“Tiny gnome, Jewish caricature”

Kirill Petrenko

Kirill Petrenko

Even before it was officially announced that Russian-born Kirill Petrenko was appointed to take over in 2018 from Sir Simon Rattle as conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic, Petrenko’s Jewishness became a hot issue in Germany.

His very candidacy sufficed to bring to the fore supposedly extinct Judeophobic maliciousness. It most likely lurked all along behind the veneered semblance of impeccable decorum.

In her commentary for Northern German Radio [NDR], Sabine Lange described Petrenko in the Wagnerian idiom as “the tiny gnome, the Jewish caricature.”

She contrasted Jewish grotesqueness with “the world-renowned German-sound expertise” of Petrenko’s rival, Christian Thielemann. Echoing yesteryear’s Der Stürmer themes, it was Jewish freakiness versus German worthiness.

Eventually this comment disappeared from the web. NDR later came out with contentions that nothing anti-Semitic could possibly have been read into Lange’s copy. Ultimately though, NDR’s cultural programming director did admit that Lange’s comment should never have passed under the editorial radar.

Apparently harking back to stereotypes of exploitative and lecherous Jews, Die Welt Online resorted to sexual innuendo when it broadly hinted at what “at least one of the female opera singers at this year’s Bayreuth Festival can attest.”

Petrenko has meanwhile announced that he will not grant interviews to the German media in the wake of these anti-Semitic slurs.

The fact remains that no one saw it amiss to write such texts or to feature them. Tentative embarrassment came only in retrospect and that too after a stirring defense of the comments. If anything, this points to an altered reality – what was once taboo in Germany, no longer is.

Already years ago, Shimon Stein,  Israel’s former ambassador to Berlin, discerned “consistent erosion” in how Israel is perceived among the progeny of the Holocaust’s perpetrators. Increasingly, he stressed, “Israel is depicted as diabolically evil,” while German governments increasingly acquiesce to EU censure of Israel.

Memories of made-in-Germany genocide no longer suffice to underwrite a “special relationship” with the state the Jewish remnant established. Stein noted that for some elements in German society “Israel’s existence is hardly self-evident.”

Today’s Germans openly carp about “Jewish extortion” and couple that with what they define as the Jewish state’s imperialistic sins. In numerous public opinion surveys the majority of Germans reject any obligation to Jews – either individually or collectively.

This is so throughout Europe where the vogue, nevertheless, is to deny even latent anti-Jewish sentiments. These denials are made with as much fervor as is spent on pillorying Israel for the villainy that Europe avidly ascribes to the Jewish state.

The notion that Europe hasn’t rid itself of its pernicious ancient hate generates reactions of indignant scorn. The corollary suggestion that European anti-Semitism isn’t only rearing its ugly head again but actually grows by leaps and bounds is altogether met with near-hysterical righteous resentment.

This is nowhere more so than in Germany – smug and intolerant of reminders of its past. Apart from scant obligatory lip-service from its leaders, the German mainstream is “fed up” with Jewish annoyances. From its point of view, the slate is wiped clean and Germans have no cause to be apologetic in any sense.

No one in the German political hierarchy much bothers anymore to remonstrate against pro-Arab demonstrators who shout “Jews to the gas” (as in an Essen rally last summer, replete with Nazi salutes). This is either blamed on Muslims (who presumably are not bound by the same codes as the rest of society) or on ruffians who are painted as the unrepresentative dregs of society.

But those who chose to target Petrenko’s Jewishness come from the urbane cultural elite, from the refined ranks of those who presumably know better. The Petrenko case exposed the nasty dark underside which belies the spic-and-span German façade.

That is particular cause for concern, unsurprising though it is to anyone who follows the changes in German attitudes both to Jews in general and to the Jewish state in particular. The two go together and are indeed inseparable. The perception of Israel is tinged with precisely the same bigotry as evinced toward individual Jews like Petrenko.

14 thoughts on ““Tiny gnome, Jewish caricature”

  1. As always Sarah Honig gets it 100% right.

    That Sabine Lange in her commentary for Northern German Radio [NDR], could have penned, indeed did not in the least bit hesitate, to write, such overtly and odiously anti-Semitic remarks about a renowned individual of the Jewish Faith, tells one all there is to know about present day Germany.

