Retrospective on the German-Israeli Youth Congress 2015 Has Been Published

The newly released publication The German-Israeli Youth Congress 2015. A Retrospective (click on the title to download) provides the reader with a comprehensive retrospective on the diversity of topics and events at the congress. In an interesting an entertaining way, richly illustrated, it gathers several voices as well as results of workshops, lectures, study trips and discussions of the participating youth, scientists, politicians and professional youth workers.

ConAct and the Israel Youth Exchange Authority are wishing you an enjoyable read!


German-Israeli Youth Congress 2015

The German-Israeli Youth Congress 2015 was the central event of the German Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Germany and Israel. The anniversary also marked 60 years of German-Israeli encounters in youth exchange. The youth congress was realized by ConAct – Coordination Center German-Israeli Youth Exchange in cooperation with the Israel Youth Exchange Authority. It took place from May 8 to 12 in Berlin/Germany and November 16 to 20 in Neve Ilan/Israel.

Hereafter you’ll find a reverse chronological order of the events that took place in May and November 2015.

First group picture! 300 youngsters from Germany and Israel - eager to engage in discussions.

German-Israeli Youth Congress in Neve Ilan Has Come to an End

The second part of our German-Israeli Youth Congress 2015 has come to an end. It’s been a great pleasure spending the last days with you and connecting to our first encounter in May! Thanks for all that have been contributing in one or the other way. Stay curious as we will continue to publish a few more stories and pictures!

Hannah’s Best Friend: Memories of Anne Frank

Hannah Pick-Goslar met Anne Frank in 1933 in the Netherlands, where she had fled with her family from Nazi Germany. They became best friends, but were soon to get separated due to the outbreak of war and the exclusion and persecution of Jews. They met once again for the last time – at Bergen-Belsen. Hannah and her sister survived as the only members of their extended family.

Hannah_PickHannah Pick-Goslar was born to a religious Jewish family in Berlin. Her father, a soldier in World War I, worked for Otto Braun, Prime minister of Prussia (between 1920 and1932). When the Nazis came into power in 1933 the family fled from Nazi Germany to Amsterdam, Netherlands, where in 1940 Hannah’s sister was born. In Amsterdam her first friend and best friend was Anne Frank. They lived in the same neighborhood, went to the same school and spent their afternoons together. As the time passed by the anti-Jewish laws got stricter. When Anne Frank’s sister was about to be sent to a “working camp in the East” the family went into hiding, while Hannah thought they had fled to Switzerland. Hannah and her family were the last ones to be sent away to a transit camp.

Their Paraguayan Passport got them on an exchange list to Palestine, which bought them more time to stay at home. In 1943 Hannah, her sister, father and grandparents were sent to Westerbork, a transit camp in the Netherlands. From Westerbork they were sent to Bergen-Belsen, and not to Auschwitz or Sobibór, like most of the prisoners in the camp due to their foreign passport. In Bergen-Belsen, Hannah’s sister got very sick but thanks to the wife of her fathers’ friend, she recovered. Hannah and her sister were placed in a camp for prisoners with foreign passports. At that camp there was a fence and behind it was the “less privileged” camp. It was not allowed to talk to the prisoners on the other side. One day Hannah learned that Anne Frank, her old friend, was in the other camp and they managed to talk. Hannah tried to help Anne and shared food with her. The following day Hannah and her sister were taken to another camp, but on the way the Russian army attacked the train, and they fled away to a little village nearby until the end of the war. She met Anne’s father after the war in the hospital where she was placed, and learned that Anne did not survive the war. Otto Frank took care of the sisters and helped them to cross the border to Switzerland, where their uncle was living and in 1947 Hannah immigrated to Israel. Hannah and her sister are the only members of the family who survived. Their father and grandmother died in Bergen-Belsen and the grandfather in Westerbork.

An interview is available for further readings on Hannah Pick-Goslars’ life and her recollections of Anne Frank, her best friend: Read more.

Not Taking It for Granted – Speaking off the Record About German-Israeli Relations

Nadav Eyal, an Israeli journalist by profession and experienced foreign correspondent on Europe, takes a closer look at the shifts in mutual perceptions of and perspectives on Germany and Israel respectively – what challenges are both societies and their relations confronted with today?

Nadav Eyal, Journalist, © Ruthe Zuntz

Nadav Eyal, Journalist, © Ruthe Zuntz

The Holocaust left behind generations traumatized with unimaginable pain and loss suffered. It needed courage, visions and the effort of dozens of people for being able to establish mutual relations between Germany and the newly founded State of Israel. Thousands of its inhabitants only saved themselves by fleeing from Germany. The beginning of these relations was that of a refusal of any contact: A stamp in Israeli passports in the 1950s excluded Germany from the list of countries Israelis could travel to, said Nadav Eyal in his lecture at the opening of the 2nd part of the German-Israeli Youth Congress in Israel. Following their development until the present day, one has the impression that a seemingly unbridgeable chasm of open rejection has altered into a stable and diverse connection between several realms of society and beyond the governmental level.

But “we should not take the German-Israeli relations for granted”, Nadav Eyal calls upon the young bilateral mixed audience. An Israeli journalist by profession and experienced foreign correspondent on Europe, Nadav Eyal took a closer look at the shifts in mutual perceptions of and perspectives on each other as well as on challenges which both societies and their relations are confronted with today. According to a recent study of the Bertelsmann Foundation Germans increasingly show an interest in Israel, while Israelis pay less attention to Germany. The quality of the interest in each other diffesr distinctively. The shared history, on which the relations are built upon, are conceived by young Germans more and more as a matter of fact responsibility rather than as an emotional commitment. A rising number of Israelis in general have a positive view of Germany and regard it as one of the strongest European supporters of their state.

It is interesting to consider the opposing and at some points even clashing directions the German and Israeli societies are heading toward, while they are confronted with ascendingly similar challenges like the rise of a “triangle” of extremism, i.e. radical Islam, extremism of the right-wing and the radical left-wing. Israel was founded originally (remember, mostly by refugees and Holocaust survivors who fled the lands of the nowadays close German partners) as a socialist country and was not altered into one. Even ideas and the reality of a progressive society had found their way much earlier to Israel than to Europe. Today one can observe a more progressive shift in German society, while its democratic values are threatened by radicalized parts of the society. Israel on the other hand is undergoing a process towards more traditional and conservative values, which is often regarded as negative.

The societies are obviously growing apart, one may discern a crisis in the relations, which for example the view on and coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in Western Europe does show. It is not covered according to a journalistic credo “all news is local” but rather extensively. Anti-Semitism makes living in Europe communities more and more uncomfortable for Jews, but Germany still takes a different stance on the growing right- and left-wing extremism and populist parties than other European countries. Germans feel insecure as an immediate result of the growing security issues in the last years and are realizing that a complex and complicated situation like in Israel is not that far away from Europe anymore. This results in an increasingly empathic way of referring to Israel. A network of young people from both countries who share goals and interests are a chance for overcoming the crisis and continuing the tightly entwined and grown relationship. They form the base for future relations between the German and Israeli societies and are one of the most important aspects on normalizing the relations.