BERLIN – Peter Feldmann, the first German Jew to be elected mayor of Frankfurt
since the Holocaust, discussed his victory and his city’s relationship with
Israel on Wednesday.
The voters in Frankfurt overwhelmingly elected the
Social Democrat Feldmann on Sunday, catapulting him to a 15- point victory over
his Christian Democratic Union (CDU) opponent Boris Rhein. The 53-year-old
Feldmann, who co-founded the Working Group of Jewish Social Democrats, told The
Jerusalem Post via phone that he ran a “classical social democratic program” to
secure his electoral success.
His election platform advocated a sustained
fight against “elderly and children’s poverty” and housing to ameliorate the
apartment crisis in Frankfurt, he said.
Rhein, the interior minister of
the state of Hesse, where 700,000 inhabitants live in the financial city
Frankfurt, was favored to win the race. Rhein was in Israel last year and
is a strong supporter of the Jewish state.
Feldmann is also a strong
advocate of Israel’s security and supporter of Frankfurt-Tel Aviv
Frankfurt is Tel Aviv’s partner city, Feldmann said, adding
“Israel and Frankfurt have good contacts,” citing the “regular school exchange
There will be no changes in the good relations between
Frankfurt and the Jewish state, noted Feldmann. “Frankfurt and Tel Aviv have a
lot in common as international cities,” said Feldmann, adding with a chuckle, “I
regret that Frankfurt does not have a sea” in contrast to Tel Aviv’s beach
Petra Roth, the CDU politician who served as mayor of Frankfurt
since 1995, announced last year that she did not plan to campaign for another
term. Roth’s decision to invite Alfred Grosser to deliver a speech at a
commemoration of Kristallnacht in 2010 triggered international criticism,
including from the Israeli government. Grosser is widely considered to be a
fiercely anti-Israel academic and writer, largely because he compares Israel
with Nazi Germany and denies the existence of modern anti-Semitism.
city of Frankfurt’s decision to honor Grosser cast “an unfortunate and
unnecessary shadow on the event” to commemorate the persecution of Jews in
Germany because his views “regarding the State of Israel are illegitimate and
immoral,” Emmanuel Nahshon, the deputy chief of mission for the Israeli Embassy
in Germany told the Post at the time.
When asked if his Jewish background
played a role in the Frankfurt election, Feldmann told the Post “it was not a
topic. I did not cite it is as a theme. The voters know I am Jewish. Period!”
Feldmann spent time in his youth living on an Israeli Kibbutz, learning
gardening and agricultural work.
He said that Frankfurt is “open for
immigrants” and the city respects new arrivals, citing it’s long history of
accepting immigrants. “Jewish immigration took place 1200 years ago,” he
Feldmann’s victory has electrified the social democratic party and
the media. Bild,º the largest print paper in Germany, posted a picture of
Feldmann on its front page on Monday and declared him to be the “winner” of the
Feldmann campaigned 18 hours a day, visiting 16,800 homes. He called
for a twohour freeze on night flights at the large international airport in
Frankfurt to prevent noise pollution, a policy that resonated with
The mayor-elect is an economist who has vast experience in the
social service field, and has served as director of a senior citizen home.
Frankfurt previously had one Jewish mayor, Ludwig Landmann, who was in office
for nine years until the Nazis came to power in 1933.
According to the
website of the Frankfurt Jewish community, the city has currently a little more
than 7,000 members. Prior to the Holocaust, Frankfurt had a Jewish
population of 30,000.