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Berlin is Already Being Reunited, and German Jews Are Taking Part

December 26, 1989
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Nowhere in this country can the observer feel the urge to reunite Germany more strongly than in Berlin, especially since the reopening last week of the Brandenburg Gate, the majestic arch that had symbolized the division of the city and of Europe for so many years.

The Jewish communities on both sides of the gate now feel and react as any Germans would.

Only two weeks ago, prominent members of the East Berlin Jewish community said they had no objections to reunification as long as the single Germany did not demand border changes in Eastern Europe.

Heinz Galinski, the outspoken chairman of the West German Jewish community, said in a radio interview this week that German Jews “have no reservations in principle against the reunification of Germany.”

He added, however, that reunification is not an issue for the immediate future.

Israel’s prime minister, Yitzhak Shamir, took an entirely opposite view. He spoke against a reunited Germany in strong terms last month, warning that such a development could unleash anti-Semitic forces which might try again to destroy the Jews.

But rhetoric aside, the fact is that Berlin is being reunited day by day. The Jewish communities on both sides of the breached wall are part of the process that has brought together people from East and West and made unification in practical terms all but inevitable. According to inside sources, Jews from both communities stand to benefit from reunification.


The issue….of… returning Jewish property confiscated by the Nazis could be simpler. Much of that property is in the eastern part of the city, where the Jewish community officially numbers only 203. Under present circumstances, that tiny community has little need for so much space for either religious or administrative purposes.

The main synagogue in East Berlin remains closed, reportedly because it is too huge for the membership.

The chairman of the East German Jewish community, Sigmund Rotstein, and its secretary, Peter Fischer, attended a meeting in Frankfurt last week of the Central Council of Jews in West Germany. Both sides said they hoped such meetings would continue.

For more than 40 years, Berlin, deep inside the German Democratic Republic, was considered isolated and remote. But if the two Germanys are reunited, more Jews are expected to choose to live in Berlin.

If it became once again the capital of a reunited Germany, hundreds of Israeli diplomats, embassy staff, other employees and their families would move here from Bonn, further enlarging the Jewish community.

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