Netanyahu Praises Former German Leader Helmut Kohl Following

Netanyahu Praises Former German Leader Helmut Kohl Following

Postby admin » Sun Apr 08, 2018 10:10 pm

Netanyahu Praises Former German Leader Helmut Kohl Following News of Death: In a statement, Netanyahu praised Kohl's "commitment to Israel's security" during his tenure as chancellor, and expressed appreciation for his "empathy" towards the Jewish state.
Jerusalem Post
by Tamara Zieve, Reuters
June 16, 2017 21:55

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Former German chancellor Helmut Kohl . (photo credit: REUTERS)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent condolences to the German people and the family of former chancellor Helmut Kohl after learning of the leader’s death on Friday.

Kohl, the architect of Germany’s 1990 reunification and mentor to Angela Merkel, died at age 87, his Christian Democratic Union party said on Friday.

The mass-selling newspaper Bild reported that Kohl died on Friday morning in his home in Ludwigshafen, in western Germany, with his second wife, Maike Kohl-Richter, at his side.

In a statement, Netanyahu praised Kohl’s “commitment to Israel’s security” during his tenure as chancellor, and expressed appreciation for his “empathy” for the Jewish state.

“His sympathy for Israel and Zionism is reflected in my many meetings with him,” Netanyahu continued, “and his position was always firmly in favor of Israel, which has been steadily present in Europe and in other international forums.”

Germany’s longest-serving post-war chancellor, from 1982 to 1998, Kohl was a driving force behind the introduction of the euro currency, convincing skeptical Germans to give up the Deutsche mark, a cherished symbol of the “economic miracle” of the 1950s and 1960s.

An imposing figure who formed a close relationship with Socialist French President François Mitterrand in pushing for closer European integration, Kohl, a conservative, had been frail and used a wheelchair since suffering a bad fall in 2008.

By committing to anchor Germany within Europe under a common currency, he overcame resistance to reunification from Mitterrand, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and Margaret Thatcher, the British prime minister who feared the return of a powerful, united Germany.

Merkel, Germany’s incumbent chancellor who grew up in Communist East Germany before being appointed by Kohl to her first ministerial post, said he “changed my own life path decisively” by reuniting Germany.

“When a new spirit began to stir in Eastern Europe in the 1980s, when, starting in Poland freedom was seized, when brave people in Leipzig, East Berlin and elsewhere in East Germany began a peaceful revolution, then Helmut Kohl was the right man at the right time,” said Merkel, who was wearing black.

“He stood fast to the dream and aim of a united Germany even as others hesitated,” she said in a televised statement from Rome.

Gerhard Schroeder, Kohl’s successor as chancellor, called him a “great patriot and European...

The unification of our country and our continent will be linked to his name for all time.”

Charlotte Knobloch, president of the Jewish Community of Munich and Upper Bavaria, also expressed deep sorrow and sadness over Kohl’s death.

She mentioned two historical developments which said would “forever remain connected to his name:” German unity and the strengthening of European unification.

“Both would not have been achievable without his extraordinary ability to establish good relations with people like Mikhail Gorbachev,” she said in a statement.

Knobloch commended Kohl’s “tireless commitment to reconciliation and the good, trustworthy and friendly coexistence of the Jewish and non-Jewish people in Germany.”

“The humanitarian pact between then-chancellor Helmut Kohl and then-president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany Heinz Galinski was of paramount importance, as was the admission of Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet Union, where at the end of the 1980s a new wave of antisemitism emerged... and more than 200,000 Jewish immigrants came to the Federal Republic of Germany,” Knobloch continued.

She said this significantly contributed to the strengthening of Germany’s Jewish communities and that it “would not have been conceivable” without Kohl’s “courageous work.”

“Kohl was always a reliable, valuable and groundbreaking partner and a friend of the Jewish community,” she concluded.


Tributes quickly flowed in from around the world.

“The maker of a united Germany and Franco-German friendship: with Helmut Kohl, we lose a great European,” tweeted French President Emmanuel Macron, with an iconic picture of Kohl and Mitterrand holding hands at a memorial to the World War I Battle of Verdun.

British Prime Minister Theresa May paid tribute to “a giant of European history” and “the father of modern Germany.”

US President Donald Trump said Kohl was a friend and ally of the United States. “The world has benefited from his vision and efforts,” Trump said in a statement.

Former president George H.W. Bush said he and his wife Barbara “mourn the loss of a true friend of freedom, and the man I consider one of the greatest leaders in post-war Europe.”

“Working closely with my very good friend to help achieve a peaceful end to the Cold War and the unification of Germany within NATO will remain one of the great joys of my life,” he said in a statement.

“Helmut was a rock.”

The American Jewish Committee recalled the opening of its permanent office in Berlin in 1998, an event celebrated by Kohl.

