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Germany’s Most Annoying Jew

Satirist and media gadfly Henryk Broder attacks his countrymen’s attitudes toward Israel and Jews

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Henryk Broder in Berlin. (Timur Emek/AP)
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Broder, in Forget Auschwitz! as in his 1986 book The Eternal Anti-Semite, argues that there’s a link between the obsessive thinking about the Holocaust in Germany and what he sees as an increasing German tendency to condemn Israel. “Forget Auschwitz,” he urges; “think about Israel, before it’s too late.” Broder is convinced that what were once fringe opinions in the German New Left have now moved to the mainstream, that Germans are now free to suggest that Israelis are the new Nazis. “The transfer of their own past onto Israel” is how Broder sees it; they can redeem themselves by blaming Jewish aggression. The Iranian threat to commit genocide against Israel, Broder stresses, is the only real existential danger that Israel has experienced since 1967; but too many Germans see Ahmadinejad’s nuclear sabre-rattling as just hot air, and Israel as the real threat to peace in the region.

In 2009, Der Spiegel published online an exchange of emails on Israel between Broder and the journalist Erich Follath. Within a few hours, the Broder-Follath debate received hundreds of thousands of clicks and for several days ranked among the top three topics among German Internet users. The next year, the Broder-Follath letters became a book titled Give the Jews Schleswig-Holstein!: When Germans Criticize Israel. The title comes from Broder, who cited Ahmadinejad’s idea that Israeli Jews ought to be relocated to Europe. The Iranian president “speaks too broadly,” commented Broder, “but he is, in principle, correct. If there were something like historical justice in this world, the Jewish state would be in Schleswig-Holstein or in Bavaria, not Palestine.” In one of his letters to Follath, Broder said that Germans are like alcoholics, and the Jews are their addiction. He proposed a period of abstinence: “For a while no klezmer concerts, no week of solidarity, no calls for the solution of the Palestine question, no symposia about the German-Jewish symbiosis and above all, no declarations that begin with the words ‘We, especially, as Germans … ’ ”

Last year, Broder tangled with Jakob Augstein, author of a weekly online column in Der Spiegel and publisher of Der Freitag, a weekly newspaper. Augstein is publishing royalty, the heir of Spiegel founder Rudolf Augstein (and illegitimate son of the novelist Martin Walser). Augstein defended Günter Grass’ anti-Israel poem “What Must Be Said,” which had been roundly condemned in the German media. He said that Grass’ poem “hit the mark” (though he added that Grass exaggerated when he claimed, bizarrely, that Israel was planning to use nuclear weapons against Iran); and he denounced German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s statement, in a 2008 visit to Jerusalem, that the German responsibility for Israel’s security cannot remain “empty words.” Augstein announced his alarm at the prospect of German soldiers fighting against Iran and protested that Netanyahu “keeps the world on a leash with an ever-swelling war chant.” Broder came out swinging: He called Augstein a “little Streicher” and compared Augstein’s statement that he was no anti-Semite to a pedophile’s claim that he likes children. Augstein was born too late, Broder said, but he would have fit in well in the Gestapo. Then Broder publicly dared Augstein to sue him for libel. Augstein refused, remarking in gentlemanly fashion, “I respect Broder even when he makes an error.” (Broder’s response: “He wimped out.”) Augstein’s Der Freitag is indeed stridently anti-Netanyahu, and it harshly criticized Israel’s conduct in the 2009 and 2012 Gaza wars, but in these respects it is not so different from Haaretz. Surprisingly (and, it is rumored, on Broder’s advice), Augstein was named on the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s annual list of the world’s “top 10 Anti-Semitic/Anti-Israel slurs,” and he was also condemned by the ADL. Augstein had never attacked Israel’s right to exist, nor had he ever advocated or applauded any violent action against Jews; nor, for that matter, had he ever criticized Jews as such. Germany’s Zentralrat der Juden in Deutschland, the official voice of its Jewish community, defended Augstein, and the Frankfürter Allgemeine Zeiting found the charges of anti-Semitism against Augstein ridiculous.

Broder exaggerates when he presents Grass and his defender Augstein as the true representatives of German public opinion; what they represent, instead, is the hard left, which is still just as anti-Israel as it was in the ’60s. British and American left-wing opinion, like German left-wing opinion, is prone to blame Israel alone for the lack of peace with the Palestinians, to accuse Israel of war crimes while omitting any mention of Palestinian terrorists, to imply that Israel ought to abandon its Jewish character and become a non-Jewish state, and to describe Iranian threats against the Jews as mere bluster. But German leftists are not more stridently anti-Zionist than the leftists of other countries. In Britain, condemnation of Israel has entered the mainstream media far more than in Germany, as any BBC listener or Guardian reader can attest. According to polls, anti-Semitism in Germany is far lower than in Spain, Poland, and Hungary. Norman Finkelstein and Noam Chomsky sell well in Germany, but so does Broder, whose Forget Auschwitz! received glowing reviews in the German press.

