Magazine article Moment

1965-2015: 50 Years German-Israeli Diplomatic Relations: A Special Commemorative Supplement in Collaboration with the German Embassy

Magazine article Moment

1965-2015: 50 Years German-Israeli Diplomatic Relations: A Special Commemorative Supplement in Collaboration with the German Embassy

Article excerpt


Fifty years ago, Germany and Israel agreed to establish diplomatic relations--an important move that was led by West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer and Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion. The agreement was made on May 12,

1965, marking the start of diplomatic relations that have only grown stronger ever since.

After World War II and the atrocities of the Holocaust, the relationship between Israel and Germany was understandably broken. Israel held a deep mistrust of Germany and political negotiations were met with criticism. After the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, the country's leaders had to decide if, and to what extent, to engage with Germany.

After Chancellor Adenauer took office in 1949, he set out to mend Germany's relationship with Israel, feeling morally obligated to do so in a new democratic Germany. In the Luxembourg Agreement of 1952, West Germany took responsibility for the Jewish lives that were lost in the Holocaust and signed a Reparations Agreement that would compensate Israel for the crimes that had been committed.

Two other events brought Israel and Germany closer in the post-Holocaust years. In 1960, Ben-Gurion and Adenauer, who were both in New York City for other official business, met at the Waldorf Astoria hotel and "hit it off right away," the German Chancellor said, noting that there was excellent "chemistry" between them. The two statesmen discussed the Holocaust and Adenauer agreed to financially support Israel for years to come. One year later, the 1961 trial of Adolf Eichmann, who had coordinated the deportation of Jews from Germany during the Nazi regime, prompted Holocaust survivors to speak up about their experiences--and also changed Israel's and Germany's perceptions of one another.

These events contributed to the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1965, when Germany and Israel exchanged ambassadors for the first time since the war. Although Adenauer and Ben-Gurion were no longer in office at the time the decision was made, the two statesmen remained close, exchanging letters and visiting each other's countries on private trips. In the years that followed, the cabinets of both countries met regularly, German leaders spoke in the Knesset and Israeli leaders visited the German capital.

With diplomatic relations in place, Germany and Israel began to collaborate on multiple fronts, including in business and trade, education and scientific research.

2015 IS A SPECIAL YEAR FOR US, AS GERMANY AND ISRAEL celebrate the start of diplomatic relations 50 years ago--when the federal chancellor at the time, Ludwig Erhard, and Israel's Prime Minister Levi Eschkol agreed to exchange ambassadors.

The photograph of Ambassador Pauls handing over his credentials (seen in lower left on the facing page), vividly shows the tension and solemnity in everyone's faces. Formal intergovernmental relations were being launched in the dreadful shadow of the Shoah, and the momentous decision had, understandably, been very hotly debated in Israel.

The way our relations have grown from those beginnings is something of a miracle. We now enjoy extraordinarily lively and intensive exchanges, not only at the political level, but also in the spheres of business, academia, culture and civil society. Many people have put their hearts, as well as great commitment and courage, into driving that process of reconciliation forward. It is thanks to them that the German-Israeli relationship today is so much more amicable and trusting than the vast majority of people could have thought possible 50 years ago.

German-Israeli relations in the here and now are built on awareness of our past. They also very definitely look ahead to a shared future. That's why they are characterized by close cooperation, particularly in fields that are going to play a crucial part in shaping our lives in the future. …

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