“Chancellor Kohl will be remembered for many things, including his pivotal role in the rebirth of Jewish life in Germany,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris, who met with Kohl a number of times in Bonn, then Germany’s capital.

AJC also noted that it worked with Kohl to secure his approval for compensation payments to East European Holocaust victims after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

“He was also a cherished friend of the Jewish people and Israel, and frequently spoke about his desire to restore a Jewish presence in his country after the devastation wrought by the Nazi Final Solution,” Harris stated.


The Kremlin said President Vladimir Putin had sent condolences to Germany’s president and to Merkel and cited him as saying Kohl “will be remembered in Russia as a resolute supporter of friendly relations between our countries.”

In Brussels, European flags were lowered to half-staff in tribute.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, who served as Luxembourg’s prime minister while Kohl was in office, tweeted: “Helmut’s death hurts me deeply. My mentor, my friend, the very essence of Europe, he will be greatly, greatly missed.”

Kohl, along with former European Commission chief Jacques Delors and Jean Monnet, founding father of the European project, are the only three people the EU has made Honorary Citizens of Europe, an honor bestowed for extraordinary work to promote European cooperation.
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Re: Netanyahu Praises Former German Leader Helmut Kohl Follo

Postby admin » Sun Apr 08, 2018 10:27 pm

Erasing the Past: Europe's Amnesia About the Holocaust
by Judith Miller
New York Times
November 16, 1986

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MORE THAN 40 YEARS have passed since the end of World War II. Yet despite a widespread desire to suppress the nightmarish memories of the war and the Holocaust that accompanied it, shadowy events from that past continue to haunt Europeans.

Many American commentators assert that recent controversial events - such as Chancellor Helmut Kohl's invitation to President Reagan to visit a German military cemetery at Bitburg and the election of Kurt Waldheim as President of Austria -show that Europeans have buried the past, that they suffer from a kind of collective amnesia. Because Europeans have failed to examine their past fully and honestly, the argument goes, they have not come to grips with the causes of the war and the Holocaust, nor have they learned the lessons of history.

However, a month of interviews in West Germany, Austria and France - the West European countries most deeply affected by the Holocaust and its aftermath - suggests that a more complex and, in some ways, disturbing phenomenon is at work.

The vehemence of recent controversies shows that Europe's apparent amnesia about the war is largely a willed phenomenon. Europeans old enough to remember those years have not forgotten the past, but often remember it all too well, and they deeply resent being reminded of it.

Even more striking is that many Europeans have their own distinct, often suppressed memories which are at odds with those of the victors and those who suffered at the hands of the Third Reich, particularly those who survived Nazi concentration camps.

Decency and custom have prevented these alternative memories from being expressed openly. But scratch the surface, and they are there. The memories are a kind of volcano upon which the new, postwar societies of Europe have been constructed. Western Europe today seems prosperous, self-assured and tranquil enough. But beneath the crust, the lava of memory smolders. Only when a society is forced to confront these memories through a Bitburg commemoration, a Waldheim election, or the trial of accused war criminals such as France's Klaus Barbie, does the bitterness, the hatred, the latent anti-Semitism burst forth with what seems astonishing power and vehemence.

Many West European leaders have have tried to gloss over or to distort the past in order to build more self-confident, self-reliant, patriotic nations. Whether it is the West German notion of ''the year zero,'' the immaculate conception of the postwar German republic, or de Gaulle's promulgation in France of the myth of a large, glorious Resistance to Nazi terror, or Austria's self-perception, sanctioned for political purposes by the Allies, as ''Hitler's first victim,'' official emphasis on self-exonerating memories, on positive myths, has had politically useful effects.

But some intellectuals are now troubled by the long-term consequences of these myths and suppressed, distorted memories. Because those who experienced World War II and those who survived the Holocaust are dying, this group argues, Western Europe is approaching a critical juncture.

''Collective memory is about to become history,'' says Alain Finkielkraut, a French writer. So, he argues, a full and truthful rendering of the past, a confrontation between conflicting sets of collective memories is essential now, before the events of this era and its implications fade. It is now, he says, that the attitudes and conditions that led to the most terrible conflict in human history must be not merely re-examined, but solidified in individual memory, in collective consciousness, and entered faithfully into history. Yet this, by and large, is not being done. Instead, in many European countries, what were once politically repugnant memories are now beginning to find expression. And many intellectuals predict that there will be more such ''surfacings'' as time passes, witnesses die and past events become subject to greater distortion and reinterpretation. (In the United States, interviews are being conducted with hundreds of survivors; box, page 110.) ''The clash of conflicting memories is already well underway,'' says Saul Friedlander, an Israeli historian and survivor of the Holocaust.