    Imagine if such remarks had been written and appeared in any of the Mainstream Press and/or other types of Media in the US such as the NY Times or ABC News.

    There would have ensued an uproar of outrage nationwide demanding that the author of such ugly comments should be immediately fired from her job and doubtless such a person would become an instant “persona non grata” who would have great difficulty finding any position in Journalism in the future.

    But as soon as Lange’s tasteless, in fact despicable, remarks became widely known, all traces of her comments were made to disappear as if they had never existed and ‘voila’-
    that made everything “all right” again.

    Of course we all know very well, that in Germany no one wants to be reminded of the Holocaust and certainly not be blamed and/or held responsible for the genocidal decisions, actions and crimes which were committed by “another previous generation”.

    But Ms. Lange’s hideous remarks illustrate how little has really changed.

    The thought of Russian-born Kirill Petrenko, a Jew, being appointed to take over in 2018 from Sir Simon Rattle as conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic is likely just as anathema to every “good German” family as learning that their daughter has just announced she has become engaged and plans to marry a Jew. Such an “unthinkable act” was actually illegal during the Middle Ages and of course throughout the entire Holocaust.

    Sarah Honig has covered in depth and with her typical precision, what we should all take away from this distasteful episode which has been brushed under the proverbial rug, at the speed of light. And not because it offended German eyes and ears but simply because it was viewed as an embarrassing “faux pas” .

    Despite all my many decades of attempts to try to come to terms with the Holocaust and try not to blame Germans living today for the “Sins of their Fathers”, it has all been a total failure for me.

    On every single occasion during my life when I was forced to travel to Germany due to occupational reasons which I could not avoid, I experienced the exact same feelings of discomfort from the moment my plane landed until the very moment it departed.

    Indeed I would literally count the days and hours until I had accomplished the purpose of my visit and could board my flight and depart. I know that there are large numbers of Jews who live in Germany and thrive there and enjoy their lives.

    Apparently the extraordinarily gifted Russian-born Kirill Petrenko is one such individual who apparently does not have a problem knowing just how many among the “elite” would much rather have preferred that Petrenko’s rival, ‘CHRISTIAN’ Thielemann, received the new position as conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic.

    Or perhaps, Kirill Petrenko feels it his duty, as was the case with many Jews who returned to Germany after WW II and remain there till this day, to make a statement:

    “You wanted us all dead but we are still here.”

    In a certain sense I readily admit that requires enormous strength and courage of mind.

    But then when I learn of such people as Sabine Lange and consider her most vile anti-Semitic commentary for Northern German Radio [NDR], describing Petrenko in the Wagnerian idiom as “the tiny gnome, the Jewish caricature”, I am once again reminded of why I could no more reside anyplace in Germany than I could at the bottom of the deepest crater on the dark side of the Moon.

  2. The Nazi bitch Sabine Lange is a piece of shit !
    That story has escaped my attention…thanks a LOT for alerting me Sarah !!!!!
    The old AND new German cultural and political and society “elite” has always worshipped that ROTTEN Antisemite Wagner…THAT tells it all.
    Germany is a bad place, it always was.
    I LOVE the fact, that millions of new immigrants will change that garbage heap, once and for all…

  3. It would be rather noble to lower the intensity of the crass language in a couple of the posts. Destroying your own credibility is not the goal. Analyzing and commenting on the issue is much more important in a civilized exchange of ideas. As a Jew, I too have always felt uncomfortable in Germany, in addition to Austria. I’ve spent much time in both countries and found that when people became aware of my Jewishness they immediately became defensive, as though I was going to excoriate them simply for being who they are: the sons, daughters and grandchildren of some of the most vicious barbarians to ever walk the earth.

    Not all Germans and Austrians hate Jews treading on their soil, but enough do to make me aware that we’re still not acceptable to the European ideal of being judenrein.

