Red Lines Follow-Up: Meeting with German Ambassador H.E. Mr. Martin Kotthaus

January 10, 2019

Earlier today, the European Jewish Association has had the honour of meeting with the recently appointed Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany to the Kingdom of Belgium, H.E. Mr. Martin Kotthaus. While His Excellency has earlier already attended some of our events, including the recent EJA annual conference back in November 2018, this has been the first occasion, which presented an opportunity to have a very comprehensive discussion on a number of different topics.

These subjects, amongst others, included the issues European Jewry is faced with nowadays across the continent, the situation in Germany itself, especially with regards to the present political climate and the upcoming elections at regional and EU levels, various topical matters at hand and everyday life of the Jewish community, as well as prospects for the future. Both sides have expressed their hopes for a continued productive cooperation between the German authorities and the country’s Jewish community. The recently adopted Red Lines have been touched upon as well, with Mr. Ambassador kindly offering to report back on them to his homeland’s government.

We very much look forward to a long and fruitful cooperation with His Excellency and the Embassy on questions presenting mutual interest and concern.

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Holocaust Memorial Day, Yom Hashoah. I didn’t intend to pay attention to it, I didn’t even really want to think about it, but I was suddenly, as it were, overpowered by recognition, anger and great concern. I am often accused of paying too much attention to the war and to anti-Semitism. Catherine Keyl has recently written a book entitled “War Father”. Her father, a Jewish resistance fighter, had and at the same time had not survived Sacksenhausen.
And then, at the end of his life, when his leg needs to be amputated and Catherine asks a psychiatrist to tell her father that his leg is going to be taken off, the young psychiatrist shows no empathy whatsoever in the world of a man who is in hell. Who had to carry the concentration camps with him all his life and now, demented, thinks that ‘they will still get him’ because his leg has to be taken off and he will therefore not be able to flee. And at the same time, I get a wonderful email from Holocaust survivor Nechamah Mayer after reading my diary. I quote her:
“Dear Binyomin. I read your diary in one go during the Passover season. I noticed that in the last chapters you talked more and more about anti-Semitism. As if it keeps getting worse. Or did you simply get more courage to point out to the reader how bad it has become? I thought the black pages with quotes were a nice layout. I am going to pass on the book, because it must be widely read. Wishing you many readers. Nechamah.”
By her encouraging words and having seen a video about the position of the HH doctors in Nazi Germany, I feel obliged to completely ignore the criticism of a younger colleague. He is of the opinion that I should not talk about anti-Semitism. He probably does not realize that much too much was kept silent before the war. It would be okay, the Allies were coming, a bit of work in the East… But it didn’t work out!
Fifty percent of the doctors in Germany cooperated in the destruction. Psychiatrists judged who could and could not live and convinced the large crowd that the Final Solution was ethically wholly justified! Germans, non-Jews, with a physical defect and a psychiatric disorder were eliminated for causing damage to the beautiful Aryan race and an economic burden. Last night I was on a zoom run by a pastor in Dokkum.
I was interviewed for ten minutes. I was not informed about what, but the subject became anti-Semitism and Yom Hashoah. I was asked at the end of the interview whether I had a message for all participants. My message became a request. An urgent request: I ask all participants to become my ambassadors and to announce to everyone they see or speak what happened then.
In fact, I don’t see any evidence that anti-Semitism has been eradicated. Light shines at the end of the corona tunnel. But the virus called anti-Semitism has an endless tunnel. Is there no light then? Yes, the coming of the Moshiach. We long for that, we have been eagerly looking forward to it for centuries. But in the meantime we need to realize the current reality. Beppie Caneel lived not far from us. Beppie had survived the Auschwitz experiment barracks. She was always cheerful. Couldn’t have any more children, of course, but she really survived with her sister. My wife took her to the hospital for some examinations. She had to roll up her sleeve. The doctor then asked her in surprise what those numbers were on her arm. Thank God Beppie was hard of hearing… A doctor who I assume not only studied medicine but also had general training. “What are those numbers on your arm?”
And that younger colleague of mine complains that I should especially not talk about the war and anti-Semitism. No, above all we must remain silent about the then, about the now and of course about tomorrow. I receive a video, you have to click it because “Am Yisrael Chai – the Jewish People are alive!” in spite of everything, but alertness is required. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OOWCgKVQE5M
Yes, today I also taught Jewish (zoom) to a regular weekly group. And yes, I also placed my signature on a rabbinical statement. And yes, I held a pastoral conversation and listened to someone for almost two hours about his difficult engagement with the topic. But Holocaust Memorial Day – Yom Hashoah reigns. I thought of all those family members of mine that I have not known at all and of which I know nothing because my parents wanted to spare me grief. I look at those two silver cups in our glass case. It has the names: Bernhard and Siegmund engraved on them. They were my father’s cousins.
Only those two cups are left of themselves, their wives. their children … And anti-Semitism is on the rise again.

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