Frankfurt elects 1st Jewish mayor since Holocaust

Peter Feldmann discusses his victory and his city’s relationship with Israel.

Frankfurt mayor Peter Feldmann 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Ralph Orlowski)
Frankfurt mayor Peter Feldmann 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Ralph Orlowski)
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 relations.
Frankfurt is Tel Aviv’s partner city, Feldmann said, adding “Israel and Frankfurt have good contacts,” citing the “regular school exchange programs.”
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 location.
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.
The 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 noted.
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 day.
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 voters.
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.