  4. National Orchestras are funny creatures. They are symbols of the country so you’d naturally think they’d use their native sons as conductors, but they largely don’t. The last two conductors of the Berlin Philharmonic (since 1989) were Abbado (Italian) and Rattle (British). The Israeli Philharmonic has NEVER had a Jewish conductor since Independence(if you ignore the last year of Bernstein’s tenure). I had to wonder why this was. The choice of Petrenko appears to be that of the orchestra’s itself, a democratic action. The Israeli conductors were chosen, it appears, by the musical director, none of which, since Independence, were Jewish: Paul Paray (1949–51),Bernardino Molinari, Jean Martinon (1957–59), Zubin Mehta (1968–). [all of this is from wiki]

    I believe that these Artistes prefer to think of themselves as Citizens of the World (perhaps, Universe) and as such are above mere tribal squabbles. As such they hire conductors pretending it doesn’t matter. While being compared to Alberich (by Sabine Lange) is not flattering [I don’t mind it, personally. After all, Alberich’s curse doomed the Teutonic Gods], I sympathize with her desire that there be a German head of the German Orchestra rather than some Russian Jew. I too wish the Israeli National Orchestra had an Israeli as its head; after all, it’s not that we lack Jewish musicians. Well, that is, someone other than Barenboim. He’s just too much the betrayer for me. Starting with his wife Jacqueline Du Pre who had the decency to convert, then playing Wagner for holocaust survivors, and finally cozying up to the Arabs. He’s now happily with the Axis, Germany and Italy.
    As you can see from the paragraph above, Mr Mehta, a Parsi, has been involved with the Israel Philharmonic for most of his life (47 years) yet he is still not a citizen, or even a resident. He retains his Indian citizenship while being a permanent resident of the United States. He has an illegitimate Jewish child, but I do not consider this a connection since he cannot even communicate with him (Mehta hasn’t learned any Hebrew in that 47 years), even if he wanted to. That this is whom we choose as our Representative is just a measure of our depravity.

    Finally, like others on this thread, I find the Germans odious. At first I tried to like them – like all Jews, on principle I dislike holding people accountable for their father’s sins (yet the sages had a point when they mentioned “unto the tenth generation”, meaning never). Whenever I formed a relationship with one of them, I eventually felt either a submerged underlying hostility, or worse, found myself being subtly humiliated. That was worse because it becomes internalized. I felt somehow “wrong”, “bad”, “cringing for a hit”. We Jews know all manner of mortification. Meanwhile other Jews cannot get enough of the Germans. The Israelis have a sick fascination with them. So much so that in spite of their creepy sexuality, young Israel girls and male homosexuals find them irresistible. They will brag of the conquests of their year abroad. As the commenters who remember my moniker know, I believe the Jews are a destroyed people. Yes, the names survive, but we are dead. We were crushed to death by the Germans and their smirking accomplices, both positive and negative. Our only hope is in raising the next generation in the hope God will resurrect us from another shoot than the one that so recently was extinguished.

  5. @ J’Opinion

    I always look forward to reading any comments posted here by you just as I look forward to reading the amazing essays penned by Ms. Honig herself.

    You are both so totally informed regarding the complexities of history including history’s often puzzling contradictions, hideous betrayals and especially its agonizingly painful ugliness.

    It is the latter that you have commented upon on more than one occasion- in particular the manner and sense in which the Jewish people were so completely “crushed” by the Holocaust in every possible way, physically and psychologically.

    The Jews have a long history of being attacked and mercilessly crushed under the heavy boots of far more powerful enemies. The Holocaust simply represents the final climax of that multi thousand year hatred of the Jewish People.

    When one listens to and watches old films of Hitler delivering one of his raving, diabolical rants against the Jewish people, one cannot help but being amazed by the sheer degree of violent hatred that consumes his total being and how he actually appears to grow delirious, as he speaks, his voice trembling with uncontrolled rage, his eyes nearly bursting from their sockets, his arms and hands wound up like some surrealistically shaped, exploding machine from the very depths of Hell.

    Countless books and millions of words have been written attempting to explain just what the Jewish people ever did to create/deserve such a gargantuan degree of hatred against themselves. It has often been referred to as “The Longest Hatred”.

    However, all that said, I write here now principally to respond to something that J’Opinion

    I always look forward to reading any comments posted here by you just as I look forward to reading the essays penned by Ms. Honig herself.

