Newsletter "Living Equality" No.3, May 2008

Spenden gegen Rechtsextremismus


Focus on Anti-Semitism, April 2008

This is the 3rd electronic newsletter for the Program "Living Equality“ of the Amadeu Antonio Foundation.



1. Editorial

2. Making Local History Visible
- The Project: Anti-Semitism East and West
- The Teacher Training Series

3. Local Projects
- Salzgitter-Lebenstedt: Local Culture of Memory
- Dessau-Roßlau: The Remains of History
- South Lower Saxony: A Topography of Memory
- Halberstadt: Art to Expand Your Horizons

4. Anti-Semitism in Immigrant Communities





Dear Readers,

This November will mark the 70th anniversary of what we in Germany call the “Pogrom Night of 1938” (more commonly known in “English” as the Kristallnacht). Governmental and cultural institutions as well as numerous civic initiatives will commemorate the night in 1938 when neighbors set fire to synagogues, rampaged through Jewish businesses, vandalized houses where Jews lived, incarcerated their Jewish neighbors. These commemorations are important and they tell of a culture that recognizes the value of bearing witness to the history of the Shoah, of bearing witness to its own criminal past. But these commemorations cannot replace an individual’s own process of coming to terms with this history. In fact, the official cultures of memory instantiated by both the West and the East German governments, each in their distinct way, tended to avoid too direct a confrontation with the past. This is not to deny that grassroots movements eventually made an effort to create an honest language to talk about the Nazi past. But now, when Neonazi candidates are getting elected, when Jewish cemeteries keep being desecrated, when 69 % of poll respondents aged between 18 and 29 say that it is time to leave the Nazi past behind once and for all, then it becomes clear that this society and the individuals that make it up need to continue the process of working through the past.

In its current manifestations anti-Semitism blends historic and contemporary forms of bigotry in particularly intricate ways. That is why the Amadeu Antonio Foundation has created a project to stimulate people to learn about the Nazi history of their own communities, and to reflect on the ways in which that history has been told and remembered since the end of the war. This newsletter will tell you about that new project, “Anti-Semitism in East and West: Making Local History Visible,” and about some of our other activities to confront anti-Semitism and develop a democratic culture for everyone in this country. And don’t forget: this autumn the Foundation will once again organize the nation-wide Action Weeks against Anti-Semitism to encourage discussion and raise awareness about its historic and, perhaps more importantly, its current manifestations.

Thank you for reading,

Anetta Kahane





Manifestations of bigotry say something about the state of a society. In Germany, anti-Semitism in particular seems deeply entrenched and it manifests itself in ever new guises, often relativizing the Shoah, blaming the victims for what happened, or accusing Jews now of profiting from the tragic events. While blatant anti-Semitism is not accepted in German society, there is a widely held notion that Jews are “different” and by implication never were and can never be part of “us,” of “our” society. This assumption of difference is at the core of bigotry, it usually translates into notions of the moral or otherwise inferiority of the other. But ideas about Jews are also reproduced in familial and communal narratives about the past, in Germany particularly the Nazi past, and a family’s or community’s own involvement in that history. Vague ideas about the past, partial truths, unclear expectations about Jews are all part of a confused picture that only recycles and recombines prejudices. The Foundation’s model project to make history visible is one of our strategies to give human form to historic characters from a not so distant past. When these historic characters are victims and perpetrators in one’s own community and not in some far away geographic location, then we can begin to draw lines between the past and the present, begin to understand why some people prefer to avoid the topic, to understand how some versions of history are distorted, and start to rethink some of the knee-jerk reactions to the history of the Holocaust.


As part of the model project, the Foundation is organizing a series of teacher trainings about anti-Semitism, local history, and the cultures of memory in East and West. The trainings for teachers and other educators are carried out in cooperation with the State Authority for Civic Education in Saxony-Anhalt and with the initiative “showing courage for democracy” of the Lower Saxon Association of Young Naturefriends. The first training, on January 24th in Halberstadt, attracted 40 participants who attended a variety of workshops. At the end of the day, participants simply wanted more, more time for the workshops, more such trainings. Andrés Nader, the organizer, and Dagi Knellessen, one of the workshop leaders, noticed that school staff are very uncertain as to how to recognize anti-Semitism. Many seemed to shy away from the issue altogether. This shows just how important it is to engage with the topic thoroughly and in an informed manner that does not intimidate.

The second training, on April 10th at the Bergen-Belsen Memorial Site, presented the Memorial’s new exhibition to over 60 participants. The new exhibition tells in great detail the history of the three camps at the site: the camp for prisoners of war, the concentration camp, and the DP camp after the liberation. During the discussion a teacher from Magdeburg reported that one of her pupils with extreme right-wing tendencies had visited the memorial and returned to encourage the class to visit it, because, as he put it, the exhibit showed that things had not been that bad in the camp, people could get married and have children, for example. Through the training the teacher realized that this student was confusing the DP camp with the concentration camp. That teacher’s class will make an excursion to the Memorial Site soon: in the meantime, she and the other teachers learned that an excursion to such a site needs to be well prepared.

