Amongst the many eyebrow-raising sights witnessed on the streets of Tel Aviv is the odd (in both senses) one of the Israeli male sporting the German national football shirt.
Indeed, in view of events in Europe between 1933 and 1945, it is considerably more surprising than it would be spotting a Glaswegian walking through his city centre, or a Parisian up the Champs-Elysées, in the Three Lions (neither of which, incidentally, you would see in a Tausendjähriges Reich).
What (if anything) does this tell us about us Israelis and/or Jews in general? That, because we are so desperate to be accepted, we are forgiving even of those who have caused us the greatest torment? That we are used to being, and perhaps even most comfortable as, victim? Or merely that we have an inadequate sense of history and/or lack of respect for our martyrs?
Last Monday marked 50 years to the day that Adolf Eichmann (right) was put on trial in Jerusalem. And the anniversary of that seminal event for the then fledgling State of Israel coincides with the release, both in Germany and Israel, of thousands of newly declassified documents pertaining to the twitching beast.
And while the Israeli material, relating to Eichmann’s capture and trial, shows the lengths to which Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion was willing to go so as not to damage relations with Germany – insisting, for instance, that the prosecution only refer to “Nazi Germany” (and never merely “Germany”) – the German documents, containing details of Eichmann’s postwar existence until capture, cover Germany in even greater shame (if that is possible): Eichmann and thousands of fellow Nazis, far from being hunted down by the postwar German government, were assisted by it. Its Embassy in Buenos Aires even provided passports to his devil spawn, enabling them to visit the Vaterland. And God only knows what further embarrassment (if Germans get embarrassed by such things) awaits in the thousands of documents still to be disclosed.
So whilst I am no Germanophobe – my infantile rendition of Hatikva on the table of a Munich beer hall (as fellow Leeds fans, in the city for a Champions League game [i.e., before we were shit], attempted to wrestle me down) was emotion- and alcohol-fuelled – we should, as Jews, surely think twice before wearing symbols of German-ness.
For major international football tournaments – with the Blue and White, needless to say, not having qualified – the Netherlands invariably becomes most Israelis’ nivcheret (national team) of choice. Indeed, one building, in the fashionable Neve Tzedek neighbourhood of Tel Aviv, was completely draped in orange for last summer’s World Cup.
This is a consequence of the myth prevalent amongst Israelis – apparently as ignorant of history as they are of the “beautiful game” – that the Dutch, during the Holocaust, were entirely benign to ‘their’ Jews. The truth is, of course, rather different, with Dutch collaboration having prompted Eichmann to remark: “The transports run so smoothly that it is a pleasure to see.” (source)
During one World Cup game involving Holland, watched in a pub on Allenby, I had to be stopped from giving a particularly loud, Dutch-supporting Israeli, who looked like he was auditioning for the Tango ad, a good Tango slapping.
Whilst Israelis may be blissfully ignorant about the Dutch, however, they cannot be about the Germans. So why the shirts?
Thinking about it, I have never seen a Diaspora Jew in a German shirt. Perhaps this phenomenon, therefore, is a uniquely Israeli one, and just another example of the lack of appropriateness and/or sense of Jewish (cf. Israeli) history only too evident amongst the natives.
On the other hand, don’t most of us Jews still harbour a perverse fascination with Germany and Germans? I certainly believe that my stint as an educator at Yad Vashem was about more than “Never forget.” And, quite apart from Käthe and Daniela (separately unfortunately) being the very antithesis of the Jewish girls with whom I had become so tiredly familiar, I am sure that there was some attraction to my ‘persecutors’ going on.
Indeed, primarily at play, I believe, in the ever-fraught relationship between Jews, Germany and Germans is what Joseph Conrad (in Heart of Darkness) terms the “fascination of the abomination”: the continuing human attempt to explain, and to comprehend, inexplicable, mesmerizing evil (which in relation to the Holocaust, incidentally, I do believe was uniquely German, and not merely Nazi German . . . though that is for another post).
And, again, I have never been a proponent of continually bringing up the War (here is another, related, John Cleese gem), or even of not buying German. My family (like most Anglo-Jewish ones, I suspect) displayed a most convenient approach to the postwar Jewish ‘boycott’ of all things German: they avoided all but the most essential of items – a rider that enabled them to purchase any German brand infinitely superior to a competing non-German one, i.e., most makes of car, and nearly all kitchen, home entertainment, and other electrical appliances!
Call it selective morality (even hypocrisy), but for a Jew to don a German football shirt is going much further than cooking one’s cholent in an AEG, picking up the kids in a Golf, or even enjoying a Käthe or Daniela: it is sporting the coat of arms of a nation that attempted to (and very nearly succeeded in) destroying our entire People; and I, for one, would not be seen dead in one. Though if someone offered me a free Mercedes . . .
Which conveniently enables me to finish off this post, my 150th to melchett mike, on a related note (though one completely unrelated to – and certainly more cheerful and humorous than – Germans): Woody Allen’s 1960s Vodka Ad standup routine . . .
Having been asked to be that particular year’s Vodka Man, Woody refuses. “I’m an artist, I do not do commercials. I don’t pander. I don’t drink vodka. And if I did, I wouldn’t drink your product.”
“Too bad,” says the voice on the other end of the phone, “it pays fifty thousand dollars.”
“Hold on,” interjects Woody, “I’ll put Mr. Allen on the phone.”
Wishing all readers of melchett mike a kosher . . . or, at the very least, free Passover!