BERLIN – The controversy surrounding a German Holocaust foundation’s use of
public funds to finance anti-Semitic, anti-Israel school literature has prompted
the head of the European Jewish Congress and the Simon Wiesenthal Center to urge
the foundation to return to its core mission of Shoah education.
German Remembrance, Responsibility, Future (EVZ) Foundation is financed by
public and private funds and dolled out 21,590 euros in 2010-2011 to support a
exchange program between the Gerhart-Hauptmann high school and an exclusive
Israeli-Arab high school in Nazareth.
Students and educators from the two
schools wrote a brochure equating Israel with the defunct East German Stalinist
state, and including crude drawings of Orthodox Jewish students. The document
depicted Israel as a violent state with an education system that excludes and
oppresses Arab pupils.
Critics in Israel and Germany say the brochure
seeks to delegitimize Israel’s existence and stokes modern
The European Jewish Congress president, Dr. Moshe Kantor,
told The Jerusalem Post
last week, “It is important that the fund focuses on
spreading and preserving the memory of the Holocaust and the legacy of those who
were murdered, which is particularly necessary today as we witness higher levels
of ignorance and intolerance, mainly among the Arab and Muslim public, who uses
negative imagery in their political campaign against Israel.”
continued, “Today, more then ever, after another hate-filled speech by
Holocaust- denier Iranian President Ahmadinejad at the United Nations, the fund
needs to encourage tolerance and peace among the younger generations instead of
supporting projects that have nothing to do with the Holocaust, which, as it
seems, result in encouraging hate and intolerance.”
Speaking from Los
Angeles, Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal
Center, told the Post
, “Germans, especially those who say they are committed to
the memory of the six million, have a unique responsibility and opportunity to
educate young Arabs who are barraged with hate propaganda that denies the Shoah
all together or accuses Israelis of being today’s Nazis.
of the perpetrators of the Shoah, today’s Germans have the clear opportunity to
set the record state and thwart the Holocaust- deniers and Jew-haters among
Cooper continued, “That mandate of remembrance and
responsibility was perverted by the joint program between a school in Germany
and the school in Nazareth that validated anti-Jewish stereotypes and
anti-Israel sentiment. We urge the fund to return to its core mandate of
teaching young generations about the systematic murder of six million Jews,
including 1.5 million children, by the Nazi regime. Every successful undertaking
will undercut bigotry and anti-Semitism, not spread it.”
In a statement
to the Post
on Monday, Dr. Martin Salm, the head of EVZ, wrote that “the
foundation EVZ will in no way allow criticism of societal conditions to serve
the delegitimization of the State of Israel.”
He said the EVZ will use
the “misunderstandings” associated with the school project to examine its
Salm has issued contradictory statements since the
affair surfaced. He first defended the school exchange program, rejecting
allegations of anti- Semitism and blaming media reports for misrepresenting the
partnership between the foundation and the schools, as well as with the
anti-Israel NGO HEAR, which supported the exchange program. HEAR is an acronym
for Humans, Education and Awareness of their Rights.
After the Post
contacted Salm last week, he withdrew his defense of the anti-Israel school
program and said EVZ would sever contact with the Gerhart- Hauptmann school and
anti- Semitic educational activities.
Asked by the Post
explain his conflicting statements, Salm declined to issue a specific comment.
It is unclear whether Salm plans to step down.
The German Foreign
Ministry has two members on the EVZ Foundation’s Board of Trustees.
e-mail to the Post
on Tuesday, a spokesman wrote that the Foreign Ministry
“welcomes the explanation of the chairman of the EVZ Foundation from 26
September in which he regrets the contributions; that is, the drawings of the
brochures, which could be read as anti-Semitic, and therefore announced an
review of the subsidy practice in connection with this program.”
Maag, a Bundestag deputy who is on EVZ’s Board of Trustees, wrote the Post
Tuesday that she “regrets that the impression has been formed that an
anti-Semitic or anti-Israel attitude” exists, and intends to take “concrete
steps” at the next EVZ board meeting to address the incident. Maag, from German
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, said she has contacted
the responsible parties and requested clarification.
According to the EVZ
statement on Monday, Constanza Röthing, a teacher at the Gerhart- Hauptmann
school, who spoke in the name of the students, expressed “outrage” that such
allegations are being lodged against participants.
“We have had only
positive impressions and experiences from the State of Israel and therefore
strictly reject any anti-Semitic intention,” she said.
A spokesman for
the German government told the Post
on Wednesday that representatives from the
Finance Ministry who sit on the Board of Trustees “do not have the possibility”
to “control the implementation of projects from partner organizations.”