Israeli might be elected head of German Jewish council

Sixty-year-old Dieter Graumann critical of German-Iranian relations, calls to combat "Muslim and Islamic anti-Semitism."

November 27, 2010 23:55
4 minute read.
HAIFA-BORN businessman’s agenda will offer ‘renewa

Dieter Graumann 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)

BERLIN – Dieter Graumann is slated to be the first Israeliborn Jew to be elected on Sunday to the presidency of Germany’s roughly 105,000-member Central Council of Jews.

Though Central Council insiders told The Jerusalem Post prior to the election that outgoing President Charlotte Knobloch might mount a challenge to Graumann, the 78-year-old Knobloch did not announce plans to run for a second term.

Knobloch, who survived the Holocaust by hiding in Bavaria in the house of a Catholic family as a young girl, served from 2006 to 2010 as head of the umbrella organization and will continue to be president of the Munich Jewish community.

Last week, Germany’s Federal President Christian Wulff, who is currently visiting Israel, awarded Knobloch Germany’s Highest Order of Merit for her “struggle against right-wing extremism and anti-Semitism.”

Running uncontested for president of the Central Council, the Haifa-born Graumann will take over the Jewish community’s leadership at a time in which many observers consider the council to be immersed in an organizational crisis marked by breakdowns in communication and skewed priorities.

Michael Wolffsohn, a prominent German Jewish historian based in Munich, criticized Knobloch last week for taking over the role of a “theological-spiritual-religious” figure rather than serving as “the political representative of German Jewry.” He lambasted Knobloch’s attendance last week in Rome alongside the heads of Germany’s Catholic and Protestant churches at a ceremony to elevate German Bishop Reinhard Marx to cardinal in St Peter’s Basilica.

Critics also say that there has only been sporadic communication among Knobloch and the two vice presidents of the Central Council, Graumann and Salomon Korn, leading to policies that appear to be working at cross purposes.

In an exclusive interview with the Post in September, 60-year-old Graumann said his agenda would offer “renewal” and stressed “solidarity with Israel in these difficult times” and the continued efforts to combat “Muslim and Islamic anti-Semitism” in Germany. Graumann has highlighted over the last year that one has “to always be conscious of the Holocaust but not incessantly Holocaust-centered.” As a one-and-half-year old child, Graumann’s immediate family left Israel for Germany. He is the son of Polish Jews who survived the Holocaust, and operates a real estate management company in Frankfurt.

Sacha Stawski, a long-term member of the Frankfurt Jewish community, told the Post on Saturday that the election of Graumann “is a very wise choice” because “we will gain a stronger overall leadership, under which the Central Council will once again speak with one voice, on the one hand, and at the same time there will be someone at the top who will use his warm and gentle approach to reunite a community, which has faced a lot of internal turmoil. Dieter is a respected friend of the older generation, a view of hope for the younger generation and a supportive ally for Russian immigrants.”

The demographic change unfolding in Germany involves the influx of Jews from the republics of the former Soviet Union who represent an overwhelming majority of the council’s membership. Estimates of Jews living in Germany range between 105,000 and 200,000, but the exact figure beyond the 105,000 registered in the council’s membership is not considered to be accurate.

Stawski, who heads the pro-Israel media watchdog organization Honestly Concerned, which tracks anti- Semitic and anti-Israel reports in the German media, organized the first pro-Israel conference last month in Frankfurt. Graumann spoke at the event and sharply rebuked German politicians Peter Gauweiler from the Christian Social Union party, Monika Grütters of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, Luc Jochimsen from the Left Party, Claudia Roth from the Green Party and the Social Democrat’s Günter Gloser, for traveling to Iran to meet with leading Iranian Holocaust deniers in October.

Stawski said Graumann “warned the audience about the Iranian nuclear threat in the strongest terms; decried the Holocaust denial and anti-Semitic rhetoric of the Iranian mullah regime and similarly adamantly condemned German business and political dealings with the Iranian mullah regime.

“His vivid description of Claudia Roth, a hypocritical human rights advocate for the Green party, who humbly sat in front of some of the nastiest Holocaust deniers and regime supporters – with a head scarf on her head – during her recent visit to Iran, with a delegation from the Bundestag, will remain in listeners’ memories,” Stawski added.

During his tenures as vice president of both the Frankfurt Jewish community and the Central Council, Graumann has made determined efforts to combat the hatred of Israel propagated by the German Left Party, which is represented in the German parliament and driven by a strong anti-Zionist political agenda. Right-wing anti- Semitism and anti-Jewish sentiments have also been targets of his wrath.

Graumann blasted conservative writer Lorenz Jäger of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper, who, according to critics, has stoked anti-Israel and anti- Jewish conspiracy theories.

In a previous interview with the Post, Graumann called on the paper’s publishers to crackdown on Jäger’s tirades against Jews in Germany.

Writing in the daily Die Welt on Saturday about Graumann taking over the reins of Germany’s Jewish community, Richard Herzinger, a prominent commentator on German Jewry and the rise of modern anti- Semitism in the Federal Republic, noted that the “worries that concern German Jews are not only rightwing extremism but also an aggressive anti-Semitism, which is frequently disguised as ‘criticism of Israel,’ and is spreading among Muslim immigrants and in left-wing ‘anti-Zionist’ circles.

“How much support the Central Council receives from the entire German society in combating these forces will determine how well, in the long run, Jews in Germany feel they are in safe hands.”

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