A Hat for Angela Merkel

This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.

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As Europe digests the latest election, let us tip our hat — pardon, yarmulke — to Axel Springer. He was one of the great newspaper barons of all time. He’s been gone since 1985, alas, but somewhere he must be smiling over the latest from the editors who carry on his legacy. They featured on the front page of Germany’s top-circulation daily, Bild, a blue skullcap that readers can cut out and fold into a yarmulke to wear in solidarity with the country’s Jews.

The gesture was prompted by the warning from Germany’s commissioner on anti-Semitism, Felix Klein. “I cannot advise Jews to wear the kippah everywhere all the time in Germany,” he said. He was concerned about Jews being physically attacked. Claudia Vanoni, an expert quoted by the Agence France-Presse, notes that anti-Semitism has “become louder, more aggressive, and flagrant.” AFP reports that anti-Semitic crimes last year alone soared 20%.

Ms. Vanoni reckons that, as the AFP paraphrases her views, “the arrival in parliament of the far-right AfD, whose leaders openly question Germany’s culture of atonement for World War II atrocities, has also contributed to the change in atmosphere, as has the arrival of more than a million asylum seekers, many from Muslim countries such as Syria, Afghanistan, or Iraq.” Hence Mr. Klein’s warning against the wearing of kippot.

The president of Israel, Reuven Rivlin, promptly put out a statement saying that the commissioner’s warning had “shocked” him “deeply.” The New York Sun shares the sentiment. Mr. Rivlin went on to assert that the “responsibility for the welfare, the freedom, and the right to religious belief of every member of the German Jewish community is in the hands of the government of Germany and its law enforcement agencies.”

“We acknowledge and appreciate the moral position of the government of Germany and its commitment to the Jewish community that lives there,” Mr. Rivlin noted. “But fears about the security of German Jews are a capitulation to anti-Semitism and an admittance that, again, Jews are not safe on German soil.” Added he: “We will never submit, will never lower our gaze, and will never react to anti-Semitism with defeatism.” He said he expects allies to act the same.

That’s the context in which Bild issued what will no doubt be one of its most famous front pages. It called on its readers to wear the yarmulke in solidarity with Germany’s Jews and, on its Web site, included photos of celebrated figures in and out of government wearing the cut-out kippah. Among them are a number of federal and state officials. It’s not a departure for the Axel Springer empire, which is a long-time supporter of Israel and America.

As heartwarming as all this is, it would be shortsighted to make too much of these kinds of gestures. The fact is that Germany under Chancellor Merkel has been disappointing. Germany was up to its diplomatic eyeballs in crafting the articles of appeasement with Iran and has stuck with the pact even after America pulled out. Late last year, Frau Merkel quietly launched a campaign to discourage her European counterparts from moving their Israel embassies to Jerusalem.

What a far cry from the speech Frau Merkel made before the Knesset in 2008, when she spoke of “Germany’s special historical responsibility for Israel’s security,” a responsibility which she referred to as “part of my country’s raison d’être.” She even spoke of how Germany must not flinch on Iran. They were fine words. Could Frau Merkel have simply forgotten such sentiments? Maybe the editors of Bild could send her a copy, along with one of its now-famous yarmulkes.


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