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German Quota on Soviet Jews Assailed by Jewish Community

December 17, 1990
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A high-level agreement to place a quota on the number of Soviet Jews admitted to Germany was assailed by the Jewish community Sunday.

Its chairman, Heinz Galinski, said a decision to set a ceiling on Soviet Jewish immigrants, reportedly reached this weekend in Dresden at a meeting of the interior ministers of the 16 federal states, ignors Germany’s historic obligations, as well as the fact that Jews are persecuted in the Soviet Union.

The official Jewish community is pressing for an “open door” policy for Soviet Jews who want to immigrate to Germany.

The ministers reportedly agreed in principle, however, that free immigration would be allowed only to Jews of German origin.

The entry of others would be subject to a still undefined ceiling.

Interior Minister Dietmar Schlee of Baden-Wurtemberg denied the conference had imposed a quota of 1,000 a year.

That figure appeared in news reports over the weekend, which attributed the quota to a proposal by the interior minister of Bavaria.

“We didn’t discuss numbers but only principles,” Schlee insisted. “The numbers will be fixed by the prime ministers of the federal states, who will meet at a conference scheduled to be held in Munich at the end of the week,” he said.

Observers believe the quota will be as high as 2,000 to 3,000 immigrants a year. They say the 1,000 number was leaked to test public reaction.

The Jewish community, however, has mounted a vigorous campaign for the free entry of Soviet Jews. It argues that Germany is morally bound to accept Jews fleeing persecution.

The community’s newspaper, Allgemeine Judische Wochenzeitung, published a survey over the weekend of the attitudes of the various federal states toward Jewish immigration.


The article accused Germany of ignoring the plight of suffering Jews. It accused the authorities of a cynical attempt to involve the Jewish community in exclusionary policies, by suggesting, for example, that Jewish officials “select” which Jews will be allowed into the country and who will be rejected.

“We won’t accept the role assigned to us by the government,” the Wochenzeitung declared.

The 35,000-member German Jewish community, which clearly would like to see its numbers enlarged by immigrants from the Soviet Union, has also run into opposition from the Israeli ambassador to Bonn, Benjamin Navon.

Israel has asked the West Germans not to admit Soviet Jews, who they claim are not refugees because they have a homeland. Their homeland is Israel, Navon insists in interviews.

The Jewish community, meanwhile, issued an appeal Sunday for donations of money or material to help meet the needs of Soviet Jews arriving in the country.

Community leaders said the donations are badly needed because many of the newcomers do not have enough clothing or the means to support themselves.

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