Mr. Bubis was elected chairman of the Central
Council of Jews in Germany in 1992, and he often made headlines as a voice
against intolerance, participating in demonstrations against radical-right
attacks and giving interviews to newspapers and TV talk shows.
As the public face of Germany's growing Jewish
community, he never backed down from his insistence that Germans must
still actively remember the Holocaust, and he stood up to those who said
In an interview with Stern magazine last month,
Mr. Bubis said he felt he had accomplished "nearly nothing" in his seven
years in office. "I wanted to do away with these divisions: here Germans,
there Jews," he said.
"Despite the sorrow that the Nazis brought on him
and his own family, he committed himself tirelessly to reconciliation,"
German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said in a statement.
German President Johannes Rau said Mr. Bubis had
worked so that "the shadows of German history did not lengthen into the
future: "Ignatz Bubis . . . was a German patriot."
Mr. Bubis was leader of a Jewish community that
has been growing again since the fall of the Berlin Wall. An influx of
Jews from the former Soviet Union in the last decade has more than doubled
the community in Germany to close to 100,000 since Mr. Bubis was elected
It remains a small minority, but Mr. Bubis's moral
authority allowed him to play a role in negotiations over compensation for
the victims of Nazism and in German-Israeli and German-U.S. relations.
He also spoke up for other groups, such as Turkish
immigrants, who fell victim to neo-Nazi attacks.
Mr. Bubis, a former jeweler, was a successful
property developer in Frankfurt and in Israel whose real estate projects
included the building that is now the Tel Aviv Sheraton Hotel.
He came to prominence in 1985 when he led
successful efforts in Frankfurt to bar the staging of a play by filmmaker
Rainer Werner Fassbinder, which portrayed a Jewish property developer
exploiting Germans' guilt to make a fortune after World War II.
Mr. Bubis said that "Der Muell, die Stadt und der
Tod" (Garbage, the City and Death) was an antisemitic attack on himself.
Mr. Bubis, who lived in Frankfurt, was born in
Breslau--now the Polish city of Wroclaw. He grew up in a German cultural
"Once you are born into a culture and become a
part of it, you don't feel that you can become part of any other society,"
he once said.
His father was a civil servant. When he was 15,
Mr. Bubis saw his father marched away by the Nazis. He never saw him
again. A brother and a sister also died under the Nazis.
Mr. Bubis survived a ghetto set up by the Nazis
for Jews and a labor camp that was a munitions factory at Czestochowa,
Poland. He was liberated from the camp Jan. 16, 1945, by Soviet troops and
returned to Germany after the war.
As arguments increased in recent years over
building a Holocaust memorial in Berlin, Mr. Bubis said he supported such
a move but preferred better upkeep of the actual sites of Nazi
atrocities--the concentration camp memorials.
When parliament finally approved the Berlin
memorial in June, Mr. Bubis said he was pleased because he never thought
it would really happen after 11 years of off-and-on debate.
Although he was a German citizen, he told Stern
that he wanted to be buried in Israel because he feared his grave would be
desecrated. The marble gravestone of Mr. Bubis's predecessor, Heinz
Galinski, was destroyed by a bomb in December. Survivors include his wife
and a daughter.