PERHAPS NO COUNTRY HAS EXPLORED its recent past as intensively as the Federal Republic of Germany. ''Unlike the Austrians or the French, we were forced to do so,'' says Hans Mommsen, a professor of history at the University of Bochum, near Dusseldorf.

On the surface, Germany seems to have come to grips with its past effectively. ''Public opinion polls show that there is simply no appetite among German youth for a replay of the Nazi years, that there is almost no receptivity towards right-wing extremism,'' says Max Kasse, a political scientist at the University of Mannheim.

As in most of Western Europe, the confrontation with the past in Germany has undergone several stages. In the immediate postwar years, the Allies conducted the Nuremberg war crimes trials and supervised the rewriting of German history textbooks, the drafting of laws and the framing of a new Constitution designed to prevent the emergence of a Fourth Reich.

With the onset of the cold war, growing East-West tensions, and the election of Chancellor Konrad Adenauer in 1949, West Germany and the Allies played down events of the past.

This ''latent'' period of memory was shattered by the student rebellions of the late 1960's. In Germany, and especially in France, the riots were a protest, among other things, of what Mr. Friedlander has called ''the silence of the fathers.'' In Germany, many young people awoke to the horrors of the Holocaust as if for the first time. But the exploration of Germany's Nazi past also gave rise to some of the first instances of what liberal historians call the marginalization and externalization of the Holocaust. Young leftists, outraged by a past they felt had been kept from them, turned on their society and elders. Germany was still ruled by ''fascists,'' they charged. The Americans were committing ''genocide'' against the Vietnamese. Israelis were acting ''like Nazis'' towards Palestinians. Such evil had to be confronted - with violence, if necessary. To resist passively, went the argument of the New Left, was to succumb as Germany had during the war to fascism and authoritarianism.

Jurgen Habermas, a philosopher at the University of Frankfurt who passionately defended the student uprisings, nevertheless denounces this reasoning as ''fascism of the left.'' He and others argue that the New Left's jargon was dangerous in that it denied the specificity of National Socialism and of the Holocaust.


The denial of the specificity of the Holocaust is one of several themes found today in the literature of the so-called revisionists - ultraconservative and ultra-left-wing writers in Western Europe and the United States who have been attempting to rewrite history by challenging the existence of gas chambers and camps, and the extermination by the Nazis of some nine million Europeans, six million of them Jewish.

Revisionist historians are a tiny, intellectually isolated minority. They have no weight anywhere in Europe. But by taking an outrageously extreme positon, they have served to make the arguments of other, more moderate revisionists seem more reasonable.

''There is a new lack of constraints,'' says Mr. Habermas. ''Things are being written, and spoken in official and ordinary conversations, which were morally and politically unacceptable only a decade ago.''

At present, a fierce debate rages in intellectual circles in West Germany over two recent publications that Mr. Habermas and others call revisionist. The controversy began last April with the publication of a slender book, ''Two Kinds of Destruction: The Shattering of the German Reich and the End of European Jewry,'' by Andreas Hillgruber, a historian at Cologne University and a reknowned authority on National Socialism.

In his book, Mr. Hillgruber focuses primarily on the ''catastrophe'' of the fall of the eastern front in Germany during the winter of 1944-45 to the Soviet Army. To this section, the core of the book, he adds a 22-page essay on the Holocaust, almost as an afterthought. Mr. Hillgruber dramatically describes the murders, rapes and other forms of ''barbarian'' behavior of Soviet troops who, he writes, caused two million deaths and the displacement of millions more Germans. The German people, he maintains, should ''identify'' with the valiant German soldiers who defended their countrymen and Germany's eastern territories.

In June, Ernst Nolte, another historian, published an article in the leading Frankfurt newspaper, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, which developed themes he had first discussed in an essay in a book published in London in 1985. Mr. Nolte argues that National Socialism must be seen as a reaction to what he terms the ''Bolshevik actions of annihilation'' in the 1930's in the Soviet Union, and farther back, to the Industrial Revolution.

He also asserts that the history of this period must be re-examined, or ''revised,'' because it was written largely by the victors and hence was transformed into what he terms a ''negative'' and ''state-supporting myth.''

Mr. Nolte argues that Hitler had reason to believe that the Jews wished to ''annihilate'' him. As proof, he cites a ''declaration of war'' proclaimed by Chaim Weizmann in 1939. Mr. Weizmann, a leading Zionist who helped found the state of Israel, had called upon Jews everywhere to fight on the side of England.

''This fact,'' Mr. Nolte claims, ''might justify the consequential thesis that Hitler was allowed to treat the German Jews as prisoners of war and by this means to intern them.''


