Just preceding the penultimate resurrection of the Roman Empire, many Jews had the foresight to see the handwriting on the wall and flee, some to Israel and others to points beyond. As the final resurrection of the Holy Roman Empire is coming to fruition, the Jews of Germany are asking once again whether it is a good idea to continue to live there.
This culmination of the a German-led united Europe will not only be worse than before for the Jews there and those in their homeland, but also for the descendants of Israel, the United Kingdom and United States (among others).
Eighty years ago, Jael Botsch-Fitterling’s parents decided something was very wrong in Germany, the nation they called home. Chancellor Adolf Hitler had just named himself fuhrer, and anti-Semitism was becoming national law. Her parents and other relatives packed up and fled.
Because of that move, six years later she was born in Jerusalem in what was then Palestine. When she was 7, the land beneath her feet became Israel, making her one of the original Jews in a new Jewish homeland. All because her parents had sensed in time that Germany was becoming very dangerous for Jews.
Then, in the 1950s, they trusted their instincts again and returned to Germany. Botsch-Fitterling has never left.
But today, in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo terror attacks in Paris, she’s been thinking about that first decision to leave – thinking about it quite a bit, in fact.
The Charlie Hebdo attacks ended in a bloodbath inside a Jewish market in Paris with four Jewish men slaughtered. And there’d been other attacks: In 2012, a so-called “lone wolf” killed three students and a teacher at a Jewish school in Toulouse, France; last May, an attacker with links to the Islamic State killed four people at the entrance to the Jewish Museum in Brussels.
Botsch-Fitterling finds the pattern deeply distressing.
“I love my life in Berlin,” she said. “I love my home, and my children and grandchildren are here. But we can’t escape history. I just wonder, as I look around Europe today, about those who stayed until it was too late the last time.”
Already, more and more Jews appear to be fleeing France. Studies indicate that out of a total population of about 400,000, more than 10,000 Jews left France in 2014; 7,000 of those to move to Israel.
“I am thinking about it again,” she said, surrounded by the books she loves, above the crowded street she loves, in the apartment she loves. “But is it even possible for a Jew to live in Berlin, or in Europe today, without thinking about leaving?”