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Great articles, but a bit of knowledge of people position would be great! You write: “German President Angela Merkel’s” that is totally incorrect she the head of the government and not the State.

Absolutely right, Camilo. Fixed.

Habbgun says:

Its always the same. It is easily proved the Left is no friend of the Jews but the Jews love the Left. Not all Jews, by far the majority could care less about the Left and its causes but enough Jews do for it to be pretty depressing.

I believe that it was the Portuguese writer and Nobel laureate José Saramago who popularized the idea that Jews/Israelis were Nazis:
“Saramago was part of an international group of writers who traveled to Ramallah to observe the Israeli siege of Yasser Arafat’s compound. [...] The situation at Ramallah, in Saramago’s estimation, was “a crime comparable to Auschwitz.” To the Israeli journalist who asked where the gas chambers were, Saramago gave his much-quoted reply, “Not yet here.”

He smeared the Bible, the Jews, the Israel etc.

Great piece.

fred capio says:

No one is right all the time, but Broder is right most of the time. And if he is wrong, why not let the Goyim criticize him? Why are so many Jewish journalists so eager to criticize fellow Jews? so that the anti-Semites can say: “look, even the Jews disagree with him”? It is nothing but hypocrisy masqueraded as objectivity.

Where do these “Jewish Jew haters” come from? Many Jews are “universalists” (which I suppose is left of center). However, these way, way, lefty Jews who hate Jews and Israel are really sick mentally. I dont even think its “self Hate” ..its just that they hate the Jewish womb that they came from. The crazy part is like Chomsky, and Finkelstein, and this drek of man Broder are considered “intellectuals”! Sad, they do as much harm to the Jewish people as the Czar, Hitler , and Ahmadjihad do! These fools contribute to the Pogrom mentality of Anti-Semites!

arktikwolf says:

Seems like the Germans will never forgive the Jews for the Shoah.

demonkoryu says:

You can lie down when you get hit, or you can hit back. Broder’s made his choice.

A catchy phrase, but that doesn’t make it actually meaningful.

Broder has since (ie., after the SWC backtracked) apologized for several of his comments on Augstein, in particular the Gestapo one and the comparison to Streicher (Die Welt, 11.01.13, “Das war nicht hilfreich. Ich entschuldige mich”), and called them “not helpful”.

He’s more or less viewed as grumpy old man nowadays, and people often tune out once his name comes up. For instance, his claim that Claudia Roth, chairwoman of the Greens, would have (after she visited Iran in 2010 and suggested a cultural exchange program) been delighted by Theresienstadt’s camp theater was rather received with incredulity.

In other words, many just don’t take him seriously anymore, so I wouldn’t really describe him as “Most Annoying”.

arktikwolf says:

You remind me of Wagner’s widow, who said: “It never happened; besides, it was only 2 million.”

Brian Zumhagen says:

Another problem. The association of Jewish communities is called the Zentralrat der Juden in Deutschland, not the “Jüdisches Zentralrat,” as the article states.

Well, an affinity for random and silly generalizations is frequently accompanied by wanton imagination.

arktikwolf says:

I prefer miso to wanton, myself.

I’m not sure why you decided to link this piece of crap. Gilad Atzmon? He proves there’s economic gain for being an anti-Semitic Jew. And he doesn’t have to be particularly smart or insightful. He simply needs to say bad things about Jews and he gains fame and adulation.

Now, why you linked, I don’t know. Do you happen to agree with this worthless POS?

arktikwolf says:

My error, good sir. It was Winifred Wagner, widow of W’a son Siegfried.

oaklandj says:

The Left in Europe is very different from the Left in the US. Curious you have no interest in noticing any differences. Party above truth, right?

Steinman2 says:

Although Germany does not census its minorities unlike the US or Britain, most recent estimates place Jewish residents — including recent influx of Israelis — as high as a quarter of a million. So much about the part part in the article stating that Germany doesn’t have a significant Jewish population…

Habbgun says:

How so? And which would you categorize as better? Certainly so-called Progressivism is an American version of Euro politics.

berlinboy says:

you are wrong in all terms. and i see you did not understand his “apologize” on augstein.

Oh really. This is the ending of his article:

“I have also written about Jakob Augstein that he is ‘the little Streicher next door…, who merely due to late birth missed the chance to build a career in the Reichssicherheitshauptamt… [Gestapo]‘

That was totally amiss. ‘Not helpful’, is what the chancellor would say. Jakob Augstein is neither a small nor a big Streicher, he publishes not the ‘Stürmer’, but the ‘Freitag’, he is responsible for that which he does today, and not for that what he might or might not have done in a previous life.

A chicken coop is no KZ, the Muslims are not the Jews of today. I have always criticized such dramatizations by others. And now I have fallen into the same trap.

For that I apologize. And only for that.”

But please, go on with talking big.

Natan79 says:

That’s 0.3% of its population.


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Germany’s Most Annoying Jew

Satirist and media gadfly Henryk Broder attacks his countrymen’s attitudes toward Israel and Jews