Note Boxes 2014

In the first year one could read in the Note Boxes statements from members (and their children) of the Jewish parish, which was destroyed by the National Socialists. In the following year the Note Boxes contained contributions from female students of the Elisabeth School in Marburg. In this year, from now on, the Note Boxes have in them, statements from members of todays’ Jewish parish in Marburg.

Coming into being

When we, the Jewish parish in Marburg, were confronted with the task of filling the Note Boxes for the next year, we formed a small working group to study the problem of a concept for material with which we would like to fill the Boxes. The group fairly rapidly reached a consensus, that the material must be firmly anchored in the present time: we want to show what it is that occupies the Jewish parish today and from this position to build a bridge to the past using the new memorial.

The next question was how to find the appropriate texts. To this problem the group found two approaches: the first was to be the personal statements and memories of members of the parish and the second, citations from well-known persons which either highlight our thoughts today or emphasize the connection to them.

The choice of the texts

In a smaller circle we chose from the suggestions of a „Minjan“* ten texts which should actually be placed in the Note Boxes. These texts show a broad spectrum of current feelings and opinions. They reflect a picture of what, here and now, occupies the Jewish parish in connection with the Garden of Remembrance.

It was especially the contrast between that which the Garden of Remembrance, as an historical location and a memorial, radiates, and the

current mood of the Jewish parish today, which seemed so important. With this, we would like to issue an invitation to a discourse about the cultures of cogitation and commemoration.

* A „Minjan“ is a quorum of the 10 Jews that are necessarily present in order that a full service can be held in a synagogue.

Never in my life could I
imagine that, here in
Germany, we must
demonstrate together
against antisemitism.

Dr. Dieter Graumann, President of the Jewish Central Committee in Germany,
14th September 2014

This quotation from Dieter Graumann reflects what many members of the Jewish parishes and also many other Jews in Germany feel. Not a day passes in Germany when there is not to be seen some film, documentary, presentation or information about the National Socialist era. We have research centres for National Socialism and racism in many universities of which the TU in Berlin and the University of Bielefeld are only the best known examples. In Hesse, there is a State Office for the Protection of the Constitution in which has now been incorporated a Competence Centre against right wing extremism („KOREX“) and so on. With all these activities going on, one might expect that, even if antisemitism has not completely disappeared (which must remain wishful thinking), at least it no longer plays a significant role in society. Instead we must experience in the last few months an upsurge in antisemitic activities going as far as violence against Jews and Jewish property – despite all the enlightenment. The extent of this is such that we were obliged to say – and it is shocking that we, as the Jewish Community, had to say it: enough is enough!

From antisemitism one is
only safe on the moon.

Hannah Arendt, 26th December 1941

There exists a religious antisemitism which is directed against Jewry as a religion. It has, to an extent, gone out of fashion but can still be found with Christians and also with Moslems. There is social antisemitism which is directed against the supposed social status of Jews in society. This is to be found, widespread, in all levels of society and is based on the opinion that all Jews are rich and that a network connects them all; also Jews have much too much influence and similar propositions. Then there is racist antisemitism directing itself against the Jews as a people or a „race“ to which all their undesirable characteristics are attributed and indeed, inherited simply because they are Jews. These would include avarice, meanness, cunning and so on. There also exists a political antisemitism which is against the union of Jews within political structures such as the state or other organisations: the Jewish „lobby“ thus influences and controls politics, media and the world of finance to its own advantage and so on. Greetings from „The protocol of the wisemen of Zion“ and from the „Jewish world-conspiracy“. Prime examples are to be found in every political party whether left, centre or right wing. Additionally there exists a secondary antisemitism; not despite the holocaust but because of it! It is supposedly used by the Jews to gain advantage. And lastly there is an antizionistic antisemitism which projects antisemitic prejudices on the state of Israel and thus embraces all the Jews. How very topical the quotation from Hannah Arendt seems to be today!

The Germans will never
forgive the Jews for the holocaust.

Zvi Rex, 1909–1981

Adorno called it secondary antisemitism, not antisemitism that still exists despite Auschwitz, but antisemitism because of Auschwitz. We can experience it again and again, from the demands to draw a line under the episode and the use of the deadly „Auschwitz-club“ in argument through to the classic „When the Jews always start again with holocaust they needn’t bother to wonder why nobody likes them!“ – And this will also accompany us in the future!

I feel comfortable  in Marburg,
in my jewish parish
and in my town.
But sometimes there comes
a feeling over me  and I think,
„how large is the
‘silent majority’ here?“

A member of the Jewish parish of the Jewish community in Marburg

We know Marburg as an open and a tolerant town. A beautiful town with attractive, half-timbered buildings in the old town with a special flair because of the students,
with a large number of activities and yet also with a certain tranquility. We of the Jewish community feel comfortable and accepted in this town. What happens, however, when the mood changes? When we are exposed to non-acceptance, hostility and aggression? How large will be the ‘silent majority’ who merely look on?
How much will we find ourselves to be alone? The discussions of recent years –   attacks on Jewish traditions, frequent attacks on synagogues and cemeteries (also here near to us)  and the latest developments in the Middle East conflicts – are thought-provoking.

