The Third Generation, Part 1: Young Israel’s New Love Affair with Germany

Published on Spiegel Online International, by Juliane von Mittelstaedt, April 20, 2012.

German passports, Berlin DJs and language lessons: After decades of wariness, Israelis have discovered a new love for Germany. For a new generation of confident, young Israelis, the country has become one of their favorites … //

… A New Stance toward Germany:  

Something has changed about the way Israelis and Germans interact, far removed from the endless German debates in which old men wrestle with their ghosts and politicians struggle to perform the mandatory rituals: the obligatory visit to Yad Vashem here, the obligatory visit to Dachau there. For quite some time now, there’s been a new Israeli-Germany reality beyond the routine of shock and dismay — primarily in Israel.

Nearly 70 years after the Holocaust, the last survivors are passing away, and this is changing how younger Israelis view Germany. Relatively free of historical taboos, they are redefining what this country means to them. This new generation no longer finds it odd that a company like Birkenstock promotes its products in Israel with “Made in Germany,” and a short trip to Berlin is the most normal thing in the world. For them, Germany is not just a country like any other — it also happens to be one of their favorites.

It mainly has to do with a feeling, a new Israeli self-assurance vis-à-vis Germany, one characterized by curiosity and a yearning for discovery. Young Israelis no longer insist on constant remembrance but, rather, on the right to be allowed to forget sometimes.

The sheer scale of this transition is perhaps best expressed in figures: Two years ago, one-quarter of all Israelis were rooting for Germany to win the soccer World Cup. In a survey conducted in 2009, 80 percent of all respondents qualified Israeli-German relations as normal, and 55 percent said that anti-Semitism was no worse in Germany than elsewhere in Europe.

City that Never Sleeps

Some 100,000 Israelis now hold German passports, and 15,000 are thought to be living in Berlin. The number of direct flights between the countries increases every year, yet the aircraft are nearly always fully booked. In the large cities, it’s almost impossible to find a young Israeli who hasn’t been to Germany or doesn’t want to go there. They are especially drawn to Berlin. The city from which the Final Solution was once managed now lures Israelis with its cheap rents and the promise of life in an exciting city that never sleeps.

But Berlin is more than just the latest New York. It’s a stage on which they can role play and explore their senses of belonging and identity — a kind of what-if game: What if I had been born in Germany? Who would I be? What would my life be like today? … (full text).

The Third Generation, Part 2: Diving into a Difficult Past:

  • … Re-embracing German Citizenship: An Israeli journalist recently applied for a German passport. It will be his third nationality. Yermi Brenner, 32, is already an Israeli and an American. Soon, he will also be a German, as promised by Article 116, Paragraph 2 of the Basic Law, Germany’s constitution, which states that people whose citizenship was revoked under the Nazis have a right to a German passport, as do their descendents. In the past, he would have been called a traitor. Those who applied for a German passport did so shamefacedly. Now, they tell their friends and are regarded with envy.
  • Since the turn of the millennium, there has been a rapid increase in the number of Israelis holding a German passport. For some, it’s an insurance policy against war and terror; for others, it’s a matter of convenience because it often does away with visa requirements. Still others see it as a belated victory. For Brenner, it’s a matter of having options. And one of these options is being able to live in Germany someday, just as he is now planning to first study in New York …

Comments are closed.