action against those committing racist acts by utilizing the laws already in place.
As a result, the number of incidents in Saxony dropped by two-thirds in the space of just two weeks, Bubis said.
Nationwide, there were 2,184 neo-Nazi attacks perpetrated against foreigners and refugees between Jan. 1 and Dec. 13, 1992, according to new information provided by Germany’s version of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, called the Office for the Protection of the Constitution.
The nearly 2,200 attacks resulted in 17 deaths and 542 injuries. More than one- third of the attacks — 886 — involved arson and bombings.
Seventy-seven Jewish sites were desecrated during 1992, as well.
The previous year, 1991, the agency registered 1,489 acts of violence by neo- Nazis, 1,255 of them directed against foreigners.
In 1990, there were just 270 attacks.
Bubis also spoke of being relieved that the people of Germany have in recent weeks begun to demonstrate their opposition to racism by holding demonstrations and vigils around the country: in Berlin, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Munich and Stuttgart.
Michael Lerner, editor of Tikkun magazine, asked Bubis if he was interested in having Jews from around the world rally in Germany against the violence.
“I want Germans to demonstrate, not Jews,” responded Bubis.
In his own presentation, Jean Kahn, who also heads the European Jewish Congress, said that EJC representatives met last week with members of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, and proposed a four-point plan.
The first point is a “harmonization of all anti-racist laws in Europe, ” bringing each European country’s laws in line with the others, said Kahn.
They also requested greater punishment of racists who break the law anywhere in Europe, intensified and upgraded educational efforts against xenophobia, racism and anti-Semitism, and an annual, one-day commemoration of the Holocaust to be observed throughout Europe.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.