    You are both so totally informed regarding the complexities of history including history’s often puzzling contradictions, hideous betrayals and especially its agonizingly painful ugliness.

    It is the latter that you have commented upon on more than one occasion- in particular the manner and sense in which the Jewish people were so completely “crushed” by the Holocaust in every possible way, physically and psychologically.

    The Jews have a long history of being attacked and mercilessly crushed under the heavy boots of far more powerful enemies. The Holocaust simply represents the final climax of that multi thousand year hatred.

    When one listens to and watches old films of Hitler delivering one of his raving rants against the Jewish people, one cannot help but being amazed by the sheer degree of hatred that consumes him and how he actually appears to grow delirious, his voice trembling with uncontrolled rage, his eyes nearly bursting from their sockets, his arms and hands wound up like some surrealistic shaped exploding machine from Hell.

    Countless books and millions of words have been written attempting to explain just what the Jewish people ever did to create/deserve such a gargantuan degree of hatred against themselves. It has often been referred to as “The Longest Hatred”.

    However, all that said, I write here now principally to respond to something that J’Opinion has mentioned in this forum on more than one occasion.

    J’Opinion stated: “I believe the Jews are a destroyed people. Yes, the names survive, but we are dead. We were crushed to death by the Germans and their smirking accomplices….”.

    I fully understand what you mean by those terribly sad and heartbreaking words.
    That was one of the first aims of the Nazi agenda. To so completely humiliate and degrade every Jew they came in contact with, that the “will” of their Jewish victims was totally broken.

    The Nazis loved to parade clearly well educated, well dressed Jews through the streets with large signs tied around their necks describing their alleged “Crimes”.
    And to make those same alleged Jewish “criminals” get down on their knees in the filthy gutters and scrape the streets with small toothbrushes in hand as the smirking German crowds roared with derisive laughter.

    When such unthinkable things are done to people it is inevitable that such treatment will for many such victims, destroy all their sense of “self”, destroy all “will” to fight back, indeed, to use your term, “to make them dead”.

    And in the Concentration Camps such people came to be called “the walking dead” as they stumbled about the camp appearing to be totally disoriented as if they could neither see, nor hear, nor speak, nor any longer respond to others.

    Of course we are all familiar with the countless stories of those Jews who did NOT succumb nor surrender to the overpowering might of the Nazis and their willing collaborators.

    This is more than well evidenced by the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and thousands of other heroic stories depicting super human courage against overwhelming odds.

    But returning to your thought that “the Jews are a destroyed people”, allow me to just relate an event that occurred in my life many years ago which left an indelible mark in my memory.

    I was walking along a street in New York and happened to pass a book shop whose window display beckoned me to enter the shop for a few moments. Inside I encountered a young female employee who I soon learned was from Israel. As we had a brief conversation about Israel, a country I had already visited many times, the young lady mentioned that the men in Israel were like no other men in the world.

    She explained that what she meant by that statement was that Israeli men have “Salt and Pepper”. But she explained that what she meant by that statement had nothing to do with their hair, as it does in the US, but refers to their type of character, their outlook, and their everyday personality.

    And she emphasized that after growing up surrounded by such men, who all serve, starting at age 18 in the IDF and in fact, look forward to serving almost as a “Right of Passage”, she found most young in other countries rather dull and “grey” in comparison.

    I believe I understood instantly what she was trying to say to me.

    After two thousand years of unrelenting persecution and their long history of being driven out of one nation after the other, at pain of death, culminating in that final assault on their very existence during the Holocaust, after 1948 the Jewish people had finally come “home” and knew they would finally have a safe haven- till the end of time.

    So for me the Jewish people are very far from “dead”. Yes- they were almost destroyed between the 1930’s and 1945, but that is now in the past. The Jewish People have, just as in the Mythology of Olden times, arisen from the fire like the Legendary Phoenix out of the ashes.

    Yes, we were almost destroyed but not completely. Enough of the Jewish people survived to resurrect their original Homeland and develop the means to defend that Homeland again and again and again.

    Israel’s proud young men, with their “Salt and Pepper” characters, as well as Israel’s proud young women, are far from dead.