This was too much for Mr. Habermas. Describing himself as ''outraged to the core,'' he denounced what he termed the ''grossly apologetic tendencies'' of Mr. Hillgruber and Mr. Nolte in an article published in July in the widely read liberal weekly, Die Zeit. Mr. Habermas accused the historians, in effect, of attempting to rewrite history to help fashion a new, patriotic German identity.

Although the debate among intellectuals over Mr. Hillgruber's and Mr. Nolte's views has only recently spilled over into the popular press, more and more revisionist themes are finding expression in the West German mass media.

In the fall of 1984, an ambitious 15-hour series on television by Edgar Reitz entitled ''Heimat,'' drew record audiences. Heimat -an almost untranslatable word that refers to home, native place, homeland - is the saga of the inhabitants of the fictional, tranquil village of Schabbach before and after the war. Its citizens are basically decent folk, who live through the brutal Nazi era without in most cases changing significantly. There are hardly any Nazis in Schabbach.

The subtle, but unmistakable message of ''Heimat,'' observes Hans Mommsen, is that ''this terrible thing, National Socialism, was done to us by a few brutes called the Nazis, a tiny minority who seized power and distorted the peaceful life of ordinary German people.'' Evil occurs in the script, but it is almost incidental.

The writers and directors of such films deny that they are revisionists. They say, rather, that they are exploring their past with the new honesty that time and distance from the events allows.

Some historians, however, are deeply troubled by what they see as the proliferation of such revisionist themes in academic and popular literature, and in films and works of art not just in Germany, but throughout Western Europe. These works, they say, fall into four categories of distortion of fact and history.

Among the most frequent is revisionism through comparison. As one is reminded in Mr. Nolte's work, Stalin arguably killed more people than did Hitler. Or, as the Greens and other leftists in Germany note, the United States dropped atomic bombs on Japan, implying comparable guilt for Nazis and Americans. The Pol Pot regime committed ''genocide'' in Cambodia.

Therefore, it follows, Germany's wrongdoing is not an unprecedented horror, but an unfortunate continuation of a series of historical indications of man's inhumanity to man. The specificity of the Holocaust is buried in comparison.


Another strategy of deflection is describing the periphery instead of the core of fascism. ''Heimat'' is a case in point, Mr. Mommsen and other critics argue. ''By emphasizing the normalcy of daily life under the Third Reich,'' he maintains, ''you tend to lose touch with the essentials of the regime.''

A third strategy is referred to by the Germans as Schlusstrich, or the drawing of a line at the bottom of an account. In historical terms, that means closing the book on the Third Reich.

A fourth device is inversion - that is, portraying perpetrators as victims and victims as witting or unwitting perpetrators of their own misfortune. Mr. Nolte's citation of Weizmann's declaration of war against Hitler is a prime example.

Germany is unusual in Europe in that the intellectual debate over how Germany's past should be perceived is mirrored in its political divisions.

Mr. Habermas's outlook on the past has found political voice in the words and philosophy of Richard von Weizsacker, President of West Germany and a member of the conservative ruling Christian Democratic Union. In a remarkable address before the Bundestag after the Bitburg affair, President von Weizsacker spoke out eloquently against forgetting. ''All of us,'' he said, ''must accept the past. We are all affected by the consequences and liable for it . . . . Whoever refuses to remember the inhumanity is prone to new risks of infection.''

An opposing model of remembrance has found political expression in Chancellor Kohl, whose obsession with what he calls ''normalizing'' the past led him to seek the ill-fated German-American reconciliation at Bitburg.

The basic thrust of Mr. Kohl's position is that the time has come for Schlusstrich. Germany must stop wallowing in guilt, turn the page of history and move on.

His motivation is understandable, for in modern, postwar Germany, the threat to democratic values has indeed come not from the minuscule right, but mainly from young people of the left who have no sense that their democracy is something worth defending.

The result has been what Pierre Hassner, a French political scientist, calls a debilitating leftist ''neutralism,'' that makes these young Germans unwilling to see much difference between the United States and the Soviet Union.


Mr. Hassner and some German experts see this neutralism as a suppressed form of the same nationalist tendencies that mark Germany's right wing.

''The right is seeking to promote its own form of nationalism to counter that of the left,'' Mr. Hassner says. ''But they are doing so by portraying Germany as a nation no better or worse than any other.''

A relatively new element in the German debate about the past has been added by the Reagan Administration's echoing of Mr. Kohl's themes. Anxious about the neutralist tendencies of young leftists, eager to establish a strong, pro-Western, pro-NATO Germany, American officials seem to have decided that this can best be accomplished by nurturing the kind of new, positive German identity and patriotism advocated by Mr. Kohl.

In a speech delivered in May, American Ambassador Richard R. Burt argued that democracy could not have succeeded in postwar Germany had there not been ''a long tradition of German experiences with democracy'' - including the German Hanseatic League; the Constitution written by the Frankfurt Parliament, which he admits was ''stillborn,'' and even the Weimar Republic, which handed over power to Hitler. That republic, Mr. Burt asserted, ''also deserves a better historical verdict than it has been given.''

