The Devil Makes them Do It!

A fascinating article appeared on Page 1 of the Wall Street Journal on Nov. 12, 1996, entitled "One Family's Battle For Ancestral Land Poses Hard Questions."

It is a story of a Jewish-American lawyer asserting a claim in German courts to reclaim some 207 acres of land in Berlin, now having a value of about $170 million, that his ancestors sold prior to 1938.

Apparently, the German courts found that the family was coerced into selling one parcel at a distress price, and awarded them that parcel, valued at 4.8 million, but held that they received a fair price for the remaining land and are not entitled to get it back.

The family is appealing in the German courts.

Now it happens that about 1000 people live on the property, including 225 homeowners, most of whom purchased from the government after 1989, and knew nothing of the Jewish family who used to own it, or their possible claims. These owners could be evicted if the Jewish claimants prevail.

Setting aside the Jewish identity of the claimants, this kind of claim will inevitably excite emotions.

So what does the principle claimant, one Peter Sonnenthal, do?

He holds a televised press conference in Berlin and behaves as follows:

Now what could possibly be accomplished by making such a statement other than to provoke conflict?

Was the statement a calculated ploy to provoke anti-semitic outbursts and turn the land claim into a contest about anti- semitism? - A not so subtle effort to exploit German guilt feelings?

Or is it a simple case of instinctive and unrestrained Jewish hostility. - Goy-baiting of the kind based on social class that used to be popular in the cabarets of Berlin prior to 1933?

For Sonnenthal's statement; "Welcome to reunified Germany,. . . "There are Jews again in your backyard," to make any sense at all, he must believe that his presence is irritating and that he can laugh at Germans publicly for their inability to do anything about it.

A strange way of thinking about yourself, no?

But Sonnenthal's statement begs questions that go far beyond instinctive (and I would argue, natural) white-hating.

Why had not Sonnenthal pursued his claim with East Germany earlier?

After all, the Soviet Union, creator of East Germany, went to considerable lengths to criminalize anti-semitism in the Nuremburg war crimes trials after the war. Why didn't East Germany feel compelled to compensate?

Why is it that attempted state confiscation on account of ethnic identity entitles one to compensation, while the universal confiscation of a state that does not believe in private property must be respected?

Is there some weakness or flaw inherent in liberal democracy itself that our enemies instantly recognize makes us vulnerable to extortion and racial attacks such as this?

Kudos to the Wall Street Journal once again for picking up on this little gem!


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