Relationships between Jews and Germans today

By Miriam Zimmerman

March 24, 2010

What happens when today's Jews andGermans encounter each other face toface? What restraints cripple both partiesin their attempts to communicate? Isthere the proverbial elephant in the roomthat no one engages directly? Perhapsthe different generations handle theawkwardness differently. What rights docontemporary Jews have to invoke thememory of the Holocaust? What rightsdo Germans have to move on?

Conversational German 802,Wednesday nights at College of SanMateo. For the third time in my life, I haveenrolled in German language instruction.Feb. 17, 2010: I am too embarrassed toparticipate in the informal chatting aufDeutsch between the instructor and thestudents prior to each class. My Deutschis not that fluent. Despite my pastimmersion in German classes, I amunable to speak but the most basicsentences. Growing up, all thingsGerman were verboten in my household.

Few of the students attend the courseto fulfill their undergraduate languagerequirement. Most are older adults takingthe class for their own self-improvement.Some are of German descent. On thenight of Feb. 17, they remained indifferentto my suppressed elation. I wanted toshare with my fellow classmates and myprofessor that I was in the BundesrepublikDeutschland twice in one week. But Ilacked the words.

"Wie so?" I can imagine the incredulousProfessor Raney asking. I would respondthat the day before, I accompanied mydaughter Rebecca to obtain herEinburgerungsurkunde, that is, hernaturalization certificate from theGerman consulate in San Francisco. Onemust do so in person; it cannot be mailed.

The next day, wearing my mutze (cap)as a journalist, I returned to interviewConsul General Peter Rothem. Embassiesand consulates are thought to be on thesoil of the country they represent and notin their host country. Thus, on a perhapssymbolic level, I was in Germany twice inone week.

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