Democracy at Work | Heinz Skyte

 

Thea and Heinz 2003, copyright Kirklees Community History 

For some time German towns and cities have been inviting groups of former Jewish citizens, who had to emigrate during the Nazi period, back in small groups to what they called 'building bridges'. This involved stays of a week or more, all expenses paid, and tours and entertainment to demonstrate their difference from former generations and to extend the hand of friendship.

My wife and I were thus, in 1992, invited back to my town of birth, Fuerth, which is a city of about 100,000 inhabitants in Northern Bavaria and we were royally received and entertained by the Lord Mayor and citizens.

About two years later as a result of local elections the Lord Mayor and the ruling party were ousted and replaced by the former opposition. They embarked on a programme of expenditure cuts and the first thing they cut were the visits of former Jewish citizens.

This produced a storm of protest, petitions were signed, the local newspaper took up the issue, an account was opened in the local savings bank and donations poured in. Within two weeks some DM14,000 was collected, which represented about half the cost of the visit of the next group, and the new City Council was shamed into restoring the visits, which continued for some years afterwards.