It is also an unusual visit for Charlotte Knobloch. “That’s something to speak at the Bundeswehr University. I hadn’t imagined that either.” Born in Munich, who will be 90 in four months, gives around 50 students a brief insight – from history to the present day of the Jewish community: “The path to modernity is always a path to mainstream society”, she says.
Her father fought in World War I as an emancipated Jewish citizen and returned wounded and decorated. “All his life he was proud of having fought for his fatherland,” says Knobloch. It commemorates the 12,000 German-Jewish soldiers who died in World War I, who were all too often forgotten.
Optimistic for Judaism in Germany
After the Second World War and the mass murder of the Jews, which the young girl survived hiding on a farm in the country, it was very difficult to stay in Germany, “life in the land of the murderers”.
On January 27, 2021, Charlotte Knobloch also spoke in the German Bundestag on Holocaust Remembrance Day
But Knobloch, still President of the Jewish Community in Munich and Upper Bavaria and former President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, is hopeful about the present: “Despite all the challenges, the opportunities for the development of the Jewish community in Germany have never been better than they are today .”
Military Rabbi for Jews in the Bundeswehr
This may also be due to people like Zsolt Balla, the first military rabbi in the Bundeswehr, who speaks after her to the mostly uniformed audience. “Your optimism is a force for the entire Jewish community,” says the native Hungarian, who learned at the age of nine that he and his family were Jews. Almost 20 years ago, Balla came to Germany as a trained engineer and only here decided on a rabbinical education.
Balla was ordained in Munich in 2009 – as the first orthodox rabbi trained in Germany since 1938. He then heads the congregation in Leipzig, which now has 1,200 members. The son of a former artillery commander in the Hungarian People’s Army is currently doing groundwork for other rabbis, both orthodox and liberal.
Balla emphasizes that he is not responsible for combating anti-Semitism or political education in the troops, but for pastoral care for the 300 Jews in the troops, according to the Defense Ministry. But shouldn’t German Jews join the Israeli army instead of the Bundeswehr?
What to do against anti-Semitism in the Bundeswehr?
Knobloch reports that three of her grandchildren served in the army in Israel. Balla is more reserved: “As a Jewish community and as military rabbis, we are not a branch of Israel.” He would like to advise his eldest son to join the army in a few years. “And that as an orthodox Jew he will have a good time there.”
But the cases of anti-Semitism have also recently increased in the Bundeswehr. “There are black sheep in all areas,” says Charlotte Knobloch, but one shouldn’t generalize. Jews in the Bundeswehr could make their own contribution against anti-Semitism in the Bundeswehr through persuasion. “If that doesn’t work, they should be removed from the Bundeswehr.”