    I believe that ” J’Opinion ” may well have made a valid point in his comment about certain Jews in certain countries. Indeed it is difficult to imagine any people would not evidence certain residual effects, and for many decades, after experiencing what the victims of the Holocaust were forced to survive.

    But we have finally made it “home”, like the title of that most moving film- “The Long Way Home”. A film that every Jew in the world should own and watch once per year.

    I have spent much time in Israel during my life and never felt I was living amongst people who considered themselves either “destroyed” and/or “dead”. Many were destroyed and so very many of our people ARE dead. The Germans and their “willing executioners” saw to that.

    But we are the living and it is that upon which we must now focus our energies and our lives and our futures. And the futures of our children and our children’s children. And for all of Eternity to come.
    _________________________________________

    With deepest thanks to Sarah Honig and readers such as J’Opinion who never fail to amaze me with both their Erudition and Wisdom.

  6. Thanks, Pakter, I wrote it for you.
    After all, even God needs an audience, why else Sinai?

    I will try to answer your specific difference of opinion but since it is so very large a topic I’ll have to summarize in a way that does not do the complexity justice –
    Israel as answer to the holocaust.
    Since that is the Christians’ view as well, I’ll have to differentiate their repulsive vision from your respectful one. The best summary of their views was an analogy I heard, that the Holocaust was to Israel as the crucifixion was to the resurrection. It neatly accords with their fantasy view, a rapturous love of Israel alongside a hatred of Jews, proved by their grandfathers vetoing any sanctuary for us.

    I first must give my view of history which considers the holocaust as only the latest in a long line of extinctions. I spoke of new shoots as they have existed in history. The ancient Judaeans were at the geographical Center of the World (between the continents of Europe, Asia and Africa). They were crushed by the Romans and that was the end of that civilization. However it sprung anew with the Sephardim of Spain. There it was at the civilizational Center of the World (between the Christian, the Muslim and the Hellenic civilizations). They did their bit for the Renaissance, were crushed by the Inquisition and expelled. Rambam had earlier gone to Egypt and most of the Sephardis fled to Turkey but the Sephardic civilization was dead. Yes, some survived as transplanted Mizrahi but food and peasant dress don’t make a civilization. We all know about the Ashkenazi people. They were at the center of the Enlightenment and the Scientific Revolutions, and made their own contributions to it. It was hard from the vantage point of the Judaean to see the Sephardic and the Sephardis in turn could not imagine anything wise coming out of the impoverished shtetl. Still it happened. It will happen again – but I don’t know where.
    You imagine it will be Israel. I don’t.

    I only know Israel from Israelis and a couple of visits. They were simply not as intelligent, neither scientifically nor philosophically as in the Diaspora. The Israeli Artistic culture is a joke. Personally, I found them rude crude bullies. They don’t move aside in the sidewalk to let you pass. No, you have to be as rough as they. No civic sense at all. They come on to women in the most crude levantine snide manner, smirking subtle obscenities. Why? They became the opposite of the shtetl – reaction formation Freud would say. That young lady’s “salt and pepper” meant “good and bad”. They are the “salt of the earth”, but also “hot and spicy”. She epitomized it as everyone wanting to go into the army. In other words, “rough bad boys”. She likes rough bad boys, macho swaggerers. I’ve seen them. They have no insight that all that it is just the negation of the Jew. Now it’s the Israeli. These are the folks who called the returning survivors “soap”, not only contempt but used not even a fraction of the German reparations to make the ends of their lives a little more pleasant. It was hatred for the reminder of what they were.

    Those German Reparations solidify my point. Not even six years after the end of the holocaust [from wiki: Reparations Agreement between Israel and West Germany] “David Ben-Gurion and his Mapai party took a practical approach and argued that accepting the agreement was the only way to sustain the nation’s economy.[4] “There are two approaches”, he told the Mapai central committee. “One is the ghetto Jew’s approach and the other is of an independent people. I don’t want to run after a German and spit in his face. I don’t want to run after anybody. I want to sit here and build here. I’m not going to go to America to take part in a vigil against Adenauer.”
    –I’m not that sort of Jew. I am soap. I hold grudges. Not the Israeli. He (and especially she) cannot wait to bed an Aryan on their year long trip abroad. You can see by the polls. Israelis love Germans; Germans (as in this very article) despise Jews.

