Commentary Magazine


Willy Brandt & the Jews

To the Editor:

. . . David Gress, in his four pages on Willy Brandt [“Whatever Happened to Willy Brandt?,” July], devotes not a word, not a line, to Brandt’s attitude to Jewish problems. As president of the Munich Jewish community (Israelitische Kultusgemeinde München), I gratefully recall that Chancellor Brandt gave one million DM (about $250,000) to the rebuilding of our community old-age home when it was partly destroyed in 1970, that he rushed to the memorial service for the victims of the Olympics tragedy in 1972, and that he has repeatedly shown an intense interest in Israel and in a fair solution to Middle East problems. He joined Chancellor Bruno Kreisky of Austria in efforts to persuade Yasir Arafat to accept a sensible compromise.

Brandt is a humanitarian with global influence, the only West German Chancellor after Konrad Adenauer with lasting charisma. All this, COMMENTARY left un-mentioned.

Hans Lamm
Munich, West Germany

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David Gress writes:

It is true that, as Hans Lamm notes, I did not deal with the important question of Willy Brandt’s attitude to Jewish problems. However, as I indicated, Brandt is a man of sincere political convictions and there can be no question of the depth of his feelings on this matter or of the significance of his actions. Still, the subject of my piece was less Brandt’s personal emotions and sympathies than the general perspective and effects of his changing views. And despite all the facts mentioned by Mr. Lamm, one may be allowed to question precisely the effects of Brandt’s ideas, given the broad resurgence of left-wing anti-Semitism masquerading as criticism of Israel among West German intellectuals and political writers (like Rudolf Augstein of Der Spiegel, for example). One may also doubt the wisdom and even the “humanitarian” impulse of those who believe, as Willy Brandt and Bruno Kreisky seem to do, that a settlement in the Middle East acceptable to Israel can be achieved with the help of such as Yasir Arafat.

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