If we look at the statements of all German chancellors since 1949 on this question, the answer is clearly yes.
If we look at Germany’s recent voting behavior at the United Nations, statements, and business dealings, however, we might get the impression that the cold-blooded murder of most of the Jews on the European continent has suddenly been forgotten.
How could it have come to this?
By Ronald S Lauder, President, World Jewish Congress
Konrad Adenauer, the first chancellor of the Federal Republic, set the basic attitude for subsequent leaders by insisting on compensation for the newly established Jewish state. “I know that money cannot bring back to life the millions of Jews who were killed,” Adenauer said. But he made clear that it came from the German people – and that most Germans, as he always insisted, were not Nazis.
With regards to Israel, Adenauer could not have expressed himself more clearly: “We must never abandon this state, which faces great problems.”
Ludwig Erhard affirmed that his country was “aware of the special position that Germans have in relation to Jews all over the world, including Israel.”
Willy Brandt went one dramatic step further: he knelt at the Warsaw Ghetto memorial and asked for forgiveness. Brandt spoke explicitly of the “guilt and historical responsibility of the German people,” adding that it was unacceptable for Israel’s right to exist to be called into question.
Helmut Kohl declared that a “close and trusting political dialogue with Israel must and will be an essential (component) of the Middle East policy of a united Germany.”
Gerhard Schröder said, “Israel will always receive everything it needs to maintain its security.”
Chancellor Merkel commented, “Germany and Israel are and will remain – and forever – linked in a special way by the memory of the Shoah.” Merkel also stated, “Germany and Israel share special, unique ties.”
Since 1949, hardly any country has dealt with its past more honestly than Germany. Germany serves as a wonderful lesson in morality to the entire world. And I believe that this is not only due to its top politicians, but to its citizenry. It is all this which makes recent decisions by the German government – and some private companies – so perplexing to outsiders, especially Jewish outsiders.
Last year, Jews around the world were shocked when Germany joined the usual chorus at the United Nations: Germany voted to condemn Israel 13 times, yet only voted once to condemn Iran, the world’s largest sponsor of terror. That is thirteen votes against Israel, the only true democracy in the Middle East, and ONE against Iran, a theocratic dictatorship.
Even more disturbing, Christoph Heusgen, Germany’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, voted AGAINST a Security Council arms embargo on Iran and FOR a Human Rights Council arms embargo on Israel. In 2019, it looked much the same: Germany voted in favor of condemning Israel 15 times and again only once against Iran.
Most people – and, I suspect, most Germans – are aware of the obvious bias at the United Nations. Why does Germany, then, of all countries, not choose the path of honesty and responsibility in this discussion?
BILD, the most widely circulated German newspaper, called the government’s repeated votes against Israel a “shameful ritual,” especially when such resolutions are instigated by countries like Syria or Yemen.
In Berlin in 2020, there were about a thousand antisemitic incidents, and almost every fifth case was related to the coronavirus pandemic.
In the Gulf of Oman, a cargo ship owned by an Israeli company was attacked again.
If some countries criticize Israel unjustifiably, this should not be ignored, but when Germany does so, it is a shock for the entire world.
Add to this Germany’s long-standing business ties and economic ties with Iran, a country that repeatedly promises to destroy Israel and thus finish the work that Germany began in the 1940s but did not complete.
In 2018, the German company Krempel sold Iran pressboard, an insulating material used in the manufacture of missiles, which Iran in turn supplied to Syria.
Germany is Iran’s largest European trading partner. Perhaps even more disturbing is what “Jane’s Defense Weekly” reported in 2005: that Iran wanted to work with Syria to develop a chemical warfare program – including technology from Germany.
If there is any country that should not have anything to do with poison gas used against humans, it is probably Germany.
Some Germans may think that they can look at the issue of Israel independently of the security of the Jewish people. One can criticize certain political approaches in Israel. In fact, most Israelis are critical of various actions by their government; this is normal for a democracy where there is a free press and an elected government, an anomaly in the Middle East.
But if Israel is disproportionately singled out and repeatedly condemned, Germany should not join this dishonest chorus.
Israel is not just any small country; it is the safety net of the Jewish people. If any country in the world ought to understand this, it is Germany. Had Israel existed when Hitler became Chancellor in 1933, millions of people could have been saved.
So, if Iran keeps bragging that it will destroy Israel, and has never stopped working towards its destruction, then every country choosing to trade with Iran is helping Iran achieve that very goal.
Is Germany willing to contribute to that again?
Axel Springer, a man I admired, and whose widow Friede Springer is a friend of mine, once said that the new Germany had two obligations: to fight communism and to protect Israel.
I can only hope that the next German Chancellor will continue the consistent actions and exemplary attitudes of previous top German politicians. And if some top German politicians have forgotten them, I hope that the Germans themselves will remember them.
With the passage of time, Jews have once again been able to gain trust and regard Germany as a friend – an extraordinary development in the history of mankind. It is due to Germany’s outstanding and honest behavior since the end of World War II.
Please keep this exemplary past in mind so that the dark side does not once again determine the future of my people.
Translated from the original published in Bild (German), 30 April 2021