Such pronouncements have provoked a strong reaction, even among those who agree that young Germans must become more self-confident. They warn that Germany's positive new identity must not be built on a rewriting of history or on a glossing over of the specificity of the horror of the Holocaust or crimes of the Third Reich. It must be built, as President von Weizsacker has urged, on acceptance of the past, on, in effect, a paradox: namely, that Germans should be proud of their political and economic postwar miracle precisely because it has been built on the ashes of National Socialism. Any effort to rewrite history, to deny the past, to gloss over the horror, is building a positive German identity on a myth. And that is dangerous, such critics say.

''Germany is not America,'' observes Mr. Mommsen, the historian. ''This positive new identity that you Americans and Chancellor Kohl want so much to encourage can boomerang dangerously here if you begin rewriting the past, or encourage Germans to do it. Haven't you learned that you can't play around with nationalism in Germany?''

WHEN KURT WALDHEIM, THE FORMER United Nations Secretary General who had lied about his Nazi involvement, was elected President of Austria on June 8
with 53.9 percent of the vote, those outside Austria who had opposed his election comforted themselves by saying that the episode was useful in that it had forced Austrians to confront their own past.

''Waldheim woke them up,'' asserted Israel Singer, secretary general of the World Jewish Congress, an American who led the fight against Mr. Waldheim. This conclusion, however, is not shared by Austrians. Many of the staunchest opponents of Mr. Waldheim's election assert that the protracted furor over his personal background and moral character has made it virtually impossible, in the immediate wake of this bitter contest, to persuade Austrians to examine the past dispassionately.

The debate taking place in Germany may worry some analysts, but it is far less ominous than the silence in Austria.

''The Waldheim affair has undone years and years of our work,'' laments Peter Michael Lingens, editor of Profil, the weekly magazine that disclosed information about Mr. Waldheim's past and was one of only two publications in Austria to oppose his election.

''For years we have tried to make Austrians understand that there were different degrees of guilt in the war and to distinguish between them,'' Mr. Lingens said. ''Those who worked in concentration camps have a different level of guilt from Nazi party members in Austria, or from simple soldiers who fought in a Nazi uniform.

''What the Waldheim affair did was to mix them all up in people's minds. Waldheim's victory was all of Austria's exoneration. So nobody wants to talk about collective responsibility or examine individual guilt anymore.'' Among the newly silenced is Leon Zelman, a Polish Jew who survived three and a half years in the Mauthausen concentration camp southwest of Vienna and settled in the Austrian capital after the war. Mr. Zelman helped found one of the most innovative educational programs about the Holocaust in all of Europe.

Started by the Socialist Minister of Education in 1977, the program sends some 80 concentration camp survivors in the Vienna area into high schools throughout the country to discuss their wartime experiences with students. Mr. Zelman has visited 120 schools.

Usually, he recalled, ''the kids knew almost nothing about the Holocaust, about Austria's role during the war. But at least they had open minds and a genuine sense of shock and outrage about what we told them had happened.''

The atmosphere changed dramatically, however, when he visited a school five months ago during the Waldheim campaign. ''The kids were aggressive and hostile,'' he said. ''For the first time I heard children saying 'you Jews.' They said that Waldheim had only been a soldier, like their grandfathers. He had only done his duty, they said, echoing Waldheim's words.''

''I was so upset I almost had to leave the room,'' Mr. Zelman said. ''I haven't participated in the program since then. And I won't go into any more schools again.''

Some say that the essential background for understanding the Waldheim affair is Austria's profound discomfiture not only with the Nazi era, but with most of its modern history in general.

''It's been a bad history since 1918, since we lost our empire,'' said Gerold Christian, a spokesman for Mr. Waldheim. (Mr. Waldheim declined to be interviewed for this article.) An almost obsessive nostalgia for lost empire is palpable in Vienna. This imperial city, built to rule one of the most powerful empires of Europe, stands today as a gigantic head on a shrunken body. Austria, whose realm in 1900 included a multitude of peoples, lands and languages, is now an Alpine republic of 7.5 million people, fewer than in Belgium.

That Anschluss, absorption by Hitler in a new Germanic empire, should have appealed to people with such a heritage is not suprising, said Oliver Rathkolb, an Austrian specialist on the postwar period.

Another basic feature of Austria's political landscape is anti-Semitism. ''Ours is an old, Christian anti-Semitism, as old as the empire,'' said Ruth Beckermann, a young Austrian film maker and writer who actively opposed Mr. Waldheim's election. ''In Austria, even the Jews are anti-Semitic.''

