Central Council of Jews in Germany
The Central Council of Jews in Germany (German name: Zentralrat der Juden in Deutschland) is a federation of German Jews organizing many Jewish organisations in Germany. It was founded on July 19, 1950, as a response to the increasing isolation of German Jews by the international Jewish community and increasing interest in Jewish affairs by the (West) German government. Originally based in the Rhenish areas (Düsseldorf and Bonn), it transferred its seat to Berlin after the Reunification of Germany (1990). The Jewish community in Germany has around 100,000 registered members (although far more Jews live in the country without belonging to a synagogue). From its early years, the organization has received strong financial and moral support from the government.
The Zentralrat is the German affiliate of the World Jewish Congress (WJC).
In its early years, its leadership was composed of native German Jews, while most of the Jewish community in Germany was made up of Polish-born Jewish Holocaust survivors who had come to Germany as displaced persons, fleeing from the sporadically anti-zionist communist regime of Poland. Thus, the organization called itself "Central Council of Jews in Germany" rather than "Central Council of German Jews." Over time, the Polish-born Jews or their children acculturated to German society and became leaders of the Jewish community. By the late 1980s, the organization considered changing its name. Since the collapse of the communist regimes of eastern Europe, Germany has experienced a great influx of Russian and other Jews from the former Soviet Union (that collapsed in 1990). Although most of the Jews now living in Germany are recent immigrants, the organization is dominated by the so-called "German" Jews (who themselves are primarily descended from the Eastern European immigrants of the immediate postwar years).
At various times in its history, the organization has faced corruption scandals, most notably under the administration of Werner Nachmann (president 1969 until 1988), involving financial irregularities. After Nachmann's death (January 1988), Heinz Galinski (1912–1992), the chairman of the West Berlin Jewish community for 43 years, assumed the leadership of the Central Council and brought it stability and respectability. Under Ignatz Bubis (1927–1999), the Central Council assumed a much greater profile in German public life, and the Jewish community's leadership felt increasingly confident weighing in on public debates concerning Holocaust memory and German identity.
In more recent years, the division between more observant and more liberal Jews has strained the organization, which remains (or claims to be) the sole representative body of the Jewish community in Germany and which generally supports strict observance. In April 2004, open controversy erupted between the leader of the Central Council, Paul Spiegel (1937–2006), and the leader of the more liberal organisation Union of Progressive Jews in Germany, Jan Mühlstein (born 1949). The latter demanded equal financial support from the government for his organisation.
In 2009, the Central Council criticized the Vatican over its decision to lift the excommunication on the bishops of the Society of Saint Pius X. It later boycotted a ceremony in the Berlin parliament which commemorated victims of the Holocaust, saying its leaders had been treated without the proper respect in previous years.
- 1954–1963: Heinz Galinski
- 1963–1969: Herbert Lewin
- 1969–1988: Werner Nachmann
- 1988–1992: Heinz Galinski
- 1992–1999: Ignatz Bubis
- 2000–2006: Paul Spiegel
- 2006–2010: Charlotte Knobloch
- 2010–2014: Dieter Graumann
- 2014–present: Josef Schuster
- 1950–1973: Hendrik George van Dam
- 1973–1988: Alexander Ginsburg
- 1988–1992: Micha Guttmann
- 2004-2014: Stephan J. Kramer
- Geller, Jay Howard (2005). Jews in Post-Holocaust Germany. New York: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-83353-1.
- Kauders, Anthony D. (2007). Unmögliche Heimat. Eine deutsch-jüdische Geschichte der Bundesrepublik (in German). Munich: Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt. ISBN 3-421-05924-1.