Berlin, the city where the Jews want to live


80 years after the November pogroms, Jewish life in Berlin’s everyday life. More than 30,000 Jews live on the river Spree. In spite of anti-Semitism and police protection. A report on a cautious normality of Christoph Strack.

“It means a lot to me that I was in Berlin, grew up with,” says Greta Zelener. “The city has to offer, with regard to Judaism, in Germany the most.” The 28-year-old Jewish woman currently writes a doctoral thesis at the Humboldt-University of Berlin. For well over 20 years, she lives in Berlin.

With your parents, you came from the Ukrainian Odessa in the German capital. In that city, in the once your great-grandmother lived before they emigrated to the Ukraine. Also in that city, in the Nazi Germany, the destruction of European Jewry was planned.

80 years ago, burned the synagogues in Germany, in Berlin. The Mob threw at Jewish shops, the Windows and looted the expenses. Racket attracted Orthodox Jews and their beards through the streets and beat you. Not much later, the mass murder of the Jews began.

Now, 80 years later, are formed in Berlin Rabbis and rabbis – liberal, conservative, and Orthodox. In the city, as many Jews live like never before after the Shoah. And this week, around one thousand participants gathered at the Jewish future Congress under the Motto “Because I want to live here”.

Minister Heiko Maas (l) and Ronald Lauder, President of the world Jewish Congress, at the Ordination of rabbis in Berlin in October

In the fifth school year

PhD student Greta Zelener referred to themselves as “not religious”. When it comes to a Berlin place of their Jewish identity, as a place of remembrance. The Anne Frank center at Hackescher Markt was important to her, a permanent memorial exhibition. “That was the first place where my Judaism. In the fifth year of school,” she says. And then she calls her residential area in the district of Charlottenburg. Because in the vicinity was once the Great-grandmother lived. And because there are in the neighborhood of the largest kosher supermarket in the city.

Michael Beynisch came some years ago from the Ukraine, the city of Kharkiv, to Germany. The 42-Year-old belongs with his family, wife and three children, to the community, Chabad Lubavitch in Wilmersdorf, a strictly religious Jewish group. He did not remember that you had heard in the Ukraine – even in the times of the Soviet Union, from the destruction of the Jews by the Nazis “almost every day”. “But we couldn’t really understand how the people in this dark time felt.”

“I don’t step on stumbling blocks”

Michael Beynisch in front of the Jewish centre in Wilmersdorf

For Beynisch working trades in the security are in Berlin, the so-called stumbling blocks of special characters, those square-bars made of brass in the pavement, which installs an artist in front of the former homes of Jews murdered by the Nazis. “I’m not trying out of respect to contact with the foot.”

And Beynisch his visits reminded also at the memorial site Gleis 17 in Grunewald S-Bahn station. Tens of thousands of Jews sailed from here with the tram in the death. “Because I already feel sadness. This atmosphere on this Track, the plants, the silence.”

And yet: The existing anti-Semitism in Germany to register Beynisch and also Zelener – but he’s not worried you too much. He was, says Beynisch, in many countries, “the Situation with anti-Semitism is the same everywhere”. In the Ukraine and in Russia he had experienced far more overt anti-Semitism than in Germany. “In Germany there are not so open. Maybe the people are talking about at home.”

An impressive place: The memorial “Track 17” in Berlin-Grunewald.

The state protects Jewish life in Berlin, in many places. In 2016, the Senate language of the 65 facilities that were guarded by police officers. Anyone who goes through the middle of East Berlin, sees from time to time Uniformed, fences and prohibition signs, high fences, video surveillance. In a number of places, anchored bollards or heavy steel to prevent deep-in the ground chains of attacks with vehicles. Berlin 2018, 80 years after Kristallnacht, 73 years after the Holocaust.

And, by the way, there is – you just have to know where – Jewish institutions without a guard. So as the nice Jewish Restaurant in the middle of, its owner came out a few years ago from Jerusalem. The first sentence of the question, what do you think about anti-Semitism in Germany, beckons to you already, “no, not interested.” Perhaps the thought comes to you Yorai Feinberg. The Jewish restaurateur from the district of schöneberg, was made in December 2017 with a nasty case of anti-Semitic hatred in public. To this day he is reviled for it.

Hatred on the sports field

Also Beynisch anti experienced Semitic hatred. As a football player of TUS Maccabi Berlin. When playing against a team with Arab players in the mood escalated, also of spectators, there was open agitation. “I had a fear of body injury,” he says. But in everyday life in Berlin, he had no fear.

Out of fear of attacks on the police guarding the synagogue in the Oranienburger street

Zelener said, the police in front of Jewish institutions belong to the everyday life. “You get used to it, if you grew up here.” Certainly, one wishes that Judaism was the norm and not the special protection needs. But the bloody attack in Pittsburgh, remember that it could always be a stop. It had been, “until the AfD is fed into the Bundestag, in a relatively relaxed” in the subject. Since then, they have the fear, “that anti-Semitism moved into the centre of society and insults normality”. Since your normalcy cracks.

