German Jews are more than victims, new community chief says


BERLIN (JTA) — Jews in Germany must stop emphasizing their role as victims and develop their positive Jewish identity, said Dieter Graumann, the new head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany.

Graumann, 60, told the Financial Times Deutschland in an end-of-the-year interview that while it is important to remember the Holocaust, Jews should not merely be seen as reminders of Germany’s duty to never forget.

Graumann, the first non-survivor to head the umbrella organization representing Jewry in Germany, was elected in November. He succeeds Charlotte Knobloch, who declined to run again.

Some critics had said Knobloch, who survived the war in hiding, focused too much on negativity in her four years in office.

In several interviews since his election, Graumann has stressed the importance of building Jewish identity, interfaith relations with Christians and Muslims, support for Israel and for democracy in Germany. He has said that criticism of Israel is normal, but must go hand in hand with support for Israel’s right to exist peacefully next to its neighbors.

Graumann also supports a renewed attempt to ban the far-right National Democratic Party of Germany, which he said promotes xenophobia and anti-Semitism, and intimidates elected officials.

He emphasized the need for stronger ties between the established postwar community and Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet Union.

Of the 210,000 Jews in Germany today, about 85 percent came from the former Soviet Union since 1990. Approximately half of Germany’s Jews are members of congregations.

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