German Catholic bishops upset Jewish leaders

7th March 2007, Comments 0 comments

7 March 2007, Berlin (dpa) - Germany's Jewish community voiced outrage Tuesday at remarks by Catholic bishops who reportedly compared Israeli-built walls and fences in the West Bank with Nazi confinement of Jews to ghettoes. "With friends like them, who needs enemies?" said Dieter Graumann, deputy president of the German Council of Jews, in remarks to appear Wednesday in the newspaper Koelner Stadt-Anzeiger. "Anyone who compares the condition of the Palestinians with the sufferings of the Jews in the ghett

7 March 2007

Berlin (dpa) - Germany's Jewish community voiced outrage Tuesday at remarks by Catholic bishops who reportedly compared Israeli-built walls and fences in the West Bank with Nazi confinement of Jews to ghettoes.

"With friends like them, who needs enemies?" said Dieter Graumann, deputy president of the German Council of Jews, in remarks to appear Wednesday in the newspaper Koelner Stadt-Anzeiger.

"Anyone who compares the condition of the Palestinians with the sufferings of the Jews in the ghettoes under the Nazis has learned nothing from history," he said. "These remarks were anti-Semitic in character."

Most of the outrage was reserved for Gregor Maria Hanke, the bishop of Eichstaett, who had been reported Tuesday in the newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung as telling reporters, "In the morning we saw the photos at Yad Vashem of the bestial Warsaw ghetto, in the evening we were in the ghetto of Ramallah. It gives one the creeps."

The delegation of Catholic bishops had toured Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial in Israel, then saw the concrete border fence Israel has built in the West Bank to stop suicide bombers as well as other barriers.

Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa asked Hanke Tuesday if he had been correctly quoted and he said, "I just wanted to express my personal grief." He said the immediate impression had been shocking to him.

"A comparison between the events of the Holocaust and the contemporary situation in Palestine is not acceptable and was not intended," he told dpa.

Walter Mixa, the bishop of Augsburg, also spoke of Palestinians facing "ghetto-ization with almost racist characteristics," another newspaper, the Frankfurter Rundschau, reported.

Asked by dpa to confirm this, Mixa said he had wished to express his concern about the peace process.

"I also wanted to say that building the wall between Israel and the Palestinian autonomous areas, as well as the many Israeli settlements, amounts to a degree of provocation from the point of view of the Palestinian population."

Israeli Ambassador Shimon Stein said, "Anyone who uses terms like 'Warsaw Ghetto' or 'racism' in reference to Israeli or Palestinian policies has forgotten everything or never learned it and is a moral failure." He said the bishops had done nothing for reconciliation.

The Conference of German Catholic Bishops rejected Stein's remarks, saying Cardinal Karl Lehmann, the conference chairman, had repeatedly endorsed Israel's right to exist and denounced terrorism against its people.

The conference secretary, Hans Langendoerfer, said "a few very personal expressions of shock" by bishops had since been corrected by them in a self-critical fashion.

A spokesman for Cardinal Joachim Meisner, the archbishop of Cologne and former bishop of Berlin when it was split by the Berlin Wall under the communists, confirmed Meisner had said, "I never thought I would see something like this again in my life.

"This wall will also come down, just like the Berlin Wall."

DPA

Subject: German news

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