On 6 November, 2016 the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, Strochlitz Institute for Holocaust Studies at the University of Haifa, and the Ghetto Fighters’ House Museum jointly hosted a seminar entitled “Israeli-German Relations: What is in the Minds and Hearts of Israelis and Germans Today?” for the third consecutive year. The three presenters, Dr. Werner Puschra, Director of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Israel, Dr. Michael Borchard, Head of the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung Office in Israel, and Anita Haviv-Horiner, many time author and director of Israel Encounter Programs (IEP) presented on different perspectives of German Israeli Relations.
To open the discussion on German-Israeli Relations each speaker shared for 20 minutes on their topic, then the floor was opened for questions. Dr. Borchard presented first. His presentation discussed a survey taken in Israel to understand Israeli/Palestinian attitudes toward Germany. Overall, the survey found a positive perspective of Germany, and German Foreign Policy. A factor of Israel’s popular approval is founded in German military aid to Israel, such as the Dolphin Class Submarine and other such contributions. Israeli positive views also reflect their view on Germany’s reaction to the refugee crisis. 56% of the responses indicated that they approve Germany’s efforts to accept refugees. Dr. Borchard closed his speech by suggesting that, according to his survey, Germany may be the only state capable of brokering peace. The survey offered five options, USA, API, Germany, UN or EU, as possible brokers of peace, the only entity that both Israelis and Palestinians agreed on was Germany.
The second presenter, Dr. Moshe Zimmerman spoke on the German view of Israel. Dr. Zimmerman shared how the German government has endeavored, and succeeded, to change German culture through education, foreign policy and domestic policy. In the post war era, Germany tried to repress the horrors of the Holocaust, but soon after realized the need to address the atrocities. As a result, Holocaust studies has been indoctrinated in German public education curriculum, as well as public museums and memorials. Surveys from 1980 reveal that Israelis separated their views of modern Germany with its Nazi past. Furthermore, a 2016 survey says that Germany is different from the Germany that Hitler led.
Author, Anita Haviv, discussed the micro Viennese scene in the 1960’s. It was not conducive to “normal life” for her and her family. She had to leave her family and country to be educated in France, due to anti-Semitism. Most of the teachers in the school she would have attended were ex-Nazi’s. She said that this created borders between herself and her home (Heimat). These are borders that she has worked toward overcoming her entire life, now she says, “for me personally, I have no borders.” Her new book, Heimat?- Vielleicht, discusses these central issues. Haviv presented the argument that the thing that most shapes relations between Germany and Israel are people.
The cultural exchange at the seminar did further German-Israeli Relations. The audience brought perspectives from all over the world, but we came away with a new knowledge of German-Israeli Relations. One of the speakers towards the end of the seminar said, I hope you are leaving with more questions than you had when you came in the door. We did indeed leave with more interest and more questions.
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