According to figures from Simon Wiesenthal, Austria's celebrated Nazi hunter, Austria, whose population hovered around 7 million before the war, compared with Germany's roughly 65 million people at the time, supplied 40 percent of the staff at Nazi death camps.

''But Austria never did what the Germans did after the war,'' said Mr. Rathkolb. ''They never accepted historical and moral responsibility for what happened here. Everything was the fault of the Germans, plus a few horrid Austrian Nazis.''

Mr. Rothkolb also blames the Allies, in particular, the Americans, for helping to enshrine Austria as the ''first victim'' of Hitler's aggression through the Moscow Declaration of 1943. Partly due to growing East-West tensions, he says, Austria's de-Nazification program was overly formal, perfunctory, and truncated. People's wartime records were swept under the carpet. History textbooks were not rewritten as they were in Germany. Nor was Austria required to pay reparations to war victims.

Although Austria's 500,000 Nazi party members were not permitted to vote in the 1945 elections, by 1949 Austrian parties were actively vying for their support. When Bruno Kreisky was elected Chancellor in 1970, he brought former Nazis back into Austrian politics. There were four former Nazis in his first government. In the 1970's, he sought to solidify his political hold by building a coalition with the Freedom Party, composed of former Nazis and their sons, whose mission was to protect the ''Germanness'' of Austrian life from Slavic influences. Mr. Kreisky backed as President of the Austrian Parliament Friedrich Peter, the Freedom Party leader who was disclosed to have spent two years with a German unit that killed 10,000 civilians in the Soviet Union.


Mr. Kreisky defends his decisions and argues that Mr. Waldheim's People's Party is far more anti-Semitic than the Socialists. Asked about his cooperation with Austrians with a dubious past, he responded: ''With whom should we have rebuilt the country?''

In keeping with the Allies' exoneration of Austria as Hitler's ''first victim,'' Austrians old enough to remember the war genuinely seem to perceive of themselves as victims of war, first of Germany's Third Reich, and later of the occupying Allies.

Peter Sichrovsky, an Austrian writer who has completed a new book of interviews with children of Nazis in Germany and Austria, says that this perception is common among the postwar generation. ''They remember the hunger, their cities being bombed by Allied planes, the loss of fathers and uncles in the war, and they cannot understand why their suffering is not appreciated, why it doesn't count,'' Mr. Sichrovsky said. ''They don't want to look at how and why the war started.''

Given their historical exoneration and this generation's collective memory of itself as victims, many Austrians were ill-prepared to handle the Waldheim controversy.

They reacted with an aggressive defensiveness born of ignorance or illusions about the past. Others who perceived themselves and their generation as victims were able to articulate publicly what they had been saying in the privacy of their homes for years.

Polls show that young Austrians, the post-postwar generation, voted for Mr. Waldheim in greater numbers than did their elders. But political scientists say that this was not because they are particularly anti-Semitic or xenophobic (opinion polls show that they are less of both than older Austrians). Rather, they simply seemed less interested in the issue of Mr. Waldheim's past and more determined to end the 16-year Socialists' rule.

FRANCE'S HISTORICAL position is unique.

''Unlike Germany or Austria, France was in the camp of both collaborators and victors,'' said Claude Lanzmann, whose 9-1/2-hour film about the Holocaust, ''Shoah,'' has won international acclaim.

The fact that France was both a winner and a loser poses painful paradoxes for the French, who are profoundly attached to their country's rich history. Yet France has yet to decide where it stands on a variety of fundamental historical questions: how the Vichy Government should be viewed, whether France was truly collaborationist during the war, to what extent its deportation of thousands of Jews to concentration camps flowed from circumstances of the war or from the country's own anti-Semitism.

The impending trial of Klaus Barbie, the former Gestapo official accused of killing 4,000 people and deporting 7,500 others to concentration camps, has sharpened debate here over such fundamental issues.

Mr. Barbie was forcibly returned to France from Bolivia in February 1983, to stand trial. But for almost four years, the French judicial system has pondered how and for which crimes he should be tried. The delays have been so systematic, the process so protracted, that many Frenchmen have wondered whether the unstated goal has been to insure that Mr. Barbie, now 73 and in poor health, dies before he can be brought to trial.

Some politicians have long warned that such a trial might sully the reputations of Resistance heros and show that Jean Moulin, leader of the Resistance in France, was betrayed by now-prominent individuals in France.

Now that the trial is expected to begin early next year, even prominent French Jews and non-Jews with impeccable wartime credentials have begun to voice their apprehension. Such trials, 40 years after the events, may no longer be useful ''mechanisms'' of memory, they say. They may not help France come to grips with its past.

The Barbie trial will almost inevitably focus national attention on France's deepest trauma and on questions that most Frenchmen would like to put behind them.

