Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Nelson Mandela

I am adding my bit to the Mandela, or Madiba, - as the cognoscenti now seem to refer to him – festival. I did not watch the funeral and I am not really interested in the whole song and dance around it. But I do have two questions.

A partial answer to the first question would have been in the Mandela file that the South African previous regime’s secret service held and doubtlessly destroyed in the last days of Apartheid.

Even more interesting than the stuff in the file is what was too risky to include in the file to begin with, such as thoughts the Apartheid government may have entertained of getting rid of the prisoner they held for 27 years. Was there a plan to kill him? Was it ever discussed? Why did they hold back?

The Apartheid regime may have been so sure of itself that nothing was considered too risky to record. There is unlikely to be a file lying around anywhere but there must be people who know and I expect that if the information is not yet in the public domain, at some point it will be.

Not to be found in the files is the answer to my second question: Where would South Africa be, had there not been Nelson Mandela? 

The Long Shadows of the Past

A very small number of Jews settled in Germany immediately or within a few years after the Holocaust. For their decision to live in Germany, they were ostracised by their Jewish brothers throughout the world. They lived in Germany, hated the country that was still infested with Nazis, and felt guilty for being there. They brought up their children with the notion that their stay in Germany was only temporary.

I spent the last year and a half researching and interviewing the grandchildren of those people: 3rd generation Jews in Germany. I wanted to find out whether for the 3rd generation Germany is finally a homeland? Or do they - like their parents used to proclaim - consider Israel as their homeland? What is the role of Israel in their lives? And what does being Jewish mean to these predominantly secular Jews?

The resultant book, Die Schatten der Vergangenheit sind noch lang: Junge Juden ├╝ber ihr Leben in Deutschland, just got published and had a very successful launch in Berlin three weeks ago. The book launch was followed by six reading events in different German cities. Further reading events have been scheduled for January, March and April of next year.