Jewish Leaders Angry After Affront by City Official
FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) _ A city official in Rostock resigned late Monday hours after he angered Jewish leaders by questioning the patriotism of the head of Germany’s Jewish community.
The incident involving Jewish leader Ignatz Bubis and Karl-Heinz Schmidt, a Rostock city councilman, came at a sensitive time for Jewish-German relations, which are troubled by a surge in neo-Nazism and attacks on Jewish monuments.
Bubis, a Frankfurt businessman who is chairman of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, led a delegation to Rostock to inquire about the violence and the arrests of French Jews there after a protest last month.
The Baltic coast city has become synonymous with a recent wave of violence directed at foreigners and asylum-seekers.
During a news conference, Schmidt asked Bubis whether he considered Israel his ″homeland″ and what he thought about Israel’s treatment of Palestinians on the occupied West Bank.
″These are the kind of questions that stir up anti-Semitism in Germany all the time,″ an angry Bubis replied. ″The basis for anti-Semitism and hate of foreigners are precisely such questions.″
″My homeland is Frankfurt,″ he said. ″When you say that my homeland is Israel, then I understand it as if you are asking what am I doing here if my homeland is Israel.
″For you, a Jew is something foreign, something that belongs in Israel,″ Bubis continued. ″There was German Jewry once upon the time and it was wiped out by the Nazis. The fact that there is no new German Jewry today is linked to such questions that you pose.″
Chancellor Helmut Kohl’s Christian Democratic Union issued a statement late Monday saying Schmidt regretted posing the ″misleading question.″ It said that since ″words cannot be taken back,″ Schmidt has decided to step down.
Schmidt is a member of Kohl’s party.
Rostock Mayor Klaus Kilimann, obviously upset, assured Bubis that his city would do everything to integrate some 12,000 Jews from the former Soviet Union who have emigrated to Germany.
The Central Council represents the approximately 35,000 German Jews.
Rostock was the scene of arson attacks on a home for asylum seekers in late August. The attacks began a virtually uninterrupted wave of anti-foreigner violence that has spread to many parts of the country.
Among the most serious anti-Semitic acts in recent weeks were arson fires at the site of the former Sachsenhausen concentration camp and at the former women’s slave labor camp at Ravensbrueck.