Post-Holocaust Reconciliation Workshop

(LK PW and GK PW bilingual)

What does it mean to be a modern Jew and how is it to grow up as a child of survivors? Where can we draw the line between patriotism and intolerance and what path should Germany take concerning its relationship with Israel and the Jewish community?

These were only some of the questions 20 eleventh-grade students of our school were confronted with in the course of the “Post Holocaust Reconciliation Workshop” organized by Mr. Geoffrey Cahn from New York Marsha Stern Talmudical Academy/Yeshiva University High School for Boys. During these three hours we were offered an insight into the Jewish culture, which we as Germans of course have a special relationship with, meaning one that is still mainly influenced or even conditioned by its horrific past. Because even though we have learnt so much about German-Jewish history and still have to come to terms with it, we sometimes lose track of the actual goal of that, namely a relationship that is based on reconciliation and mutual understanding.

Realizing this Mr. Cahn started his collaboration with German schools a few years ago with the intention to evoke inside the students a new conscience for modern Jewry and this on a very personal level of communication: He told us for instance the story of his parents, who were able to escape Germany before it could destroy them as it did to their beloved ones and then started a new life in America with children and a safe home but always “under the dark clouds of the past”. As a child of survivors Mr. Cahn was raised by people who would have had every right to hate Germany forever but still his dad made him develop a fascination for German culture and history, one that he later on turned into his profession and that he also shared with us by reminding us of great Germans who contributed to the world with their brilliant minds, their music, their writing.

Geoffrey Cahn is so concerned with the fragile connection between Jews and Germans today that he approaches our generation to make a change for the future without letting himself and his attitude towards Germany be consumed and shaped by the past. And that made me realize that it might be time to find new ways to cope with our history, ways which acknowledge the unbelievable horrors that happened but which at the same time do not make us turn our faces away in shame and help us to learn to be proud without being arrogant and patriotic, without being intolerant.

Many of us said that they do not even know what it means to be German, that they feel more European and do not define themselves by their nationality (anymore). Of course, that is alright but it is also legitimate to wave a German flag during a soccer world cup match to feel connected and loyal to the country we were born in as long as we do not forget to reflect what we as individuals do, who we listen to, which policies are sensible and which are not and how far we can go with our criticism or opinion without being offending. And most important: to always be open-minded towards cultures that are different from ours. Because if we try to understand instead of judge and if we start looking for similarities instead of differences, we might actually benefit and learn from that or at least broaden our horizon and we definitely did that during Mr. Cahn´s workshop.

Sophia von Bültzingslöwen, Year 11