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The Holocaust survivor leading Munich’s Jews while living under police guard

14 19 36
15.01.2022

MUNICH (JTA) — Walking alongside two young men around this city’s main synagogue, Charlotte Knobloch looks like a Jewish grandmother enjoying a stroll with her grandsons.

Knobloch, the 89-year-old president of the Jewish Community of Munich and upper Bavaria and likely the only Holocaust survivor leading a large Jewish community today, is indeed a grandmother of seven. But the men are not related to her.

They are police officers belonging to a security detail that was assigned to her years ago in connection with threats on Knobloch’s life by neo-Nazis.

One of the best-known Jews living in Germany today, Knobloch’s personal life story is intertwined with the unlikely revival of German Jewry after the Holocaust — and the growing uncertainty about its future.

She spoke about both narratives — the personal and the communal — in her direct and candid style during an interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency on a chilly morning last month outside her office, which was closed to outside visitors due to COVID-19 measures.

“This is the time we are living in,” Knobloch said. “Antisemitism has always existed in Germany and beyond. It just moved to the background after World War II and has reemerged recently, hardened and ugly. That’s why I have police protection.”

Knobloch is also a specific target due to her penchant for speaking out against Germany’s rising far right, including the Alternative for Germany party, or AfD. Created in 2013, it has since doubled its membership to 32,000 and garnered 10% of the vote in the 2021 federal elections.

A attorney’s daughter who served as a one-time deputy in Germany’s Federal Assembly — a special chamber whose members elect the president — Knobloch in 2019 singled out the AfD in a speech during a Holocaust commemoration at the Bavarian State Parliament.

A departure from the unwritten rule against bringing politics into such events — especially by representatives of nonpartisan Jewish communities — her speech prompted the AfD faction to walk out of parliament in protest, in what the Süddeutsche Zeitung daily described as a “scandal.”

The “so-called Alternative for Germany bases its policy on hatred and exclusion,” she said in her speech about the party, which seeks to limit immigration to Germany and has had supporters and leaders who downplayed the Holocaust. Her speech led to a torrent of hate mail and threats on her life.

But the issue runs deeper than any one particular party, Knobloch said.

“Yes, it’s necessary,” she said of the security detail. “When I walk on the street, a lot of people who recognize me greet me or smile. But there are others who look, and you can see what they’re thinking. The concern is that one of them might decide to do more than........

© The Times of Israel


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