An American Jewish newspaper with flagging US readership is
finding new life in an unexpected place - Germany.
Aufbau, a German-language New York newspaper created in 1934 to
help Jewish refugees settle into America, had been rapidly losing
its natural constituency as its initial readers age and successive
generations speak German less and less.
The paper, whose name means "reconstruction" - then went online,
and a startling trend began to emerge. Germans from across the ocean
- young, well-educated, and non-Jewish - started reading the paper
more and more. That phenomenon, coupled with the German media's
enthusiastic reception at the unveiling this month of Aufbau's new
Berlin bureau, is being seen as evidence of a new German curiosity
about Jewish life and culture.
German Jews before Hitler
Before Hitler came to power, Germany had a dynamic Jewish
community of nearly 600,000 that made major contributions to German
culture and industry. Observers say the opening of Aufbau's Berlin
bureau - and the recent opening of a Jewish museum in Berlin - are
positive steps toward Germany's return to being a Kulturnation, or a
nation open to various cultures.
One Aufbau staffer describes this trend as part of
Phantomschmerz, a condition in which someone who has lost a limb may
feel a "phantom pain" in that region.
"There's a yearning for this cultural richness that existed
before the war, when Germany was a country you could be more proud
of," says New York deputy editor Andreas Mink, a native of the spa
town of Baden-Baden, who is not Jewish. Before the Aufbau office's
opening, the Berlin bureau chief gave some 20 interviews to major
German publications and television - attention vastly outweighing
the fortnightly paper's small circulation of 2,000 or so in Germany,
and up to 10,000 overall.
Daniela Martin, an Aufbau editor and writer in New York, says the
attention "must be seen in the context of the ongoing debate of
whether there can ever be something like normalized relations
between Germans and Jews in Germany."
The question has grown more relevant over the past decade:
Germany is home to one of the world's fastest-growing Jewish
communities, due to an influx from the former Soviet Union. There
are now some 100,000 Jews, of a total population of 80 million.
Aufbau joins the American Jewish Committee, an advocacy group, and
the historical research-gathering Leo Baeck Institute, in opening
its Berlin offices. …