The peerless Middle East historian Bernard Lewis wrote nearly 30 years ago in his groundbreaking book Semites and Anti-Semites that German guilt after the Holocaust contributed to the positive response to the founding of Israel. However, he warned presciently that “such feelings are a dwindling asset to Israel, and must inevitably die away as the memory of Nazi crimes recedes into the past.”
Lewis’s words carry great urgency for today’s 50th anniversary of diplomatic reconciliation between Germany and Israel. In an email to The Jerusalem Post, Israel’s Ambassador to Germany Yakov Hadas Handelsman said the “young generation will stand in the center of this year’s anniversary.”
Putting aside the scores of articles about young Israeli artists living in Berlin as an implied sign of Jewish forgiveness for the Shoah, there is a growing lack of reciprocity from the German side. According to an October Bertelsmann Foundation study, a majority of Germans in the important 18-29 age group holds a negative view of Israel. In stark contrast to the Bertelsmann finding, a January Konrad Adenauer Foundation study showed 81% of Israelis desire closer relations with Germany.