NEW YORK - Israeli-born author Tuvia Tenenbom has called for the dismissal of Volkhard Knigge, the head of the Buchenwald concentration camp memorial in Weimar, Germany, after alleging that Knigge told him that Jews should have settled in Uganda instead of establishing the State of Israel.
Tenenbom, the director of the Jewish Theater of New York, described Knigge's anti-Israel remarks in an interview on Sunday with the regional daily paper Mitteldeutsche Zeitung.
Tenenbom wrote a 2011 book on his observation of modern anti-Semitism in Germany. The book, I Sleep in Hitler's Room: An American Jew Visits Germany, describes his experiences with diverse forms of anti-Semitism in Germany and includes an interview with Knigge and Daniel Gaede, an educator at Buchenwald.
"Volkhard goes on and on... He even recommends a bar in Jerusalem, one he really likes: Uganda. Free-minded people are there, he tells me. Uganda? Why Uganda? That's an allusion to that old idea. He refers to the idea that Jews should have settled in Uganda instead of Palestine. Uganda, the bar, made a name for itself as a place that sympathizes with the Palestinian plight," Tenenbom recalled.
"Why the director of the Buchenwald memorial gets his hands wet in the Israeli-Palestinian mess is beyond my understanding," Tenenbom wrote.
In an email response to The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday, Knigge wrote, "Mr. Tenenbom's description of the work carried out by the Buchenwald memorial is absurd and devoid of all reality. Mr. Tenenbom reproduces the conversations he held with me and the head of the memorial education department in distorted form. I never at any time said that Jews should have been settled in Uganda. Nor is the T-shirt from the Uganda Bar in Jerusalem a propaganda T-shirt," Knigge wrote.
He continued,"The Uganda Bar is an establishment which presents artistic events and is very popular among young Israelis. I enjoyed going to that bar with my Israeli wife of many years, who is herself an artist. The bar is near her mother's flat; they serve good humous there and play interesting music."
In an email to the Post on Tuesday, Dr. Clemens Heni, a leading German academic expert on contemporary anti-Semitism in the Federal Republic, wrote, "It is a scandal that the head of the Buchenwald concentration camp memorial and a recipient of the Heinz-Galinski award supports the Uganda Bar" in Jerusalem. This bar believes the idea is better that Jews should settle in Uganda than in the State of Israel. Knigge embodies the view of many Germans who mourn dead Jews but attack living Jews." Tenenbom was equally critical of Gaede, describing him as being "no better" than Knigge.
Daniel Gaede, an educator at the Buchenwald memorial camp, also came under fire from Tenenbom for his participation in anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian activities
"This man [Gaede] spends his free time demonstrating against Israel and in support of Gaza¹s Palestinians," wrote Tenenbom.
"Yes, he too has the right to think whatever he wishes, and if Hamas is to his liking, so be it. But, as the book states: The story of Israel and Gaza is quite complicated, having many sides to it. But the fact, known to anybody who speaks or reads Arabic, remains this: Gaza has the world's highest concentration of people who believe in driving the Jews into the sea. Why would anybody from Buchenwald join them?" Tenenbom said, adding that Gaede does does not want his interview to be made public.
Gaede wrote in response to Tenenbom's accusations, "On account of the random and distorting depiction and interpretation of the conversation, I can't give my consent to printing it."
In an interview with the German media, Knigge said that" Buchenwald was not an extermination camp. There were no gas chambers here."
Knigge told the Post,"According to the international present state of research, the Buchenwald concentration camp was not among the extermination camps like the camps of the Reinhard Operation [the codename for the Nazis" extermination plan] or the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp," he told the Post.
He continued,"Likewise, according to the international present state of research, there were no gas chambers at the Buchenwald concentration camp or its subcamps, and no killings were carried out with the aid of gas at the Buchenwald concentration camp, as Mr. Tenenbom claims in his book. It goes without saying that these facts do not imply that no mass murders and other atrocities took place at the Buchenwald concentration camp."
Knigge added that "neither racists nor anti-Semites work at the Buchenwald memorial." Gaede did not immediately respond to a query from the Post about his participation in pro-Palestinian activities, including those that may have involved Hamas.