70 Years Later: Jewish Life Thrives in Germany

Rabbi Yitzchak Mendel Wagner, Shliach to Krefeld, Germany, has learned for over a decade on the phone and through Skype with Rabbi Hershel Finmann, Shliach in Detroit, Michigan. A few months ago, Rabbi Finmann, who moderates his own radio talk show, The Jewish Hour, came up with the idea to host a lecture on the topic “Jews in Germany 70 Years after the Shoah.”

Rabbi Finmann contacted philanthropist Allen Zackelmann, who liked the idea.

The Holocaust Memorial Center in Farmington Hills near Detroit seemed the appropriate venue.

The Holocaust Memorial Center, which was largely built with the support of the Zakelmann Family, is much more than a museum. It is an impressive reminder, particularly for young people, of the terrible history of the Shoah. Holocaust survivors themselves take groups through the museum, giving first-hand accounts of their dire past in Europe.

Because many Jews in America cannot imagine Jewish life in Germany after the Holocaust, it was expected that there would be interest in Rabbi Wagner’s lecture. But nobody expected just how much interest there would be. Around 600 people poured into the museum when the doors opened at 7 p.m. Soon the main hall was filled to capacity, making it necessary to arrange a video transmission in adjacent conference rooms.

Rabbi Wagner gave an impressive 90-minute PowerPoint presentation, which used the example of his community in Krefeld to show how Jewish life had evolved from 1765 to 2015.

…how the synagogue burned on the 9th of November 1933 while the fire department plundered the community’s wine cellar instead of putting out the fire.

…how the first Jews returned to Germany after the War.

…and how Jewish life in Germany was saved through the immigration of Jews from the former Soviet Union after 1989.

Many people in the audience could not believe their eyes when they saw a five-meter-high chanukiah being lit in the same square where the synagogue had burned in 1933.

No matter what opinion people might have about Jews living in Germany today, one thing is clear: “Ready or not, the Jews are back.”

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