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German Jews to elect leader from post-holocaust generation

Last Updated: Thursday, November 25, 2010 - 17:37

Berlin: Germany`s Jewish community, which
has grown by leaps and bounds due to immigration from the
former Soviet Union, will Sunday elect its first post-war
leader who is not a survivor of the Holocaust.

Dieter Graumann, vice president of the Central Council of
Jews, Germany`s main Jewish organisation with nearly 110,000
members, is the sole candidate to replace 78-year-old
Charlotte Knobloch, who is not standing for re-election.
"It is a generational change," historian Julius Schoeps
told AFP.

Born in Israel in 1950, Graumann "does not belong to the
generation bearing numbers tattooed on their arms," referring
to the Nazis` practice with concentration camp prisoners.

Knobloch was born just months before Adolf Hitler rose to
power in January 1933 and survived the Holocaust in hiding
with a Roman Catholic family.

Graumann arrived in Germany at the age of one and a half.
His experience of the Nazis` genocidal campaign was limited to
his Polish father`s accounts of the concentration camps where
he was imprisoned.

He will take charge of a community that has transformed
at breathtaking pace since the fall of the Berlin Wall 21
years ago.
In the years that followed, Germany threw open its
borders to Jews from the ex-Soviet Union, where they had
suffered virulent anti-Semitism, and granted them German

Before 1933, Germany had one of Europe`s strongest Jewish
communities with about 600,000 members.

Since 1989, when there were about 30,000 Jews living in
Germany, some 220,000 Jews have arrived from the former Soviet
Union. In the early 1990s, more Jews were immigrating to
Germany than to Israel.

However the new arrivals, many of whom speak little
German, have presented problems of their own for the
community, making it less homogeneous and thus more difficult
to lead.

Jews whose families never left Germany or who returned in
the immediate post-war years say that the newcomers are
unaware of Jewish traditions and often not particularly

"Those who immigrate to Germany are confronted with the
challenge of a double integration," Graumann, who declined
interviews ahead of the election, said in September.

"They must first integrate into German society and
then... into the microcosm of the Jewish community."

Graumann said the self-perception of Jews in Germany
depended in large part on their heritage.


First Published: Thursday, November 25, 2010 - 17:37
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