Jewish organizations and West German politics after the Holocaust / by Jay Howard Geller.
This study examines the re-establishment of Jewish institutions in western Germany after the Second World War and the relationship between those institutions and West German politicians groups, including political parties and governmental ministries. A secondary focus is the relationship between Jewish organizations in Germany and Jewish groups in other countries. As a precondition to the political relationship between Germans and Jews living in Germany, Jewish survivors of the Holocaust founded representative bodies, beginning nearly immediately after liberation and culminating in the creation of the Central Council of Jews in Germany (Zentralrat der Juden in Deutschland) in July 1950. An examination of the Central Council's establishment, internal dynamics, external relations sheds new light on the political engagement and general condition of the Jewish community in Germany from 1945 to 1953, the year in which West Germany enacted reparations to Holocaust survivors and East Germany experienced purge of Jews from public life. The Jewish community in postwar Germany, severely divided between eastern European Jewish displaced persons (DPs) and native German Jews, did not readily coalesce. Only the force of external circumstances induced the two disparate Jewish groups in Germany to unite. Most notably, the imminent withdrawal of the American military occupation government coupled with a sudden West German governmental interest in Jewish affairs convinced Jewish leaders that they needed to unite for representative purposes. Their new organization, the Central Council of Jews in Germany, soon gained recognition from the West German government, but throughout the period under examination, it had tenuous relations with international Jewish groups. Meanwhile, West German leaders, including President Theodor Heuss and Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, wished to open a dialogue with representatives of German Jewry. Initially, they considered appointing an official interlocutor, but the Central Council's formation obviated that need. While Heuss provided moral guidance regarding German-Jewish reconciliation, Adenauer concentrated primarily on practical issues, such as reparations to the Jewish people. In 1953, relying largely on the support of the opposition Social Democrats, he was able to realize both collective reparations and compensation to individual victims.
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