For the fifth year there was a German Jewish presence at the Steuben Parade; well sort of. The banner and I were there, commemorating the contributions of German Jews to American culture. But once again, the people who signed up to walk with me earlier in the year backed out as we entered September.
I reached out to German Jewish institutions, such as the Leo Baeck Institute or Synagogues with German Jewish descendants. I knew that the institutions could not endorse an event on the Sabbath, but I hoped to find some volunteers, staffers, administrators, or members who would accompany me in the parade.
But to no avail, only Rabbi David Dunn-Bauer of CBST, (who speaks German) was willing to try to come, but he had to officiate at the Sabbath services which ended too late for him to make it to the parade. So once again I walked alone.
In addition to the banner’s cited reason to walk, I want to keep alive the rich culture of German Jewry, not only for the hundreds of years in Germany before and after the Nazi era, but also for those who lived the Washington Heights German-American experience from 1933 until most were gone by 1970.
Through my website at www.infotrue.com, I get numerous children of German Jewish refugees asking about dual citizenship and obtaining a German Passport. I will explain the process and then ask if they would walk with me showing some pride in their German Jewish background. A “Yes” in April, soon becomes a “I’m sorry, but I can’t make it” in September. I guess it is hard for some Jews to walk in a German parade.
While I would never want to obscure the atrocities of what the Nazis did to the Jews, other victims, as well as millions of soldiers during World War II from history, I also do not want to obliterate the participation of German Jews in Germany’s and America’s history. Parts of my family lived in Germany since the 1500’s. If the Nazis never came to power, I would probably be a Bavarian. So why not be proud of those roots, any less than others ancestry. Remember Jews obtained full citizenship in Germany from 1871-1935, while Jews in America were legally being segregated and discriminated against 1896-1964.
Rather than carrying anti-German feelings today, I would suggest condemning horrific ideologies that dehumanize and stigmatize groups of people, promote ethnic cleansing, and create the atmosphere for the general population to go along with such hatreds. This is true in Europe, as well as in Africa, the Middle East and even in America. Remember the KKK were terrorist thugs well before the SA was even started. Yet I am proud of being an American. This year I got hate mail from an American right-winger who feel that no Jew should be allowed to march in the parade, since according to him I had inferior blood lines and couldn’t be considered German. Old hatred never seems to die.
So I will think about participating again next year, and I am seeking your advice as to how to find more children of Washington Heights refugees and other Jewish people of German descent who would want to walk with me as a sign of being proud of our non-Nazi German roots.