On international and other remembrance days

Black-white photograph of surviving children of the concentration camp in Auschwitz standing behind a fence

Surviving children in the main concentration camp, Auschwitz. This still from documentary footage shot by Alexander Voronzow shows Tomasz Szwarz, Alicja Gruenbaum, Solomon Rozalin, Gita Sztrauss, Wiera Sadler, Marta Wiess, Boro Eksztein, Josef Rozenwaser, Rafael Szlezinger, Gabriel Nejman, Gugiel Appelbaum, Mark Berkowitz, Pesa Balter, Rut Muszkies, Miriam Friedman, and Miriam and Eva Mozes. Licensed for the public domain by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Seventy years ago to this day, the Soviet Army liberated the death camps Auschwitz I and II. Almost ten years ago, the anniversary was designated International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Although I’ve been reflecting on representations of the Holocaust in art, literature, and philosophy for many years, I remain irritatingly little affected by today’s date, January 27. In most European countries, official events will once again collectively recall that breach of civilization and commemorate those who were systematically murdered. So too will Germany. Here, the decision to officially commemorate the victims of the Holocaust on this day was reached in 1996—not least because  continue reading

The Jewish Cultural Center in Berlin, 1990 – 2010

Hhanukka candleholder in front of a banner: Happy Chanukka. Jüdischer Kulturverein Berlin

Hanukkah Candleholder at the 15th Hanukkah Ball of the Jewish Cultural Center, Berlin 12.12.2004 © Photo: Igor Chalmiev, gift of the Jewish Cultural Center to the Jewish Museum Berlin

25 years ago today, on 22 January, 1990, the Jewish Cultural Center was founded. One month earlier, on 13 December, 1989, the press agency ADN published an appeal in numerous East German newspapers. It announced a new coalition of Jews living in East Germany who were committed to spreading the knowledge of Jewish culture and history. The appeal was not an accident:

As early as 1986, secular Jews had found themselves gathering, at the invitation of the Jewish Congregation of (East) Berlin, to explore their Jewish roots – a heritage that no longer played any role in their parents’ identities. A group called “We for us – Jews for Jews” formed out of this second generation of political emigrants who had returned to Germany and grown up in the East. During their regular meetings  continue reading

“I didn’t want to ‘get lost:’ ” A conversation with Rabbi David Goldberg

In the summer of 2012, there was an intense discussion in Germany about whether the circumcision of boys constitutes bodily harm under the law. Preceding this so-called ‘circumcision debate’ was a decision by Cologne’s district court that criminalized the ritual circumcision of boys. A high point in the debate occurred when a German doctor registered a legal complaint against Rabbi David Goldberg, of Hof, claiming that he was liable for “dangerous personal injury” due to the circumcisions he performed. I spoke with him about the complaint, and about his feelings as well as the reactions that he encountered during that period.

Elderly man in a suit with glasses and full beard

Rabbi David Goldberg © private

Dear Rabbi Goldberg, how did it happen that you were reported?

That’s easy to explain: I’m known in Germany as a circumciser and I’m easy to find through my website. Opponents of circumcision were looking for a sacrificial victim and they found it in me. Because the people who made the complaints against me…

… there were more than one?

Yes, there were a number of them. But the people behind them didn’t even know me. They were simply looking for a scapegoat.

How was it for you during that period?

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