By Aimee Neistat, Haaretz,
February 24, 2012
After spending six months traveling throughout Germany and visiting close to 40 cities, writer Tuvia Tenenbom, has released a book revealing his scathing impressions of the anti-Semitism that continues to exists there today.
"I Sleep in Hitler's Room: An American Jew Visits Germany" documents Tenenbom’s travels, as he interviews locals and discovers that the majority of Germans, knowingly or subconsciously, still harbor anti-Semitic views. In addition, in a land where the legal system imposes mandatory jail sentences for denying the Holocaust, Tenenbom discovers neo-Nazi clubs that deny the Holocaust and advocate the killing of all Jews today.
In a chapter entitled, “From the Entertainment Center of Buchenwald Concentration Camp to a Demonstration Against Israel”, Tenenbom relates a conversation he had with a German actor:
“What we did to the Jews in World War II is horrible, those Jews were very nice and we should have never sent them to Auschwitz. But the Jews today? All of you, to Auschwitz!”
“I smile. I don’t know if that actor meant it as a joke or if he was serious. But I laughed.”
Tenenbom, artistic director of the Jewish Theater of New York and a columnist for Germany’s most influential paper, Die Zeit, was commissioned by German publisher Rowohlt to write the book.
During his travels, Tenenbom discovered what he described as an “amazing obsession with Jews” among Germans, along with the existence of neo-Nazis, who advocate killing Jews “as a remedy to all society's ills.”
“The worst part was this,” Tenenbom told Haaretz, “After months of hearing so many bad things about Jews - thieves by nature, murderers by nature, and liars by habit etcetera - I started feeling bad for myself being Jewish. I felt "dirty," and I wanted so much to be "clean." It was a horrible feeling.”
Tenenbom said he encountered this “obsession” with Jews almost everywhere he went - be it in bookstores, in panel or public discussions, in the media, in cafes and at home. “They knew "everything" the Israelis have done to the Palestinians,” Tenenbom said, “but they knew almost nothing about any other conflict in the world. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one that they “live with,” as if they were personally involved.”
This personal involvement was also reflected in a sense of guilt still apparent among Germans who had no direct link to the Holocaust. Tenenbom writes of a conversation he had with a Born Again Christian living in Dachau:
Jürgen's eyes get wet. He breaks. The confident man that I met only half an hour ago is now a broken man whose parts lay naked in the backyard of his house.
"I look into the mirror and I don't want to see it."
"It's not a nice picture."
Give me a better answer.
"It's going to be me, staring at me from that mirror. And I
don't want to see it!"
Those people are you?
They are you?
It's hard to look at his face now, he looks like a criminal caught red-handed. His wife, Barbara, hugs me tight. Why is she hugging me? She should hug her husband!
"Sorry," she says, "sorry. Sorry for what we did to your people. Sorry."
Currently on sale in the United States and online in its original English version, the book will be made available in German later this year by Suhrkamp publishing company in Berlin.
“My purpose here is not to shame the Germans, nor the Europeans for that matter, but put a mirror to the people,” said Tenenbom. “It is my hope that when they look at this mirror they will realize how far in hate they have gone and will step back and correct their fault.”
Tenenbom expressed concern for the future of the Jewish people, saying the fate of Jews does not lie in Iran or in the constant battles between Israelis and Palestinians. “It lies in the way the world thinks of "the Jew." If it continues to see the Jew through such hateful lens, we'll pay the price dearly - no matter what happens on the Middle East grounds,” said Tenenbom.
Click here to purchase “I Sleep in Hitler's Room: An American Jew Visits Germany” [Paperback].