Time for Germany to Show its New Character


Interesting piece in this week’s Los Angeles Times about Germany’s trade relationship with Iran.

According to this article, Germany’s industrialists and politicians “regularly advocate business with the Islamic Republic. Germany sold $4.5 billion worth of goods to Iran last year.”

Following World War II, the allies allowed many German businesses, including some which had helped finance the war — extending even to chemical companies like I.G. Farben and Degussa (now known as Evonik) that had provided the gas for the gas chambers¬† — to remain in business (albeit in some cases changing their names, breaking up into smaller companies, and obviously adapting their purposes). While heavy industry (like steel plants that could be used to mount a war effort) were dismantled, allied leaders made the call that allowing these companies to continue to function was practical and some argued ethically justified as consistent with the policy of helping a vanquished enemy to rebuild with contrition and dignity. Whatever else one may believe, in the annals of warfare this policy was remarkably magnanimous towards Germany and her people, especially the business community.

Sixty five years down the line, German industrialists are continuing to do business with Iran at full tilt, despite mounting global awareness that Iran poses a grave threat to mideast stability and peace and a mortal, immediate threat to Israel.¬† German Chancellor Angela Merkel scolds German companies, but has yet to join Germany’s ally, the U.S., in passing or enforcing meaningful sanctions on businesses that deal with the Islamic Republic.

In stark contrast to the passivity of Germany’s government and the ethical bankruptcy of its business community on this issue, a group of mostly young German and Austrian intellectuals and activists has established a grassroots campaign, Stop the Bomb, to stop Iran from attaining nuclear capability. This effort is noble, informed, and stands as a shining example–all too rare on today’s world stage–of young intellectuals with moral courage and clarity. Last fall at Yale University, I was honored to meet one of this organization’s founding members, the lovely and brilliant Ulrike Becker (pictured above), who is studying in the Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Antisemitism, a new graduate program dedicated to understanding and combating global Antisemitism.

These young Germans and Austrians are demonstrating true character. Time for German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Germany as a nation to show their characters – and follow the lead of these young activists in doing the right–and the practical–thing.

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