by Angelika Zitzelsberger-Schlez
Some participants of the conference 2010 have written in the newsletter about the “antisemitic attack” in the SE-meeting of Germans and Jews/Israelis which was heard as if the author of the remark has said: You jews are responsible for the holocaust because you didn´t interfere in the armenian genocide.
This interpretation of the remark was written down in an unpublished paper of staff-members and there the interpretation changed into reality, as if the author of the remark really has said that the Jews are responsible for their own holocaust.
B. Jesberg suggested that the author of the remark wanted to initiate a new room for discussion.
I have another interpretation about what I heard in the meeting and with my view I try to figure out what goes to the stereotype of the Germans (still antisemitic) and what might be typical for an individual German. It is my individual view of the events.
Based on my notes during the conference (Cyprus 2010) I remember the following of the system event: There was an atmosphere of urge in the large German group to meet with the Palestinian group. Some of the Germans agitated loudly in proposing the Palestinian/German meeting. All of these German speakers attended for the first time this type of “Nazareth”-conferences. They wanted to meet the Palestinians only which can be seen on the background of the momentary popularity of Palestinians in Germany. But also as a wish to hear first-hand about the despising politics in Israel against them. The jewish group with 7 or 8 members was put aside in the considerations.
In this process of seeking and finding a relatedness to other conference-members and -groups (to remind of the primary task of the SE), some Germans tried to open the interest for the Jewish group, too, but these considerations were lost in the noisy debate. Me personally had a feeling of futility, resignation and regret about the neglecting of the Jewish/Israeli group, and I with other like-minded did not participate in the German exploration of the Palestinians.
(This brings me now to think why we did not go on our own, making ourselves to plenipotentiaries. This would have been a rebellion against the rules of the “game”, but why not?)
Some meetings later in the system event all the Germans were ready now to meet with the Jewish/Israeli group. My earlier described mood against this group had not changed, on the contrary another feeling was added, the feeling of bad conscious because of the neglecting. I was tired and knocked out, somehow.
The 7 Israeli women were sitting in one row in front of the crowded German group, it was like in a casting situation, this was my first impression. They spoke about their experiences in the conference so far. I remember a feeling of relief about the meeting, after all, to come into a dialogue between the two groups. But in the same time I had a suspicion: it is “too late”. I cannot remember details of the dialogue, it is nothing said about it in my diary. But I have a fairly clear picture of the room: one member of the Jewish/Israeli group was mainly answering the questions from the “audience” in detail, but this kind of meeting was new for me. It seemed to remind of an examination and because of the overwhelming number of German participants it seemed to me as if they were sitting in a trial.
Then, there was dropped the sentence: For me the question about the Armenians was totally unmotivated. Nothing of the previously said could explain the association to the Armenians. I was irritated because I thought at once that I had missed s.th. in the discussion so far.
The remark came from the second or third row with relatively soft voice. It was not only due to my tiredness that I hardly could understand the voice. Yet I heard the question whether the Jewish/Israeli group had discussed the genocide on the Armenians. And then, subsequently, the speaker gave the information that Hitler, due to the missing reaction of the world to the Armenian genocide, he thought that nobody would protest against the planned holocaust.
These were the facts in this meeting.
Maybe it was this combination of weighty question, said with a low voice, out of the blue from one of the back rows which release my association of “insidious” and “crafty”. I could not see the speaker nor recognize him by his voice. I felt consternation and helplessness.
In my memory with this “event” the meeting was at the end. I know nothing else. While leaving the room I shared my fright about the aggressiveness with another german participant. “Wasn´t this aggressive, or..? As if I could not believe it.
Later I wanted and I could identify the asking person but I do not want to interprete his remark as if he has said to the Jews: you are to blame for the holocaust yourselves. But it is taken from many members like this. And a lot of people jumped on this interpretation. I believe that they jump on a prejudice, which is more or less common in the new nazis or in more normal people as well, which I only can assume.
My own assumptions about what he expressed is the following: I was told – either before or after this SE-meeting – that the German colleague has a familiar history with the Armenian genocide through a great-uncle who deeply was involved in it. The colleague is a newcomer in this conference and I assume that he came to Cyprus to work on this horrible aspect of his family history. It is not easy to have a negative hero as an ancestor.
His clumsy remark together with the aggressiveness I have felt is in my eyes an appeal to the Jewish group: Take care about other dreadful events in the history. Don´t rotate always around yourselves.
In my eyes he was awkward and he got into trouble himself (Mira spoke of the pain in his face) and brought the German group into trouble. It is of no use now to argue individually, in this case we Germans are approached collectively by the interpretation of the remark as an antisemitic attack and we should take it. As I said above this remark refers to a right-extreme and national-socialistic view of the world, it is a prejudice, which might be more in common as we know. We can think about it and deal with it.
I read in the “Berliner Zeitung” (Berlin newspaper) from november, 13th 2012 that the view “through their behavior the Jews have the complicity in their persecution” is common especially in the east of Germany. A closed naziview is found by 15,8 % people in eastern Germany, 7,3 % in western Germany. 2500 participants have been in this study of Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (foundation), 9,0 % of them all have this restricted and extreme worldview. I think to confront these views it is worthwhile to work these attitudes through even if the individual do not share them.
One more word to my background of my interpretation of T.s remark. In the beginning of the system event, 2 or 3 Germans who had attended former conferences of this type (b-members) made some proposals about the proceeding (it was only a proposal about the frame which can be mistrusted only in case of envy.) They were shut down, among other persons by the Armenian-affected German guy: It is not acceptable that here somebody tries to play a special role. And later, more aggressively directed towards a b-member: “You want to be something special”.
Why were our proposals taken as an attack? Why were the experiences from former conferences devaluated with such an energy? The attacked members had lost their speech for a while.
I take these scenes as a proof of my interpretation. The remark in the German/Jewish meeting has to do with narccicism and overdone craving for recognition. I take this as the motivation (conscious or unconscious) for the question about the Armenians. In any case this question was scaring and was a proof for missing empathy, for missing subtle intuition and tactlessness.
But it seems to me that the report of the directors who take the interpretation as really said has s.th. else in mind. What can it be? To push forward the process in revealing more and more hidden prejudices? To come to the point, finally? Anyway, I think it does not help, to add more injuries than there are already in this very complex subject.
And my last word: I take these more or less failing interactions (in a certain sense) as valuable material in building more integrated personalities.