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World - Middle East

German Jewish leader buried in Israel

August 15, 1999
Web posted at: 7:37 p.m. EDT (2337 GMT)

In this story:

A symbolic act

Facing up to the past


From staff and wire reports

TEL AVIV, Israel (CNN) -- German Jewish leader Ignatz Bubis was buried Sunday not in his hometown of Frankfurt, but in Tel Aviv, where he hoped to escape desecration of his grave by neo-Nazis.

German President Johannes Rau and Israeli President Ezer Weizman led a high-level delegation to pay tribute to Bubis, who died Friday at 72 after a brief illness. About 100,000 Jews make their homes in Germany, 54 years after its surrender to the allies revealed to the world the extent of Adolf Hitler's "final solution" for the country's Jewish population.

Bubis "believed that Jews could live in Germany and he encouraged them to do so," Rau said at Bubis's funeral. He was eulogized as a man who for spoke up not only for Jews but for all minorities in postwar Germany.

"Becoming the voice of German conscience was quite a success for a Jew like Bubis in Germany," said Moshe Zimmerman, of Hebrew University. "He tried ... to be the representative of all underprivileged groups in Germany. And he succeeded in doing it."

A symbolic act

Though Bubis survived the Nazis, he lost most of his close family in the Holocaust. But he resettled in Germany after the war, seeing himself not as an Jewish outsider but as a German Jew who wanted a new, untroubled place for Jews in Germany -- and for Germans to face up to their past.

Bubis's death did not command the attention in Israel that it did in Germany, in part because many Israelis believe the existence of their nation represents victory over Nazism.

Bubis settled back in Germany after the war, saying that "for Germany to be without Jews would be to give Hitler a final victory."

But some view Bubis's final request to be buried in Israel as an admission of the futility of his quest to teach the Jews that they could indeed live in the home of the deadly concentration camps of World War II.

"If you look at the ironies of Jewish history and Zionist history, it is as if you say, 'Well, at the end, Zionism prevailed,'" said Tom Segev, author of "The Seventh Million." "At the hour of truth, he felt Israel is the place to be buried, not Germany."

Zimmerman disagrees.

"This is a symbolic act," he said. "It's a victory for Bubis himself because he tries to give a signal to the Germans -- 'Be careful with those right-wingers,' that they have to be aware of neo-Nazism in Germany."

Facing up to the past

Not long before his death, Ignatz Bubis said he felt he had not been successful convincing his fellow Germans that they have to continue facing up to their dark past.

"Some Jews in Germany are trying to prove that Jews can be Jewish-Germans just like Jews in America are Jewish- Americans," said Segev. "And I think that being buried in Israel is a kind of statement saying. 'I was wrong.'"

Still, the German leaders at Bubis's funeral praised him. Rau said that Bubis's choice to live in Germany for his entire life was proof enough that Jews can live where they were once reviled by government decree.

And Interior Minister Otto Schily called him "a major force in Germany, a person of great courage."

Correspondent Jerrold Kessel and Reuters contributed to this report.


Hebrew University of Jerusalem
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