When the time to die witness…

The 28-Year-old is currently writing her thesis on Jewish adult education. It’s not a priority to the memory of the Shoah. But Zelener, a fellow of the Jewish Ernst-Ludwig-Ehrlich scholarship drive (ELES), is also about thoughts. She pleads for school visits to museums, memorials, former concentration camp locations. “And when the time to die is it so important to have the reminder,” she says.

Berlin, on 9./10. November 1938: Destroyed shops of Jewish owners

Zelener and Beynisch, two examples of Jewish life in Berlin, very different in their religious imprinting, in your everyday life. But of both: Zelener, the reminder today is your first day of school, she could not speak a word of English, are United by a doctoral student on a scholarship drive is today. And Beynisch, speaks slowly and with a heavy accent German, tells of his three children, nine, seven and five years old. He was speaking at home with the children in Russian, among themselves they speak English, in the synagogue Hebrew, in the school of English.

All of this is for a new Generation of Jewish life in Berlin. The city is popular for years among people of the Jewish faith – from Eastern Europe, from the UK and France, also from Israel. An exact number is difficult to designate. More than 12,000 believers belong to the Jewish community in the capital. But it is more than 30,000 lives, perhaps more than 40,000 Jews at the river Spree. Supermarkets offer kosher products. The number of Restaurants offering Israeli and Jewish cuisine is growing almost by the month-to-month. 80 years after that. A cautious normality.

  • Kristallnacht: the Night the synagogues burned

    Nocturnal Violence Orgies

    Anti-Semitic groups, led by the para-military SA, raged in Nazi Germany. They destroyed synagogues like this one in Chemnitz and other Jewish buildings or shops. The Jews were publicly humiliated and detained for at least 91 of them were killed in the nocturnal Orgy of Violence.

  • Kristallnacht: the Night the synagogues burned

    Broken Glass

    In view of the many broken Windows, and crystal chandeliers from the synagogues, and shops, you spoke earlier of the “Reich crystal night”. Towards the end of the 1980s, this term has been problematized more and more. Today, you referred to the Attacks as the night of broken glass or November pogroms.

  • Kristallnacht: the Night the synagogues burned

    Assassination as a pretext

    The Nazis justified their anti-Jewish pogroms with the assassination of a German diplomat in Paris on 7. November. Perpetrators of the 17-year-old Polish Jew, Herschel Grynszpan. This had experienced a few days previously of the violent expulsion of his family. It is not known whether Grynszpan survived the third Reich or in a concentration camp died.

  • Kristallnacht: the Night the synagogues burned

    Permission of Hitler

    After the assassination in Paris granted Adolf Hitler’s propaganda Minister, Josef Goebbels, the oral permission to start with the most violent measures against the Jews. In some places of Germany, it was already came to the Assault. In the case of the Goebbels initiated Kristallnacht, only such measures that were approved, “which do not jeopardize German life or property”.

  • Kristallnacht: the Night the synagogues burned

    Participation in violence

    The national socialist party, denied any involvement in the Pogrom, but clues in documents where “operations” and “measures” is mentioned, proved the involvement of the party and state apparatus. The majority of non-Jewish Germans kept distance to the Pogrom. But there were also citizens who welcomed the riots or to violence and looting involved.

  • Kristallnacht: the Night the synagogues burned

    Racism and money

    Their racist ideology, the Nazis wanted to intimidate the Jews to leave Germany voluntarily. To this end, Jews often led to a humiliating way through the streets. The Nazis acted also of economic interest. Jews who fled the third Reich, were loaded with a high “emigration taxes”, their property was confiscated.

  • Kristallnacht: the Night the synagogues burned

    Shy in front of the press echo

    At the latest after the pogrom night of world public opinion was known to the Jews hostility of the national socialists. But the third Reich under Hitler shied away from the bad international press echo. Therefore, they decided to first anti-Jewish measures, which were not open forcibly. Among other things, the Jews were forced to wear a yellow star of David on their clothes.

  • Kristallnacht: the Night the synagogues burned

    Cynical Claim

    The Nazi leadership launched a whole series of other anti-Jewish measures. Full of cynicism, they demanded of them a duty to pay the damages during the night from the 9. on the 10. November 1939. The second most powerful man in the third Reich, Hermann Goering, said the infamous phrase: “I don’t want to be in Germany for a Jew.”

  • Kristallnacht: the Night the synagogues burned

    “Prelude to genocide”

    In 1938, the beginning of the Holocaust was removed for two years. But the pogrom to mass murder of the Jews in Europe, there was a continuous development, in which the Nazi leadership intensified its anti-Semitic measures. In the words of a contemporary historian, the Pogrom was a “prelude to genocide”.

    Author: Jefferson Chase (rb)