Wednesday, May 03, 2006

R.I.P. PAUL SPIEGEL

Sad news. Hard to do the man justice in one blog post.

Here's two obituaries.

From the second:
Paul Spiegel held one of the most delicate posts in European public life. As president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany his every utterance was liable to touch raw nerves.

In Germany the Holocaust is not history; its aftermath is the stuff and content of everyday politics. All parties represented in the German parliament, the Bundestag, share an unyielding “never again” attitude. But at the slightest whiff of danger, real or perceived, every Central Council president since the late l940s has felt obliged to warn and protest. Spiegel was no exception.

The ever-present Holocaust memory also influences most government policies, internal and external. They range from welfare to education, and embrace tactical and constitutional questions about the most effective way to check the neo-Nazi National Democratic Party. And they extend to the federal Government’s policy towards the state of Israel — because today’s German Jewry still feels insecure, Spiegel has maintained the Central Council’s unwavering support for Israel. As far as the Central Council is concerned, public policies are always combustible and potentially explosive.

Relations with the federal Government were greatly smoothed during his incumbency of more than six years because he had an easy rapport with Gerhard Schröder, who was Chancellor for most of that time. Each understood the other. That is why the Spiegel presidency is likely to go down as the most tranquil in the post-Holocaust history of German-Jewish relations.

His initial task was mountainous because he followed Ignaz Bubis, a man of great charisma and powerful personality, who had dominated the Central Council and at times the German media. By contrast, Spiegel brought to the post personal modesty, warmth and kindness, and a transparent decency.

His achievement is the greater in that the Central Council is a small organisation with a tiny staff and massive tasks. Whatever its formal constitution says, the heavy duties rest in the hands of the president. He is the instant spokesman and decision maker. Spiegel performed his tasks with speed, judgment and never-flagging devotion.
And from the Herald:
Chancellor Angela Merkel mourned an "exemplary democrat" and a passionate supporter of Jewish life in Germany. "He warned, where others remained silent. His engagement for civil courage, for tolerance and mutual respect and against hatred of foreigners and anti-Semitism set standards," Merkel said.

President Horst Koehler described Spiegel as a "German patriot" who helped ensure that "we Germans learn the right lessons from the Nazi crimes".
Hat-tip to Doughnut Boy Andy.

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