'Focus on the future' - new German Jewish chief

By Toby Axelrod, January 6, 2011

Jews in Germany should focus more on the future than the past, said the newly elected head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Dieter Graumann.

In an interview last week in the Financial Times Deutschland, Mr Graumann said that while it is important to remember the Holocaust, the role of Jews in Germany should not merely be that of a moral compass.

Rather, they should focus on building Jewish identity, interfaith relations, support for Israel and for democracy in Germany, Mr Graumann has said in a series of interviews since his election in November to lead the body that represents about 110,000 affiliated members of Jewish communities nationwide.

Mr Graumann, 60, is the first non-survivor to lead the umbrella organisation. Some had criticised his predecessor, Charlotte Knobloch - who survived the war in hiding - for focusing too much on the Nazi past. But Mr Graumann said that news media were partly to blame for that emphasis.

A top priority for should be strengthening ties between the post-war community and immigrants from the former Soviet Union, Mr Graumann has said. Of the 210,000 Jews in Germany today, about 85 per cent came here from the former Soviet Union since 1990.

Commenting on Germany's MidEast politics, Mr Graumann said Israel was not beyond criticism. But he also said that it was important to understand Israelis' existential fear. "If this fear is removed, Israel will be ready to make major steps," he told the FTD.

Last updated: 1:48pm, January 6 2011