German army, American Jewish Committee expand ties


(JTA) — Germany’s armed forces and the American Jewish Committee signed an agreement to expand their cooperation. 

German Defense Minister Karl-Theodor Freiherr zu Guttenberg and AJC Executive Director David Harris signed the agreement during an event Tuesday in Berlin celebrating 15 years of working together against intolerance.

Under the accord, the groups agreed to organize annual educational trips for delegations of the armed forces, or the Bundeswehr, to "develop and deepen their understanding of Jewish-German-American history and culture."

For the past 15 years, several annual delegations of German soldiers have visited AJC in New York, and AJC officers have regularly addressed Bundeswehr groups in Germany. Harris spoke to several hundred officers at the Fuehrungsakademie in Hamburg the day after the celebration.

Zu Guttenberg lauded the AJC at the event for its work against intolerance and exclusion.

"When it is easy to remain silent, you take sides, you stand up, you speak out, and I thank you for your indispensable work," he said.

Hundreds of senior German military officers, more than 50 media representatives, members of the Bundestag, and leaders of Germany’s Jewish and Turkish communities attended the event at the Federal Press Office.

AJC was the first Jewish organization to re-enter Germany after World War II, and the first, in 1998, to establish a full-time presence in Germany.

Meanwhile, an AJC delegation met Wednesday with German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle at his Berlin office.

Discussion focused on the Iranian nuclear program, prospects for Israeli-Palestinian peace and the role of the multinational United Nations force in Lebanon, of which Germany is a part.

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