    The Jew will spring anew – but not as Israel.
    Israel is fast becoming a new Lebanon. Not the current one, the one before. A multicultural Levantine morass. A War Game for the West. [no I don’t believe it; I just like the way it sounds. I don’t know the future, I just know how to make interesting stories, like Jews everywhere from the beginning to the end.]

  7. The question of who will conduct the Berlin Philharmonic is a distraction. Another warning.
    The rising tide of antisemitism, in Europe and now also on American campuses, is again failing to unite us in support of Israel. Leftwing Jews in Israel and diaspora Jews who have other priorities and are blaming the Israeli government for the new wave of antisemitism.
    Our real problem is our failure to confront our existential threat.
    A mere 70 years after the Holocaust, we are still easy-pickings.

    It’s a wonder that Israel has carried on so well, so far.
    But our enemies, increasingly better armed, are relentless.
    They figure that time is on their side. They tell us so.

    The question “What have we learned?” appears to be “nothing”.
    There is no “we”. There never was.
    When Hitler threatened us, the rich Jews emigrated.
    Or became functionaries for the Nazis, hoping they would be spared.

    The Holocaust archives, the Holocaust study programs, the museums,
    the ritual remembrances won’t stem the tide.
    In the absence of solidarity “Never Again!” is a delusion. Eine Schande.

    günter hiller, a Holocaust survivor.

    • This is where it was supposed to go, it only makes sense here. I don’t know if you can fix it at your end,Sarah, but here it is:

      The Jews’ natural state is bitter factionalism. In the thirties there weren’t just “Commies” but Trotskyists, Marxist-Leninists and Stalinists. Each knew not much theory beyond certainty the others were evil, stupid and wrong. This state of affairs has existed since the Maccabean War which was ostensibly against the Greeks but actually was a Civil war between the Religious (who won) and the Hellenized – sound familiar? It’s still happening.
      The only time this intramural hatred was abated was in the two decades after WWII. In the Bronx we were all nominally Orthodox but with individual degrees of piety and practice. However, unlike today, we all considered each other Jews and friends. Sartre noticed this as well. We are one people but very contentious. Unity for us is like, as the expression goes, herding cats, which can be done – but only by pit bulls.

  8. The well known Hypocrisy of the Europeans:

    In one of a European railway station, a man carrying his suitcase was waiting for the train. He seemed very restless, impatient.

    He approached each person waiting on the platform asking: “Excuse me sir, Are you an anti-Semite?” Each respondent, unsurprisingly, reacted angrily to that question: “but what do you think I am? , of course NOT! I reject any form of segregation … “etc..

    He continued his survey with increasing concern, until at last, one of the passengers answered him half ashamed and whispering: “well yes … I am an anti-Semite.” He received the desired response, the interviewer’s face brightened with joy: “Finally an HONEST person! Please, will you be so kind to take care of my suitcase while I go to the toilet? “

  9. Sorry for the over-loquacity but this has been a fascinating thread.
    The Jews’ natural state is bitter factionalism. In the thirties there weren’t just “Commies” but Trotskyists, Marxist-Leninists and Stalinists. Each knew not much theory beyond certainty the others were evil, stupid and wrong. This state of affairs has existed since the Maccabean War which was ostensibly against the Greeks but actually was a Civil war between the Religious (who won) and the Hellenized – sound familiar? It’s still happening.
    The only time this intramural hatred was abated was in the two decades after WWII. In the Bronx we were all nominally Orthodox but with individual degrees of piety and practice. However, unlike today, we all considered each other Jews and friends. Sartre noticed this as well. We are one people but very contentious. Unity for us is like, as the expression goes, herding cats, which can be done – but only by pit bulls.

  10. It´s about a single comment – that´s now real the reason discussed , “the Germans as an entire nation”..?, Think about it…In addition, it is quite hypocritical – as often is bashed Germans in israel media, and no one considers it necessary to criticize….

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s