We are here and we are staying.
Even when Jewish institutions
have to be protected by the police.
Also when there are areas in Germany
and parts of towns I would not
enter with a kippah on my head.
And even when one fifth of all citizens
are known to have latent antisemitic sympathies.
We are here and we are staying.

Member of the Jewish parish of the Jewish community in Marburg

Visitors often ask us why a police car is parked in front of the synagogue at the end of a service and if the synagogue is guarded. When we reply that this really is so, then we get curious looks. It is then first clear that we have become quite used to this situation and that despite this we are staying. Germany is our country, our homeland. We often hear fine words from politicians: „In Germany there cannot be ‘no-go’ areas“ – there are, however! Politics then returns gladly to its everyday activities. For many years we have heard the same speeches. But despite all that we are staying. These are also our politicians who we can vote for or not. Antisemitic set pieces and thoughtless words are firmly anchored in the soul of the people. One hears them repeated in the pubs at the tables of the regulars. But we are staying, after all, we are also a part of the soul of the people.

Am I a Jew in Germany?
Or a German of the Jewish religion?
Or a German Jew?
Or a Jewish German?
One thing I am certainly not:
the ambassador of Israel.

Member of the Jewish parish of the Jewish community in Marburg

When one lives as a Jew in Germany, one experiences a mixture of identities. That which is uppermost depends mostly on how persons define their identity and the situation in which they find themselves. When occupying yourself with Jewish tradition, with the Holy Service or with prayers, you feel like a Jew in Germany, whereas during interreligious dialogue you feel more like a German of the Jewish confession. In Israel, as a German Jew you belong to the „Jeckes“. Mostly however you feel like a completely normal Jewish German although perhaps the „Jewish“ begins to fade into the background.

When you live as a Jew in Germany it is almost a reflex that you are required to answer questions about Israel. We do indeed have an opinion and a sympathy but we are not qualified to vote there and have no influence on Israeli politics which many of us find not always good. The Jewish communities in Germany and their members are not diplomatic representatives of the State of Israel.

When Christians want to proscribe Jews
how they should understand themselves
as Jews and what in their Jewish tradition
they should follow and what they
should leave out, then this is also a
form of anti-judaism.

Praeses Nikolaus Schneider, 14th September 2014

It is not only Christians who want to proscribe how we as Jews should live out our traditions. In the debates about slaughtering of animals according to Jewish rites or recently about circumcision and indeed many other themes – also here in Marburg – we are often reproached for our traditions which are described as anachronistic, old-fashioned and unsuitable for a modern society. These attacks come from all directions: from so-called “ humanists“, from politics and from religious circles. Sometimes this disdain takes a most unspectacular form; so simple for example as: „On Saturday you could once perhaps take part in our events, surely that’s not so bad.“ – The Saturday is Schabbat, and as to whether it is a bad thing to ignore it, we would like to decide ourselves.

Whoever attacks we Jews
ultimately attacks us all. It is a general attack
on those values that we in
Europe hold very dear:
humanity, the rights of man,
liberality and tolerance. Our
freedom is really also your freedom!
Those who remain silent today when
Jews are attacked,
will tomorrow find themselves to be the victims.

Dr. Dieter Graumann, President of the Central Commitee of the Jews in Germany, 14th September 2014

The experiences during the Third Reich have already taught us that attacks on the values of freedom in a society always lead, for all of us, to the establishment of a totalitarian system.

When I am not for me,
who then is for me?
When i am only for me,
what am I?
And when not now,
then when?

Talmud, Sayings of the Fathers 1, 14

This „classic“ from the Talmud forces us, even after so many centuries, to reflect again and again. And an experience that we make over and over again is that when we Jews are not for us then nobody is for us. When we are just one time only for us, it will be immediately criticized; with the one exception that it is often also against the Jewish ethic. And when we are not active quickly enough the theme will be discreetly forgotten or confronted too late.

Listen, they plunder Jewish businesses;
they break the windows with stones,
they beat-up Jews. Thousands will
be transported off to concentration camps.
They kill Jews, they hang them,
Jewish blood flows in the streets
of German towns!
I ask you: how can we eradicate
such things from our memories?

Gisela Spier-Cohen from Momberg, district of Marburg, eye witness to the „Reich’s Pogrom Night“

Any and all reflections on the situation of the Jews in Germany naturally happen only against the background of the experiences of the Schoath and the Jewish history.

We must never forget this!