Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Germany and Israel Welcoming Refugees( In Contrast to the Arab World)

My first German teacher was from the Sudetenland. The Sudetenland became famous when the Nazis with the blessing of British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain annexed it in 1938.

Europe was never divided into neat ethnic divisions. In Russia, Romania, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and other countries in Europe were large German minorities that had been a part of the local landscape and social order for centuries. When there was a monarchy, loyalty to the crown could transcend ethnic divisions. When republics were founded upon an ethnic basis, the German minorities across Europe found themselves in an uncomfortable position. There were indeed genuine grievances. Demonstrations of ethnic Germans were violently dispersed in Czechoslovakia before the annexation.

At the end of World War Two, about 2.5 million ethnic Germans were expelled from Czechoslovakia. In country after country, it was decided to preempt any difficulties that a German minority might cause in the future. The expulsions were neither gentlemanly nor bloodless. There were murders, rapes and starvation en route.

What was Germany's response? Germany instituted a Law of Return according to which even someone with a single German grandparent could return to Germany and take up citizenship. Fifteen million ethnic Germans were expelled from their homes outside Germany's borders. Germany took them in when it was in the midst of post war reconstruction from Poland, the USSR, Hungary, Romania and any place in which Germans were in danger.

There are no refugee camps for expellees today. The refugees of sixty years ago may have an oral tradition passed through families but they are fully integrated into German society.

Israel has done the same thing with Jewish refugees. It is in the Arab countries that the Jews were most singularly unwelcome. In Iraq, Syria and Egypt were pogroms, expulsions and confiscations. Israel was established to make a home for Jews who had no claims on citizenship elsewhere. Like Germany, it took in its nationals from abroad. Unlike Germany, it is reviled as an outlaw state. Despite having a rainbow of languages and skin tones within its Jewish population it is condemned as racist.

We are still hearing about Arabs who fled what is now Israel sixty years ago along with their descendants. They remain in camps long after the Jews who were expelled from Arab countries have been integrated into Israeli society.

The refugee camps are sorry looking places. They should be replaced with permanent housing, just like the Germans did for their fellow Germans and the Israelis did for their fellow Jews. They should be given citizenship and homes in the Arab countries that they have lived in for three generations. It has been over sixty years that those who fled Israel have been kept apart by law from fellow Arabs among whom they reside. Enough is enough. If the Arab world wants someone to blame, they should blame themselves

Peter Maffay is a German singer born to an ethnic German family in Romania in 1949.

Alexandra is an ethnic German from Lithuania born in 1942. Her music was popular in Germany in the 1960's.

Alexandra, an ethnic German singer from Lithuania

Peter Maffay, a popular German singer born in 1949, originally of Romania

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