Germany

Demjanjuk trial opens - and closes

By Toby Axelrod, December 3, 2009

The gathering began at 6am on Monday, outside the Munich District Court: journalists and members of the public, huddling together against the pre-dawn chill.

Ultimately, against expectations, most would be let into courtroom 101/1 to witness the opening day of the Nazi war crimes trial of John Demjanjuk, charged as an accessory to the murder of 29,700 Jews at the Sobibor death camp in Poland in 1943.

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Rare, looted relief finally paid for by Berlin museum

By Leon Symons, December 3, 2009

Israel and Magen David Adom, Israel’s emergency medical service, will benefit from the latest restitution case involving Nazi-looted art.

A 570-year-old alabaster relief of Christ carrying the cross, described as one of the most important medieval portrayals of the Passion, was owned by Harry Fuld of Frankfurt, who made a fortune from telephones and telecommunications equipment.

In 1932 his business, which had passed to his son Harry Jr, was appropriated by the Nazis. In 1936, his art collection met the same fate.

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Iran: West provoked us to approve 10 nuclear plants

By Jessica Elgot, November 30, 2009

Iran’s vice-president has accused the UN and the West of “provoking” Iran into building further uranium enrichment facilities.

Foreign Secretary David Miliband has slammed the move by the Iranian government to approve the construction of 10 new uranium enrichment plants. He said: “This epitomises the fundamental problem that we face with Iran.

“We have stated over and again that we recognise Iran's right to a civilian nuclear programme, but they must restore international confidence in their intentions.

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Demjanjuk: Judgment day for the 'last Nazi'

By Toby Axelrod, November 26, 2009

When John Demjanjuk enters Munich District Court II on November 30, it will be the second time he has stood trial for crimes against humanity, allegedly committed during the Second World War.

Sixteen years ago, Israeli courts released Demjanjuk from a death sentence after evidence showed he probably was not the notorious Treblinka guard “Ivan the Terrible”.

This time, the Ukrainian-born 89-year-old is charged with involvement in the murder of 27,900 Jews in the notorious Sobibor death camp in 1943, as an SS guard trained in the Trawniki camps.

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Germany's Russian revolution

By Toby Axelrod, November 5, 2009

In Germany this autumn, there has been a tremendous build-up to Monday’s 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. A generation has passed since the sound of chisels rang out across that divide, when colourfully dressed youths clambered onto the concrete barrier and set about removing it.

In one generation, the entire landscape of Jewish life in Germany has changed. After the wall collapsed, and then the Soviet Union, thousands of Jews poured into Germany, welcomed by the government and by Jewish institutions. The Jewish community here today is overwhelmingly Russian.

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Israelis positive about Germany

By Nathan Jeffay, September 18, 2009

A new poll indicates that the majority of Israelis have a firmly positive attitude towards Germany and German culture.

In March 2008, some Israeli politicians voiced outrage when German Chancellor Angela Merkel addressed the Knesset in German.

But according to the new research, just published by the Hebrew University, three in five Israeli Jews think that Germany has handled the memory of the Holocaust well.

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Stasi link to Claims Conference lawyer

By Toby Axelrod in Berlin, September 10, 2009

Turn over any stone in the former East Germany and you are likely to find an agent of the Stasi, the former secret service. And the Claims Conference apparently did just that.

Recently, the Claims Conference — whose successor organisation handles compensation for property stolen during the Shoah — learned that an attorney in its employment had once been “an unofficial employee of the Stasi”.

Many former East Germans worked for the Stasi, though some were listed as informants without their knowledge.

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Imprisoned by MI5 for writing a letter home to mum

By Leon Symons, September 10, 2009

Henry Wuga was just 15 when he was interned early in the Second World War for writing a letter to his parents in Germany.

Almost 70 years later, Mr Wuga confirmed his long-held suspicion that it was only a declaration of his innocence by MI5 that got him released from prison.

Mr Wuga, now 85, with two married daughters and four grandsons, told his story as part of the BBC’s The Week We Went to War series, shown this week to commemorate the outbreak of the Second World War.

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Germany, confront your antisemitism

By Benjamin Weinthal, August 27, 2009

The Federal Republic of Germany has named 10 members to its first-ever government commission to combat antisemitism.

The pressing question is whether the commission members will remain stuck in the past and devote their energies to fighting a largely obsolete form of Jew hatred: Nazi-style biological and racial antisemitism? Or will they address the gravest threats to Jews in Germany, which are Muslim antisemitism and that version dressed up as anti-Israel activity?

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Netanyahu to receive Auschwitz plans

By Jessica Elgot, August 26, 2009

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will be presented with the original architectural plans for Auschwitz-Birkenau, to keep at Yad Vashem, during his trip to Germany.

Mr Netanyahu will attend a special ceremony in Berlin where the German newspaper Bild will present the plans to him, along with Yad Vashem chairman Avner Shalev and the director of the Yad Vashem archives, Haim Gertner.

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