For many Israelis in 1965, the tighter relationship with Germany came too soon, just 20 years after the Holocaust, which claimed the lives of around six million Jews.
Thousands took to the streets in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem to protest what they viewed as an attempt to “wash the guilt of the Shoah with money,” recalled historian Rafel Seligmann, who was born in Israel and is publisher of the quarterly Jewish Voice from Germany.
Among the protestors was Reuven Rivlin, the future and today current president of Israel.
Fifty years later, Mr. Rivlin, a genteel vegetarian loved in Israel for his sense of fairness, spent three days in what was once the capital of Adolf Hitler’s Germany to laud one of the world’s most unlikely post-war friendships, a bond between former perpetrator and former victim that has weathered the 1972 terrorist attacks in Munich, Germany’s refusal to let the U.S. resupply the Israelis in the 1973 Yom Kippur War, and rising frustration in modern Germany over the fate of the Palestinians.
“The strong and deep friendship we celebrate this year, between Israel and Germany, was made possible by Germany taking responsibility for the crimes of the past,” Mr. Rivlin said Monday in Berlin on the eve of Tuesday’s 50th anniversary of Israeli-German official relations at a dinner hosted by Joachim Gauck, the German president.
Mr. Rivlin’s comment followed an announcement that Israel had agreed to purchase four German-made submarines to help secure its Mediterranean gas rigs, with heavy financial support from Berlin. The German government, as part of its atonement for the Nazi Holocaust, has often helped pay for the cost of military equipment for Israel in the past.