October 3, 1990, was an historic day for Germans. As the former communist state of East Germany and the democratic republic of West, Germany joined again after almost 50 years of division, Germans all over the world celebrated the reuniting of their country. Yet, paradoxically, four years after Germany's rebirth as one nation, the gulf inside the country between Germans and those viewed as "foreign" or non-German is wider than at any time since World War II. Resurgent nationalism has brought a wave of attacks on, religious and racial minorities. Once again, jews are among the victims. In March of this year, a Jewish synagogue was firebombed with neofascist extremists suspected as culprits - the first such attack on a synagogue since the war. An isolated incident? Hardly In the year of unification, incidents of extremist violence totalled 375. The following vear, they more than tripled to 1275.
In 1992, they totalled 2,285. Members of minority religions and ethnic groups have been targets of beatings, burnings and even murder.
Germany's recent president, Richard von Weizsaecker, warns of the national reversion to fascism, with anti-Semitism again rearing its ugly head. In May, Weizsaecker told the New York Times that when he spoke about the Holocaust nine years ago, "I got many letters then asking me what right I had to say that many Jews had died. Today, I am still getting the same kind of questions, but now they sign their names and give their addresses. Nine years ago, they were anonymous."
Those who look to the German govemment for solutions will find, none.
Although media blame shaven-headed, neo-Nazi youth for the discriminatory acts against non-Germans and minorities, the govemment is as guilty. In Germany today, you cannot join a political party if the government disagrees with your religious beliefs. In December 1991, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), Germany's governing party, did what would be unthinkable in any other, democracy. At its annual party convention in Dresden it resolved that membership in the Church of Scientology was incompatible with membership in the CDU party. And it banned all Scientologists from the party. Chancellor Helmut Kohl, in his capacity as the national leader of the CDU party, personally voted for this prohibition. By doing so, he violated the religious freedom guarantees embodied in the German constitution - a constitution written for Germany after the war to protect the rights of minorities. Anyone wanting to join the CDU has to sign an official form stating that he is not a member of the Church of Scientology - a recognized, tax-exempt American religion.
Intolerance and hatred characterize the treatment of "foreigners" and and minorities by the German authorities. In an incident reported by Amnesty International a 32- year old Iranian who was traveling on a bus was violently assaulted by the driver. When the police arrived, instead of arresting his assailant, they pulled the Iranian roughly from the bus and threw him into a van with such force that his head banged against its side. He Was driven to a police station and interrogated by several officers, who, thinking he was Jewish, hurled racial insults at him. When they found out he was Iranian, they ridiculed and abused the Islamic religion. When he tried to complain about his ill-treatment, one of the officers struck him several times in the face. A medical examination later found that his vision had been damaged by these attacks, yet he was accused by the German police of "resisting state authority." Recently a mob of rightists and hooligans attacked a group of five black Africans and destroyed a local restaurant owned by Turks. Of 50 rioters arrested in broad daylight, the police released 49 immediately. However, they detained a Turkish waiter who had stabbed a rioter in defense of the African men. In the 1930s, Nazis stormed through the streets of German cities, terrorizing and killing Jews and members of religious minorities. Although news of these events reached the outside world, nothing was done. Today, we would be wise not to ignore the early waming signs from a country which has twice this century brought the world to war, and whose govemment is today attempting to rewrite history with an exhibition at Columbia University puffing up so-called German resistance to the Nazis - a spectacle that, according to the Chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary, is intended solely to polish Germany's intemational prestige. You can make your voice heard. Experience, has shown that German politicians, while ignoring protests from minorities in their own country, will listen to the voice of world opinion - especially American opinion.
Write to -Chancellor Helmut Kohl. Urge him to take strong and effective steps tostop.hatred and discrimination against religious and ethnic minorities in Germany.
Dr. Helmut Kohl Federal Chancellor Adenauerallee 139-141 53113, Bonn Germany
Send copies of your letter to:
John Shattuck Assistant Secretary of State Department of State, 2201 C Street, NW Washington, D.C. 20520
President Bill Clinton The White -House 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C. 20500
Dr. Klaus Kinkel Federal Minister of Foreign Affairs, Adenauerallee 99-103 53113 Bonn Germany
Mr. George Rupp President Columbia University, New York, N.Y. 10027 Dr.
John Gerard Ruggie Dean School of International and Public Affairs Columbia University, New York, N.Y. 10027