The next teacher training will take place on May 5th in Magdeburg. There, the Cultural Historical Museum will introduce over 70 participants to their new exhibition: “REJECTED-PERSECUTED-MURDERED. Discrimination and Terror during the Nazi Dictatorship in Magdeburg 1933-1945.” The museum is particularly proud of this exhibit, the first since the end of the war to focus on the local victims, perpetrators and events during the Nazi period.

The trainings have attracted an increasing numbers of participants. However, the Amadeu Antonio Foundation is also planning smaller trainings as well to facilitate more self-reflection.




Through this model project the Amadeu Antonio Foundation is establishing a number of local initiatives in Lower Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt that deal with various aspects of the local history of the Holocaust and of the Nazis. These initiatives are trying out new ways to work with and through local history, and looking for ways of making that history visible. When young people get involved, they not only contribute to the processes of confronting the past and responding to bigotry. They also learn how to engage in democratic processes to establish a monument, to initiate a discussion at the communal level, or to present to the public the results of their efforts. The following examples should give you a sense of the kinds of work they are doing.


Maike Weth, a recent history graduate, has developed a local project with different components to attract a variety of young participants. One group of young school students is in the process of writing and shooting a film about the memorials strewn throughout their city, a city that was established to house the labor-force for the Hermann-Göring Works, an armaments factory, and was dotted with forced-labor and concentration camps. Another group will create a radio program about the city’s Nazi history, and will also report on the work of the film group. A third group of young people is in the process of creating a rap song that connects the city’s past and present. The Work Group for City History and the Drütte Concentration Camp and Memorial Center are the local partners for the project and are making their archives, knowledge and facilities available to the local groups.


Another group of young people is investigating the history of a camp for Sinti and Roma in the city of Dessau-Roßlau. The persecution of Sinti and Roma, like the persecution of Jews, has left deep scars in the community and in society in general, but few visible traces remain. Guided by Jana Müller, film-maker and educator, the group will follow the path of the people who were put in a camp near the city, later deported to Magdeburg, Buchenwald and eventually to Auschwitz. For their film, they are also interviewing Sinti and Roma survivors of the camps.


Under the guidance of the Moringen Concentration Camp Memorial Site, the local project in South Lower Saxony aims to identify and bring together the many local initiatives and projects in this mostly rural area in order to create a forum for the exchange of ideas and to provide support for the many agents who often work alone in their communities. The first stage of this topography of memory is completed: a 150-page compendium that traces the local history of the Nazi era lists local initiatives and memorials and identifies contemporary Neonazis active in the area.


The international contemporary art exhibition “Hannah Arendt Thinking Space" will be shown in Halberstadt in Summer 2008. In that context, art students from the Western German town of Braunschweig together with high school students from the Eastern German town of Halberstadt will carry out a local project that focuses on the continuing relevance of Arendt’s political, philosophical and literary work in Halberstadt and for young people there. Jutta Dick from the Moses Mendelssohn Academy in Halberstadt is preparing the high school students for their Summer Project.




An analysis of the contemporary manifestations of anti-Semitism can’t afford to ignore anti-Zionist and Islamist tendencies, as well as anti-Semitism under the guise of criticism of Israel. In Germany, these forms of anti-Semitism often appear in relation to immigrants. But how can these manifestations be talked about without activating racist and anti-Muslim discourses? And what are the options when working against these forms of anti-Semitism?
A working group with the provisional title “Anti-Semitism in Immigrant Communities” has formed under the aegis of the Amadeu Antonio Foundation. The work of the group is based on the recognition that there is anti-Semitism among immigrants and that talking about it is not easy. The group is also working in the context of the project for “Living Equality” and is planning a booklet that will analyze the issue and present a selection of projects dedicated to dealing with it. The booklet is intended to encourage more initiatives and to work against the hesitation to speak about anti-Semitism in Muslim communities in Germany. The members of the working group come from all over Germany, among them representatives from the Kreuzberg Initiative against Anti-Semitism, the State Institute for Teacher Training and School Development, and the Anne Frank Center in Berlin. Claudia Dantschke, a scholar in Islamic Studies, leads the project.



The Project "Living Equality“ is funded through the Ford Foundation, New York, and the Freudenberg Foundation, Weinheim. The model project “Anti-Semitism in East and West: Making Local History Visible” is funded through a grant from the Federal Ministry of Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth under its program “Diversity is good.”

Copyright (c) 2008
Published on: April 30, 2008

Amadeu Antonio Stiftung

info (at)
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Phone:  +49 - (0)30. 240 886 10
Fax:  +49 (0)30. 240 886 22

This edition: Andrés Nader with Stella Hindemith, Anetta Kahane, Timo Reinfrank, and Jan Schwab.



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Tel.:  ++49 (0)30. 240 886 10
Fax:  ++49 (0)30. 240 886 22



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