Thursday, 15 October 2009

A conversation in Germany, 2009.

In Munich, as I lay in a dentist’s chair for some emergency work to a broken tooth, a friendly Moroccan dental nurse in her early thirties asked me why it was that everybody spoke badly about the Jews.

It all started with small talk. She was curious about my good German, considering that I was a visitor from London. I explained that I am a Jew and that my grandparents had left Germany in 1933; that at the time my parents were still children but that German was the language spoken in our house in my childhood. Thus, German was a sort of mother tongue.

She wanted to know why they had left and I mentioned Hitler. ‘Ah’, she said, she did not really know much about him but did he push the Jews out? I did not want to get into this conversation and just said that it was rather more than pushing the Jews out of Germany. Yes, she knew that Hitler had been a really bad guy; perhaps to make me feel better, she added that Hitler was no longer around.

But why, she wanted to know, why do so many people speak badly about the Jews. Especially, she said ‘our people’, that is the Muslims, don’t like the Jews.

How should I have responded?

Her personal experience had been good. In her own version of ‘some of my best friends are Jews’, she told me of the generosity of Jewish acquaintances and repeated the question. She really wanted to understand why it was that so many people hated the Jews.


  1. I can feel your bewilderment. Of course, there is really no way to have that conversation in a dentist's chair, is there?

  2. It's the non-event of the week! Why couldn't you say anything to her? There she was, baffled -
    As I am, a bit -

  3. The conversation with the dentist’s assistant sounds a bit uncanny. To have that little knowledge is, I believe, unusual nowadays. Whereas the other conversation sounds all too familiar. I have no doubt that such talk goes on quite a lot. The distinction when speaking of society’s bad guys seems to be in the one case, the category “bankers” stand accused, even when an Ackermann is singled out. When it is Bubis who is singled out, then it is the Jews.

  4. Eine nachdenklich machende, traurig-schoene Geschichte. Eine Antwort liegt wohl niemand auf der Zunge, dafuer ist diese eigentlich ganz einfache Angelegenheit viel zu kompliziert.

    Jedenfalls danke, dass Du die Grautoene suchst und in Deinen Geschichten beschreibst, damit das Heer der schwarz-weiss Maler nicht noch groesser wird.

  5. Was soll man da antworten?? Wo gar kein Wissen vorhanden ist? Vielleicht nur mit einer Gegenfrage: warum verurteilen so viele Amerikaner alle Muslime? Warum lassen sich Menschen immer wieder von Idiotien und Vorurteilen leiten?? Was hast Du denn gesagt?

  6. Absolutely fascinating blog. Toda