- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 28, 2003

BERLIN, Jan. 28 (UPI) — It has taken nearly six decades since the Holocaust for the government to accord recognition to Germany's Jews. Now it has made its relationship "official" with some 100,000 Jews living in Germany.

On Monday, the 58th anniversary of the liberation of Nazi death camp at Auschwitz, a historic accord was signed by Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and Paul Spiegel, head of the Central Council of Jews. The council is an umbrella group for Jews in Germany.

The Jewish community was almost completely annihilated during the Nazi period. Before Adolf Hitler came to power, there were some 600,000 Jews in the country but by the end of World War II there were 1,950.

Since then, the Jewish population has grown steadily to become the third-largest in Western Europe. Germany's 83 Jewish communities have some 100,000 members. But three-fourths of them are immigrants, a majority of these from the former Soviet Union.

According to the Central Council, many more immigrants are expected to arrive. Some 20,000 to 30,000 Jews from Eastern Europe are expected in the next couple of years.

Now with the signing of the accord, the government has pledged to maintain Jewish cultural heritage. It will also support the political and social integration of the community.

More significantly, the government will provide some $3.2 million a year as financial support to the council. It will also help with the upkeep of Jewish cemeteries and synagogues, while subsidizing Jewish research centers.

"Remembering the Holocaust is thus bound up with a declaration in favor of a good and secure future for Jews in Germany," Schroeder said.

The Jewish community has welcomed the accord.

"It is a very encouraging development," says Michael Lawton, a part-time rabbi in Berlin. "At least it confirms the commitment of the government to help the Jews overcome the memories of the Holocaust."

Until now, the government provided $1 million to the council, which had to apply for funds every year. Under the new accord, the organization will not have to apply anymore for the increased funding.

The accord may also encourage Jews from other parts of Europe to move to Germany. And to meet the religious needs of the growing community, the council is looking for money to train more rabbis. There are only 30 full-time rabbis in Germany and some Jews, like Lawton, work as part-time rabbis.

The government has similar agreements with the Roman Catholic and Lutheran churches.

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