Consider, for example, how Vichy is viewed in France. In a rare interview on this topic in late September, Socialist President Francois Mitterrand, who himself fought with the Resistance, denied that the Vichy regime was a fascist government that collaborated with the Nazis. Rather, he says, it was ''a pathetic power, terribly weak. It was a regime of petit bourgeois, inspired by the views of the past. It was reactionary, sad, mediocre, and finally guilty, but much more because of cowardice than positive will.''

An opposing view of Vichy was presented by Robert O. Paxton, an American historian whose 1972 book, ''Vichy France,'' has influenced the thinking of a new generation of French historians. He argues that Vichy should not (Continued on Page 40) be seen simply as a product of France's defeat in war, as President Mitterrand suggests. It was, he says, a means of exploiting the German presence ''to carry out major changes in the way Frenchmen were governed, schooled, and employed.''

Vichy, he points out, set up its own concentration camp system, and enacted its own laws against Jews without German prodding. In fact, Vichy's first hundred days took place without close, direct German political supervision.

Mr. Paxton notes that the Resistance was initially the most minuscule of movements, dominated by the left after Germany invaded the Soviet Union, and, outside France, by Charles de Gaulle, a conservative nationalist whose total support stood at 35,000 until well into 1942.

The history taught in French schools is, not suprisingly, far closer to President Mitterrand's vision than to Mr. Paxton's. For most of the postwar period, French history of World War II, to the extent that it was taught at all, focused almost entirely on Germany's occupation and what Germany did in France.

''What my generation learned was what the Germans did to us,'' said Bernard-Henri Levy, the writer. ''We were taught that foreign doctrines were implanted here. But in fact, we had our very own fascism, a fascism in the colors of France.''

In 1983, after a decade-long campaign, Serge Klarsfeld, the French Nazi hunter who helped locate Mr. Barbie, succeeded in persuading French educators to change the country's history books, which until the 1980's, for example, continued to present the roundups of Jews as a German operation. ''The books are now impeccable,'' Mr. Klarsfeld said. ''But it was one hell of a battle.'' Pascal Ory, a young French historian, says that the return of Charles de Gaulle began ''the years of occultation,'' the building of the myth, a period in which France's memory was frozen.

De Gaulle had to give France back its honor, to uplift and reunify the nation by burying the differences. De Gaulle's reaction, said Mr. Mitterrand, was the ''reflex'' of a chief of state.

The student revolution of 1968, the publication of Mr. Paxton's book and the 1970 filming of Marcel Ophuls's classic documentary on occupied France, ''The Sorrow and the Pity,'' prompted a re-evaluation of certain myths, or exaggerations, such as the depth and breath of the Resistance.

This generation of the 1970's destroyed the myth that the Resistance was widespread, but it did not attack the sacred notion of the Resistance as noble or glorious. And it is this doctrine of political faith that threatens to be torn asunder by the Barbie trial.

Another threat to the image of the Resistance has emerged. In September, Alexandre de Marenches, the former head of French intelligence, asserted in a book that there were 10 tons of largely unexamined archives from the war in the possession of the French security police, some of which show that putative Resistance fighters had actually been German agents.

Mr. de Marenches argued that the documents should be sealed to prevent the age-old divisions of France from re-emerging and weakening the national fabric.


The French Government announced in September that the documents would be transferred to the Army's historical archives, where (Continued on Page 109) they are to be examined and processed. Since French law, however, requires that documents pertaining to national security and private individuals be sealed for 60 years, the decision effectively means that their contents will not be revealed until virtually all of the individuals mentioned in them are dead.

Will a reckoning with shameful parts of France's war history undermine this country's modern political consensus and resolve?

Pierre Lellouche, deputy director of the French Institute for International Relations, argues that the French are afraid to confront the past precisely because they fear that the consensus could shatter. But because France has not fully examined its past, he argues, the consensus is, in fact, far more fragile than it seems. Just as France crumbled during Vichy, Mr. Lellouche argues, it is liable to crumble again, as it has in the face of what appears to be Syrian-sponsored terrorism, and as it did when America asked its help against Libya.

President Mitterrand disagrees. He is persuaded that the divisions that have plagued, and continue to plague his country, ''have not shaken France's capacity to be a strong nation.''

''I don't know how the French would react if they found themselves today in a situation similar to the one we lived through,'' he said. ''I cannot say. But I hope they will remain fiercely partisan of their independence.''

ISRAEL SINGER, OF THE World Jewish Congress, has a memory, one of his first in America. He remembers 113 candles on his kitchen table in Brooklyn, or as he described it, ''a conflagration of candles.''

His mother had lit them the day she learned that 113 of Mr. Singer's relatives had been shot on the Russian-Polish border while trying to escape from their village.

The image is burned in his memory. It is one of the reasons why Mr. Singer, like so many Jews, cares so deeply about the need to remember. It explains, he says, why he works to insure that the intolerance, hatred and weaknesses that marked the prewar era can never again trigger another Holocaust. Elie Wiesel, the Jewish writer who has just been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, has a nightmare. It is that people will forget; that young people will fail to learn to remember. It is the reason, he says, that he cannot stop writing about the Holocaust.

For Jews, memory is almost a religion. ''Judaism is in part the constant retelling of a story, so memory is part of the essence of Jewish tradition,'' said Mr. Friedlander, the Israeli historian.


Jews seem to be one of the few peoples who have what can legitimately be termed a collective memory. This is not the case for the French, torn to this day in many villages between collaborators and resisters, subliminally haunted by their divisions. It is not true for the Germans, a divided nation whose memories are profoundly separated by the Berlin wall, their families' experiences, age, and political outlook. There is surely no agreed-upon memory in Austria, which for the moment has tried to bury not only memory itself, but even debate about it.

Of course, some degree of forgetting is not only unavoidable, but healthy. ''Total recall leads to madness,'' as Mr. Paxton puts it.

Yet most West Europeans would agree that knowledge of the past is essential if there is to be genuine reconciliation among former enemies in a society, and if future catastrophies are to be avoided.

For Mr. Klarsfeld, the Nazi hunter, there are certain ''mechanisms'' that can be used to jog memories of the painful past. First, there are commemorations. Then there is the writing of history, such as Mr. Paxton's first book on Vichy, which helped shape a new generation of French historians. A third mechanism of memory is, in effect, the presence of older generations who remember painful events firsthand; but this is disappearing.

Mr. Klarsfeld argues that trials and other judicial procedures against those who committed atrocities are also effective aids to memory. But considering the distortions that are likely to emerge from the Barbie trial due to the death of eyewitnesses and time and distance from the events, one can legitimately question - as have Mr. Lanzmann and Simone Veil, a leading French conservative politician and concentration camp survivor - whether such trials are still useful for exploring the past.

There are also what Mr. Klarsfeld calls ''tests of strength'' between conflicting sets of collective memories, such as those posed by the Waldheim election and the Bitburg affair.

Again, however, the effect of such politically charged confrontations is in dispute. There is little doubt that such encounters helped educate younger generations, especially outside of Germany and Austria, about World War II and the Holocaust. It is also true that, thanks to the Waldheim controversy, young Austrians may one day begin debating the past. But at present, it is by no means clear that they now know more about their past, or are better able to deal with it because of the Waldheim debate.

What is taught in schools, read in books and newspapers and seen on film is perhaps far more important to young people. Film, in particular, is enormously effective in stirring interest in the past and in helping young people to comprehend the horror of the genocide during World War II. The testimony of Mr. Zelman and other concentration camp survivors in Austria is now being videotaped so that future Austrians will be able to watch him speak about what he endured long after he is dead.

Such tools are vital to combat the indifference of Europe's young generations, says Marcel Ophuls, who is now completing a documentary on Klaus Barbie. ''Even politically active young people consider Chernobyl more relevant to their future than Waldheim.''

In France, says Bernard-Henri Levy, ''a sense of outrage is missing from daily life. Young people don't get very excited about anti-Semitism, or about anything else for that matter.''

This indifference presents a danger as great as that posed by revisionist historians, nationalist politicians or others who would seek to reinvent Europe's past. The Bitburg, Waldheim and Barbie controversies have been painful for Europeans. But the real risk Europe faces is a time when such events no longer provoke controversy. For, difficult though the debate may be, memory's most ardent enemy is silence.
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Re: Netanyahu Praises Former German Leader Helmut Kohl Follo

Postby admin » Sun Apr 08, 2018 10:28 pm

Iran: Helmut Kohl agrees with Ahmadinejad on Holocaust
Iran Focus
March 6, 2006

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Tehran, Iran, Mar. 06 – Former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl reportedly told Iranian businessmen in Germany that he agreed with statements by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that the Holocaust was a “myth”, the semi-official Jomhouri Islami reported on Monday.

The government-owned daily wrote that at a dinner gala with Iranian hoteliers and entrepreneurs, Kohl said that he “heartily agreed” with Ahmadinejad’s remarks about the Holocaust.

“What Ahmadinejad said about the Holocaust was in our bosoms”, the former German chancellor was quoted as saying. “For years we wanted to say this, but we did not have the courage to speak out”.

Ahmadinejad caused an international furor last year when he publicly declared that the Holocaust was a “myth” and threatened that Israel must be “wiped off the map”.

His comments were supported by senior Iranian officials, including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and former president Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.

The country’s state-run media have systematically defended the position of the Iranian president and given extensive coverage to historians and “experts” who deny the Holocaust took place.
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